National announces extension to paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks over two years

National announces extension to paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks over two years

National has announced that it will extend paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 22 weeks over a two year period - by two weeks each year.

The move, including other policies announced regarding IVF treatment and dental care for pregnant women, will cost an extra $88 million a year once fully implemented in 2019/20.

Prime Minister Bill English last year (as Finance Minister) vetoed a Bill going through Parliament which would have extended paid parental leave to 26 weeks. This was despite the proposed legislation gaining support of 61 votes (Labour, Greens, NZF, Maori Party, UnitedFuture), with 60 against (National and ACT).

The decision by National to now move on the issue during an election campaign will no doubt receive a cynical response from those who supported Labour MP Sue Moroney's Bill in 2016.

It also opens a path for Labour to trump National on the announcement by re-announcing its desire for 26 weeks paid parental leave.

See the announcement from Paula Bennett, Jonathan Coleman and Michael Woodhouse below:

National will progressively extend Paid Parental Leave to 22 weeks as part of its Parents and Newborns Package designed to support families to grow and stay healthy, while also putting more money into their pockets.

“National will share the dividends of a growing economy, with more support for families with newborns in a new package made possible only by the improving government finances,” Women Spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

National’s Parents and Newborns Package will:

  • Progressively extend Paid Parental Leave to 22 weeks over two years, with an initial step of two weeks on 1 July 2018 followed by a further two weeks on 1 July 2019
  • Add flexibility to Paid Parental Leave, by allowing both parents to take some of the 22 weeks off at the same time so they can be at home with their baby together
  • Support women to take care of their own health by offering them one free dental course during pregnancy and up to their baby’s first birthday
  • Give more families a chance to have a baby by providing a third free IVF cycle, and speeding up access to fertility treatment for eligible couples

Mrs Bennett says this package will make a huge difference for thousands of families during a vital stage in their lives.

“National’s Parents and Newborns package recognises the role of both parents, and allows families to have the flexibility that suits their circumstances. It is good for parents, good for their baby and will help support women in the workforce,” Mrs Bennett says.

Workplace Relations and Safety Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says National has always wanted to increase Paid Parental Leave in a responsible way.

“We’ve already increased it to 18 weeks and widened the criteria for those that can access it – the improving fiscal outlook means we can now extend Paid Parental Leave further,” Mr Woodhouse says.

Health Spokesperson Dr Jonathan Coleman says that a growing economy is allowing National to help to grow and support new families.

“All New Zealanders deserve the chance to have a family so we are also pleased to be able to stand behind people struggling to conceive, through funding for an extra IVF for those who need it,” Dr Coleman says.

“We also want to support pregnant women and new mothers take care of their health.

“As pregnancy can lead to dental problems for some women, we will fund one dental course for all pregnant women and mothers up until their baby’s first birthday, including a check-up and any resulting x-rays, extractions and fillings.

“National believes in supporting families to have healthy babies who grow up to be healthy kids, and we are making real progress.

“Around 94 per cent of 8 month olds are now immunised and around 800,000 children under 13 are benefiting from free GP visits and prescriptions.”

Mrs Bennett says National’s Parents and Newborns Package will ensure parents can spend more time at home supporting each other and bonding with their babies in those important and stressful early months, and we will help them stay healthier.

“National will continue to ensure the benefits of our growing economy are passed on to families,” Mrs Bennett says.

The Parents and Newborns Package will come into effect on 1 July 2018. It is expected to cost $88 million per year from 2019/2020 once 22 weeks of Paid Parental Leave is fully implemented.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

53 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).
10
up

Billy Blunder strikes again

Tell you what Billy, Free Tertiary Education plays a lot better than more free maternity leave

Another reason not to hire womyn.

15
up

Give more families a chance to have a baby by providing a third free IVF cycle, and speeding up access to fertility treatment for eligible couples

Isn't this just encouraging women work and work and work until they're infertile then rely on the an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to attempt solve the problem.

Here is an idea Bubble-O-Bill; If housing were cheaper women would not need to work full time and could have healthy babies earlier on.

Yeah...I was gobsmacked at this. Just how many ambulances are we trying to park at the bottom of the cliff?

If we could just take a step back and stop shafting younger and average-paid Kiwis in such critical ways as home affordability there are a bunch of these second-hand ambulances we could sell off to would-be Ghostbusters instead of spending our tax dollars on them.

19
up

National will just keep outsourcing our birthrate to India and China. While I'm working to afford Fletchers building materials my would be kids are replaced by Indians with five kids.

Rubbish! Do nothing monkey brains are having heaps of kid right here in NZ, getting it all government funded, from benefits to free food at low decile schools. You are just doing it wrong, vote Labour so even more do nothing monkey brains can get even more free stuff, while you work to pay for their children's free stuff!

I worry you're applying a stereotype of the bottom 1% of society to the wider lower and middle classes. That's probably not realistic.

I see the fear in his eyes

They're subsidising the costs associated with negative outcomes of NZ's unaffordable and substandard housing so they look like they actually care/know what they're doing. It's just a token gesture to try and get reelected, at which point they'll spend the next three years tinkering around the edges of everything and trying to hold off a debt-caused recession. God forbid they actually tackle the issue of unaffordable housing that they said they would fix because Labour had apparently done such a bad job of solving it.

Until they get a clue and grow a spine and get the underlying structural problem of unaffordable housing fixed, this 'policy' and all the rest are just delusional bullshit.

Pretty much. They'll never do it though, as action requires them to realise there is a problem and admit they were lying about it not existing.

It may sound harsh but if people can't afford IVF they can't afford the (much much higher) ongoing costs of children - therefore they'll be relying on WFF etc and we'll be the ATM.

Strange as it may seem,but a possible reason for house prices being so high are that woman are working full time so families can afford some of the ridiculous prices being asked.
Just my opinion.

That's been facted in for years

Desperate ... Desperate .....Desperation....

After nine years of being economically conservative, now they are throwing the lollies around everywhere!

I would rephrase that...

"After 9 years of focussing only on the rich and ultra rich, they now seem to once again fool the rest by throwing lollies around..."

And they'll vote for them. Shaking my head....

10
up

Another day another promise. Were they all asleep for the last 9 years?

Great initiative. Well done Bill and team. Love your work.

15
up

Looks like we're all National's ATM too eh.

'like'

Keeppositive, from your comment on another thread:

NZ public are not an ATM for the Labour Party and their vote buying attempts. Why should I pay any more for kids to study and they do not have any skin in the game. I paid my own way and that made me focus.

I've adapted it on this topic:

"NZ employers are not an ATM for the National Party and their vote buying attempts. Why should employers pay for parents to have time off with their kids. I paid my own way when the children were young and that made me focus on being a good parent."

I thought the government pays maternity leave?

My understanding is that government reimburses the worker but the employer has to pay to staff the position in the interim. I could be wrong there.

Correct. The paid parental leave money is paid by IRD to the new mother. The employer doesn't have direct financial cost, but needs to staff the position for a fixed term. Lots of room for confusion on this topic. The commenter above you calls it 'maternity leave' which isn't paid parental leave. I think the legal/government definition of maternity leave is the 12 month period during which a job must be held open for your return. Paid parental leave and maternity leave overlap but aren't the same thing.

Yes, my understanding as well. The problem I have with paid parental leave is the aim of the concept altogether - that being to get parents of infants back to work.

I think no matter how many weeks it is (short of 2 years) the infant gets the short stick. Would far rather we put in place policies which make it easier for single income families to become the norm again.

We have lost the idea of it taking a village to raise a child. We have for a very long time had some sort of support for families, be it tax deductions, be it WFF and so we should, and I agree it would be great to see a single income able to support a family.

Boom!
I am still enrolled for Epsom, Yellow and Blue won't be on my vote.. time for a change

Hey, Keeppostive, remember when National vetoed this idea when Labour brought it up and everyone was voting for it? And using the wrong financial figures too. This announcement from National.

Support women to take care of their own health by offering them one free dental course during pregnancy and up to their baby’s first birthday

Excuse my ignorance, but does pregnancy exacerbate dental issues?

Teeth gritting caused by National's incompetence.

I believe it is more difficult because they can't use as much pain relief , for fear of effecting the unborn child.

I'm no expert, but I've heard that it can bring on dental problems because the foetus starts co-opting minerals and they can be leached out. Like breastfeeding can remove calcium from bones.

Yes, it can

11
up

It's the best lolly scramble we've seen in years.

I reckon there's just a dart board in Bill's office which has five sections:
- Rubbish the oppposition
- Rubbish a report from one of your own departments
- Do nothing
- Appropriate the opposition's policy
- Do the opposite to yesterday

Everyday the PR person just spins it and Wild Bill throws a dart. Obviously whatever it lands on is what the flavor of the day is going to be.

They were aware that there was going to be an election, right? But apparently it's taken them completely by surprise and the dog ate their homework, and now they're running around in confused circles trying to wing it.

Potentially they put "Campaign for the election" on the dartboard a bit too late?

Nah. Bill was on easy street until Andrew Little resigned.
Little (mind the pun) need for campaigning when both that guy is your opposition and last time you did it as the leader you almost destroyed all support for the party.

They were expecting a boring-off.

I think the mood of the nation is : CHANGE

National are over and later Bennett will push bill out , this party is toast for years, labour done well from 2000 to 2008 with people feeling wealthy and happy and leaving the country in great health when the GFC hit in 2008, because of that nz wasn't hit hard, then there stupid national and there stupid ideas that the only way to build the economy is to give Auckland away to outsides at the cost of locals , FHBERS, homelessness, high rents , mad dept, and now forming a correction, maybe crash, maybe recession, this is 10 times worse than the small affect the GFC had on nz, this is nz, labour should stand aside and let national have a forth term to take the flack , make family's stress out with high rents, can't afford heat food, mad dept to get a house, families need cheap housing so they have the money to help themselves

You have appalling grammar and basic composition skills, but I think there's some merit in what you're trying to express, particularly the idea that letting the ruling party grind a significant portion of the population into entrenched misery might be the only way out.

I suspect the electorate has had a bellyful of promises, probably can't even remember which party made which promise.

D E S P E R A T E much

All of a sudden the people matter....

Not only Desperate but also shameless and are and have been exposing themselves.

While in government in 2016, National vetoed Labour's bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks by 2018.

Them sheeple gonna vote for dem!

Bennett stands there thinking s--t this pr--- is killing my big chance here but it'll be ok I'll whip this dick out later, I shiver just seeing her, imagine getting on her bad side

this election is becoming an Auction where everything will be thrown in, including the kitchen sink ... there is still more fun to come as stripping off continues ... I am certain that the public will get sick and tired of this fiasco in few weeks when there would be no clothes left on either party ...!! But, just like in any stripping contest, the ugly bits will be left to last.
Sounds like Christmas is here already !!

Whatever national may offer but the reality is that they have been in government for nearly a decade so why now.

However hard they may try but this election will be Deja Vu for Bill English.

I overheard some young women talking about National's parental leave proposal today and they seemed mightily impressed. I think it is a winner.

Perhaps you should have been a good lad and pointed this out http://www.labour.org.nz/paidparentalleave