The announcement by the government that the maximum parental leave payment will increase by $20 a week to $391 will be cold comfort to parents.
The government claims that paid parental leave is helping to support the choices parents are making about their families and their careers.
“But that is in direct conflict with a recent Department of Labour evaluation of the scheme,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“That research showed that only ¼ of mothers thought the paid parental leave was long enough, and up to 75% said ideally they would take a year off. Yet the average time at which mothers return to work is when their baby is six months old. Only 14 weeks of that is paid.”
“While the paid parental leave lessened money worries, it didn’t provide financial security according to the mums, and ‘financial pressure’ was cited as a key reason for returning to work earlier than desired.”
“It is ironic that the Ministry of Health recommends at least six months exclusive breastfeeding. It is also ironic that a key objective of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 is improved health outcomes for both mother and child with a mother being able to recover from childbirth, bond with a new baby, and return to work without negative consequences to her health and that of her child.”
“To expect a mother to achieve all that in 14 weeks is farcical,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“Research by the Ministry of Social Development last year found that 1/3’rd of all working couples were unhappy they both have to work. And only 43% of kiwi mums with children under 3 are in some form of paid work.”
“The role of parents during the crucial early years of a child should be acknowledged. Families should not be pressured to return to work simply because of financial concerns, and the Parental Leave scheme and other family tax breaks should support and strengthen families with young children.”
“At the moment, the scheme is falling well short of parental needs.”