New provisions recognise pain of losing a baby
No matter how far along the pregnancy is, when parents lose a baby, the grief and loss is life-changing and profound.
The Queensland Government has introduced new bereavement leave entitlements that specifically include the loss of a baby (for both parents) if the loss occurs prior to 20 weeks gestation (parents losing a baby following 20 weeks are able to access paid parental leave).
This new entitlement is listed in the Special Leave Directive (05/17) under the bereavement section (schedule one). Bereavement leave is two days paid leave and is an entitlement, not discretionary, therefore “approval” need not be sought. While there remains a requirement to furnish some documentation in regard to the loss with this leave type, the QTU is aware that this is more often than not handled with compassion and grace by most.
Where further leave is needed, there remains the capacity for additional paid special leave to be accessed/provided in conjunction with the bereavement leave (this however, is at the discretion of the principal/decision maker).
Why it matters – Mary’s case
Mary (not her real name) lost her baby at 11 weeks, and rang the QTU as her principal had refused her request for special paid leave (compassionate – there is the capacity for principals to approve up to five days per year, per occasion). The principal indicated that as miscarriage was a “medical” event, sick leave was the most appropriate form of leave, especially in light of the ongoing medical procedures relating to the miscarriage.
This decision failed to recognise the grief and loss associated with miscarriage. The sense of injustice was compounded by the fact that it was common knowledge in the school that other teachers had been granted access to paid special leave to attend children’s sporting events and other social activities. There was a known inconsistency in the granting of this leave type by the principal and the staff were outraged that the principal had not supported Mary.
Regional and central office advocacy could not get the decision reviewed, as under the directive, it was the principal’s decision.
The QTU began proceedings to lodge a formal dispute in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, based on the custom and practice of special leave being granted by other principals in similar situations, and also the inconsistent approach to approving paid special leave by the principal. Thankfully the need to proceed with the dispute was removed when an acting principal overturned the previous decision, and the paid special leave was finally approved.
The additional stress and sense of injustice was felt by staff at the school, and Mary was supported by other teachers who had been granted the paid special leave, providing evidence to the QTU to use in the dispute.
A win for families
The decision will mean that women, and families, in Mary’s circumstance will not meet this wall of misunderstanding, and then feel that they have to “go into battle” at a time when they least need any additional pressure in their lives. Importantly, it also recognises the loss of a life, and the loss to the family and parents.
Additional new compassionate leave
Further to the new definition of bereavement, there is also a new category of paid special compassionate leave (two days) for when a member of an employee’s household or family develops an illness or sustains an injury that poses a serious threat to their life. This leave type is also an entitlement.
A copy of the Special Leave Directive can be found at https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/system/files/documents/2017-05-special-leave.pdf?v=1490331635
Penny Spalding Assistant Secretary - Women's and Social Welfare Issues
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 4, 2 June 2017, p15
Selected volumes and articles from 2008 to current editions...
Publication information (incl. advertising)Queensland Teachers' Journal editorial information and information, including booking forms, for advertisers...
Letters to the editorYou can easily send in your letter to the editor using our quick online form...
Advice - QTAD
Training, seminars & PD
- salary info
- campaign information
- branch meetings and much more
One of the great benefits of QTU membership is access to the QTU library.
Find out more about the library's great collection and how to order and request books online here.
You can visit us at
21 Graham Street, Milton Q 4064
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm
There are no vacancies at this time.
Qld Retired Teachers' Assoc.
For the professional...
- Click here for resources to assist you and professional organisations to support you to meet the increasing demands of your role.
- Care about your profession and want to help shape its future?
Join the new Professional Issues Network Group (PING) now!
QTU On-line Shop