'The existing legislation falls short in meeting modern family needs,' says expert
While many Kiwi organisations recognise the importance of parental leave, one expert is calling on the government to make legislative changes to New Zealand’s parental leave policy.
“While business initiatives are crucial, legislative changes are necessary to ensure equitable parental leave policies for all Kiwi parents,” said Stephanie Pow, founder of parenting and financial information website Crayon.
In terms of international standards, Pow said, “We're in the bottom quartile because we pay it at a really low rate, it's less than full-time minimum wage."
Comparing New Zealand’s statutory entitlements to other developed countries “that are investing heavily in the future generation, we’re not exactly covering ourselves in glory,” she said.
"The existing legislation falls short in meeting modern family needs," said Pow. "We need to address paid leave duration and rates to align with international standards."
Government clashes over parental leaves
Parental leave is high on the agenda of both major political parties as the campaign trail heats up before this year’s election.
In early August, National deputy leader Nicola Willis said Labour was “insulting parents” by blocking a bill around paid parental leave entitlements can be used, according to media reports.
After the clash, Labour announced, if re-elected, it would offer an additional four weeks of paid parental leave on top of the two weeks of unpaid leave offered to partners.
Stephanie says a balanced perspective is best.
Should we be able to share leave more easily? Yes. Should partners get paid? Yes," she said.
However, these proposals still fall short of the broader needs of New Zealand families, said Pow.
"Comprehensive parental leave policies support families and contribute to a thriving economy in the long run," she said. "Legislative changes are investments in the future of our country. By offering comprehensive parental leave policies, we're not only supporting families but also contributing to the long-term economic health of New Zealand."
Gaps in parental leave policies
Just this year, large organisations like Contact Energy and Vodafone announced enhanced parental leave packages over and above minimum entitlements in New Zealand (NZ) legislation.
"We've seen businesses, particularly larger ones, go the extra mile to offer enhanced parental leave policies that go beyond statutory entitlements,” said Pow, citing Crayon’s Parental Leave Register. "Nine out of 10 offer additional paid primary care leave and paid partner leave.”
However, there is a gap in parental leave policies across various industries and sizes, she said.
“This is a concern, especially for smaller organisations where such enhancements might not be financially feasible.”