Parents to get additional four-hour leave in new NZ bill

The notions drew mixed reaction from authorities

Parents to get additional four-hour leave in new NZ bill

New Zealand is tabling a new bill granting parents a four-hour package of leave that will allow them to attend parent-teacher conferences. The Holidays (Parent-Teacher Interview Leave) Amendment Bill was put forward by Labour member of Parliament Ōtaki Terisa Ngobi and is currently at the select committee stage after passing the first vote, Stuff reported.

According to the bill, parents will be provided with up to four hours of special leave every year so they can attend school interviews. Employees would need to give their bosses a three-day heads up prior to their planned leave. Employees covered in the bill are parents with a child under the of 19 at a registered school or those with a child under the age of 22 enrolled at a specialist school.

Ngobi said that the leave will be similar to other special leaves, and while it may seem small, its benefits would be "massive and far-reaching."

Read more: Microsoft NZ bolsters family leave benefits

Mixed reception

Despite the promising premise of the bill, however, not all are thrilled to hear about giving some workers an additional four-hour leave.  Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford called the bill "unnecessary," adding it could be discriminatory and could cause millions of working hours in a year.

"This private member’s Bill is unnecessary and creates a dangerous precedent of discriminatory legislation and practices in the workplace," Harford said as quoted by Stuff, adding that schools are already offering flexible times for parents to attend interviews.

He also noted that the four-hour leave could lead to a loss of 6.6 million working hours a year, based on the number of students in 2020.

According to Harford, the retail sector is already facing significant increases in employments costs, such as hikes in minimum wage, sick leave entitlements, and public holidays.

The sector is also burdened by COVID-19, added Harford, and if the bill pushes through, he suggested the government should pay for the costs instead of employees.

On the topic of discrimination against employees without school-age children, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said there are already existing parental leaves that are not regarded discriminatory.

"It's important to note that this is a private member’s Bill, not a government Bill, so the normal policy analysis will occur through the select committee process," he was quoted as saying by Stuff.

On a similar statement, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo​ said a person's family status had not been an issue or grounds for discrimination in the past.

However, Sumeo said the amendment could use some expansion to include parents of all children at school, including specialist schools.

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