Paid Parental Leave Values Parenting

Media Release 26 Aug 2015
Family First NZ is calling on the government to value parenting and the important role of mothers and fathers during the early years of our children and support the Paid Parental Leave bill.

“Families are being penalised for having children. Successive governments have undervalued mothers and the vital role of parents as they bond with their very young children,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The political and policy focus has been on the needs of the economy, rather than on the welfare of children and the vital role of parents. In reality, this policy would represent about 0.2% of the total government spending, yet research shows that the role of mothers and the early bonding between mums and babies is vital for healthy child development.”

“Ironically, the spending on early childhood education has almost tripled in the past ten years – yet there was no suggestion of a veto by the government then,” says Mr McCoskrie.

A 2008 report by UNICEF rated New Zealand 23rd out of 25 countries for effective paid parental leave. Kiwi parents get 16 weeks paid parental leave (18 weeks next year) while the average in the rest of the developed world is approaching one year.

“A Department of Labour evaluation of paid parent leave showed that only ¼ of mothers thought the paid parental leave was long enough, and up to 75% said ideally they would take a year off. Yet the average time at which mothers return to work is when their baby is six months old. Only 14 weeks of that is paid. ‘Financial pressure’ was cited as a key reason for returning to work earlier than desired.”

“It is ironic that the Ministry of Health recommends at least six months exclusive breastfeeding. It is also significant that a key objective of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 is improved health outcomes for both mother and child with a mother being able to recover from childbirth, bond with a new baby, and return to work without negative consequences to her health and that of her child.”

We note that the Labour government in 2007 ignored a report from the Families Commission that recommended that paid parental leave provisions be increased to 13 months by 2015, including a month for fathers.

Family First is also calling for the Bill to be amended to allow up to 2 weeks – rising to 4 weeks – paid parental leave for fathers. Fathers get two weeks paid parental in Britain, and Australia has just established Dad and Partner Pay (DAPP). The period immediately following the birth of a child is demanding and difficult for mums – especially with sleep deprivation, recovering from childbirth, and coping with the existing demands of siblings. It is completely appropriately, and in fact desirable, that the father is involved in this crucial period of adjustment and to support the mother. This will promote hands-on parenting by fathers, which is a good thing.

“The role of parents during the crucial early years of a child should be acknowledged. Families should not be pressured to return to work simply because of financial concerns and the Parental Leave scheme and other family tax breaks should support and strengthen families with young children.”

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