New Zealand’s paid parental leave period will extend from 18 weeks to 22 as of July 1, 2018. This will then increase by a further four months on July 1, 2020.
Announcing the change, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that it is a necessary step forward. “NZ’s entitlement of 18 weeks is one of the lowest in the OECD, where the average is 48 weeks.” She added that while “the benefits of paid parental leave are well understood, [they] have not translated into New Zealand legislation and practice.” In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days, or 15 months, paid parental leave, while in Denmark parent’s are entitled to 52 weeks’ paid leave.
Ardern went on to say that the bill was supported by all parties in the previous parliament, excluding the National and Act parties. “Despite having a majority in the house, it was of course vetoed by the last government. This will not happen again.”
The new laws would enable parents to spend quality time with their children during their important first months, Ardern said. “I’m proud that this government will pursue one of the issues that we pursued hard in opposition. That is an extension to the time available to families to bond with their child at the most important times of a child’s life, and those are its early months.”
The increase will cost an estimated $325 million over the next four years, with an average of 28,000 parents taking paid parental leave annually.
Small businesses are concerned about the effects of the new legislation. “The government’s commitment to a longer period of paid parental leave will be welcomed by parents, or new parents,” said Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope. However, he pointed out that “the challenge really for smaller businesses will be ensuring they have sufficient cover over the increased period,” RNZ reports.
Hope added that often parents did not return to work after having children; “So it’s really critical for small businesses in particular to be in communication with their staff who are taking paid parental leave and ensure they can get that continuity.”