The parental leave system that shuts out dads

Two decades since paid parental leave was introduced, just over 1 per cent is taken by men – yet fathers say they want to spend at least three months at home with their babies. What’s standing in the way, and is dedicated dad leave the answer?

….As one of only four rich countries that offer no parental leave specifically ring-fenced for men, New Zealand is well behind. Most other countries in the OECD have some form of paid paternity leave, with eight countries offering more than three months. Here, the paid parental leave entitlement of 26 weeks and the extended leave of 26 weeks is attached to the birth mother. Men are allowed two weeks of unpaid partner’s leave.

…. When the Government decided to extend the paid parental leave scheme from 18 to 26 weeks in 2017, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) told then-workplace relations minister Iain Lees-Galloway the policy changes and labour market impacts would be closely monitored. But when Stuff asked how many men took unpaid partner’s leave, and how many men were transferred any balance of primary carer leave, MBIE said it did not keep data on either. The most recent figures from IRD show 504 men took the paid portion of parental leave in the last financial year, compared to 34,184 women. (Around 800 people didn’t state their gender.) That’s up from 324 men in 2017.

… (Data suggest that overall, around 15 per cent of those who stay home with children of all ages are men. In March this year around 20,000 men said they were out of the workforce looking after a child, compared to 128,000 women.)

… Men still typically earn more than women. Paid parental leave has a cap of $606.46, compared to a median average weekly income of $1085.51. Research from the OECD shows men don’t take leave if it’s not well-paid. The fact it’s paid so low, at an equivalent of 30 hours a week at minimum wage, reflects how little care work is valued.

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