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Ontario Human Rights Tribunal says miscarriage is a disability

April 22, 2016 - Blog

By Momstown Editor – Alison Martin

It’s accepted in the workplace for women to take time off due to the flu or cold, so why not when something like miscarriage occurs? A recent decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario deeming a woman’s miscarriage a disability could signal a significant shift in disability law in Ontario and finally allow women to grieve openly.

In 2013, Winnie Mou, of Markham, Ontario experienced a miscarriage and the death of her mother-in-law. These events sparked depression and time away from her job. Mou was fired by her employer in January 2014.  In a recent decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Mou’s miscarriage was ruled a short-term disability, allowing the complaint against her employer to stand through a hearing process.

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While miscarriage is heartbreaking enough, the most bothersome part of it is the expectation to get up each day, put on a happy face and go to the office.  After experiencing a miscarriage last year, I spent a good portion of my daily commute – which I spent alone in my car – stifling sobs and fighting back tears. Once physically in the office, my mind was elsewhere. I was admittedly distracted as I attempted to get through my daily duties with ear buds firmly in my ears blasting tunes that allowed me to grieve while life around me carried on as usual. Like many other women who experience miscarriage before the 12-week mark, I hadn’t shared news of my pregnancy with my boss or my colleagues. As such, I felt pressured to keep up appearances and move on with the day-to-day.

Miscarriage happens most often during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and in many cases the reason is unknown. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says miscarriages are common and occur in 15 to 20 per cent of pregnancies. The tribunal’s ruling is a positive step in bringing to light a common experience many women face, but do not share because of the stigma surrounding miscarriage.

In a society where women are conditioned to hide their early pregnancy like a dirty little secret, it becomes difficult and near impossible for women to talk about their miscarriage or to take time away from work without worrying about being reprimanded or terminated. There isn’t a suitable environment for emotional healing. This interim ruling by the HRTO provides women experiencing miscarriage with hope that they will be able to take the necessary time away from work to process, and most importantly, to grieve.

Originally posted on Momstown Brampton