As of 1st April 2016 the New Zealand government have introduced some positive changes to paid parental leave. This is a great step in the right direction for working parents as it means greater flexibility and more time to bond with baby.
Back in 2011 when I was pregnant with my daughter, I remember angsting over the fact that paid parental leave was only 14 weeks. My husband and I thought we were in a position where we needed both wages to maintain our lifestyle. The plan was that I would take the 14 weeks off and then return to work part time. I was extremely fortunate that my employer agreed to me working most of my hours from home with only one day required in the actual office. My Mum was able to take care of our daughter on that one day so things worked out pretty well. But when the end of that 14 weeks rolled around and I had to leave my precious little girl to put on my office clothes and deal with clients I definitely felt short changed.
I could not get away from my Mummy guilt.
There are points for an against being a working Mum and also being a Stay at Home Mum. I weighed them up in my mind constantly. I was trying to bridge both worlds and it was difficult. Work interfered with my family time and very little went to plan when I was working my hours from home. I was torn between having the money to comfortably pay our bills and losing precious moments with my daughter that I would never gain back again.
If you have to make a choice like this then you will likely question your decision many times over. You will have to make the decision that is best for your situation and it may not always be the choice that we want to make. Own your choice and if over time you find it isn’t the right one then make the necessary adjustments to that work life balance.
The new changes to paid parental leave here in New Zealand are not perfect, but they are definitely an improvement on past offerings.
Here are the main points broken down…
Entitlement of 18 weeks paid leave: This is a two week increase on the previous 16 weeks and entitles the employee up to $516.85 per week. You are also able to apply for an extension to this leave if your baby is born prematurely. In this instance you are able to receive additional weekly payments ‘for each week the baby was born prior to the 37 week gestation period’.
‘Keeping In Touch’ Days: These have been introduced to allow ‘workers to work up to 40 hours during the 18 weeks of paid leave. For example, these hours could be used to keep up with skills development or training or completing a work handover, and can help the parent ease back into work.’ Keeping in Touch Days are not compulsory and would need to be agreed upon by both the worker and their employer.
Available to a wider pool of people: ‘The proposed changes extend parental leave payments to people with non-standard working arrangements. This includes casual, seasonal, temporary and fixed-term employees and workers with more than one employer. Workers who recently changed jobs will also be entitled to parental leave payments, provided they meet the other work-related criteria.’
Available to Caregivers as well as Parents: Primary Caregivers will now be entitled to apply for paid parental leave, not just biological or adoptive parents. This includes carers such as grandparents, whanau, CYFs and Home For Life parents. ‘A “primary carer” is a person who takes permanent primary responsibility for the care, development and upbringing of a child under the age of 6 years. It does not include people with part-time or temporary responsibility such as a childcare provider or a temporary foster carer.’
Flexible Time Periods: Previously all paid parental leave had to be taken in one block and if a worker returned to employment early then they lost any entitlement to the rest of their leave. Now upon mutual agreement with the employer, eligible employees can take a block of paid parental leave, return to work for a period and then take another block of leave later in the year. If an employee has been with their employer for over 12 months then the expiry date of this flexible option is the child’s first birthday, if they have been with an employer for 6 months then the expiry date is the child’s 6 month anniversary.
Ability to resign and still receive payments: ‘The changes would allow workers to resign if they wish and still receive payments. This gives more choice to employees and more certainty to employers. Employers will be able to recruit a permanent replacement, rather than a temporary replacement, in a situation where the employee does not intend to return.’
I hope this was helpful information, if you want to read about the policy changes in greater detail then you can head on over to the MBIE website.
Resource: MBIE website
Let us know what you think about the changes in the comments below. You can also let us know on our Facebook or Instagram pages.
Gemma is a kiwi Mum of one and is the Editor for The Baby View. She also works with preschool children, loves cooking, loves sunshine, loves chocolate and loses countless hours at a time looking at cute baby pictures on Instagram!