New Zealand has a way to go before it can match the parental leave and other support for families in other OECD countries. Here’s some information about current entitlements. The Families Commission has made comprehensive recommendations for changes. We’d like to endorse them. We can progress some through bargaining for collective agreements and others through working alongside other interested groups to made change politically;
What is needed?
Parental leave – job protected leave
• Increase the amount of job-protected leave that families have access to.
• Include in this maternity leave, separate leave for partners and some “family” leave that can be used by either partner.
• Consideration should be given to being able to transfer some of the family leave entitlement to another eligible family member who is engaged in a parenting role.
• Change the eligibility criteria so that-part timers and those who have had casual or multiple short-term but continuous jobs are not disadvantaged.
• Consideration given to allow family leave to be able to be taken before the child is 3 years old, in blocks of time or in combination with part-time work.
• Make maternity leave a fixed entitlement for immediately before and after the birth.
• Partner leave to be able to be taken flexibly – e.g. at the same time as maternity leave, after maternity leave is completed, in blocks of time or part-time in combination with part-time paid work at any time in the child’s first year of life.
Parental leave - paid
• Give partners an entitlement to paid parental leave that is separate from maternal paid parental leave.
• Extend the current 14 week’s paid parental leave 6 months (or 7 months if partner leave is taken consecutively).
• Change the income assessment criteria used for parental leave payment to ensure those with an irregular work history are not disadvantaged.
• Increase the maximum payment cap for paid parental leave.
• Employer to top up the government payment to full salary or fund extra paid parental leave.
Supporting return to work
• Agreed and monitored systems to ensure that those on parental leave get all the information they need about work, including change management, promotion and training opportunities.
• A shorter period of notice of early return from parental leave.
• A phased return to work for those intending to eventually return to work full time, this could include, e.g a right to shorter hours for the first 2 years of the child’s life.
• Good infant feeding facilities and paid infant feeding breaks.
Other leave to support families
• Special arrangements for women who give birth prematurely – e.g. an extra week of maternity leave for each week that a baby is premature.
• Ensure leave taken because of stillbirth and miscarriage before 24 weeks is not included as sick leave or in sickness absence monitoring.
• Paid time off for both partners to attend ante-natal and post-natal appointments (e.g. midwife visits or Plunkett appointments).
• Reasonable paid time off for fertility treatment
• Paid leave for foster parent training
• Job protected planned carer’s leave for those needing to provide, e.g nursing care following a serious illness or discharge from hospital, respite care, to assist a dependent into or out of residential care, to assist with transport of a dependent to and from hospital or doctor’s appointments etc.