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.