Bill to extend Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks passes

The Bill extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks by 2020 has passed its third reading today, fulfilling a Government commitment to giving our children the very best start in life, says Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The Government is committed to giving children the best start in life and longer paid parental leave is just the first step in that direction,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.

“Extending the duration of payments is vital for supporting working families with newborns and young children and for New Zealand to catch up with the best international practice.

“New Zealand’s current paid parental leave entitlement of 18 weeks is one of the lowest in the OECD, with the average number of weeks of paid leave to mothers among OECD countries being 48 weeks.

“This legislation increases paid parental leave in two steps.  Parents of babies due on or after 1 July 2018 will be eligible for 22 weeks of paid leave, up from 18 weeks. There will be a further increase to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020. This stepped-approach allows the Government to increase Paid Parental Leave within the parameters of its Budget Responsibility Rules.

“This move is great news for babies, parents and families. It will provide greater financial certainty and confidence for working families. World Health Organisation guidelines stress the importance of the first six months for babies to breastfeed and bond with parents. The evidence is clear that these six months are crucial for infant development.

“I’d like to acknowledge the advocacy of the 26 Weeks for Babies Coalition, the many organisations who have worked tirelessly to achieve this change, and of course Sue Moroney who led the charge in Parliament for so many years.

“I thank National MP Sarah Dowie for her constructive contribution to this Bill and I’m pleased her amendment was adopted. One of the most pleasing outcomes from this debate is that a consensus now exists across the House for better support for young Kiwi families.

“Extending paid parental leave is one component of the Government’s Families Package, along with initiatives like the Best Start scheme and boosting the Working for Families payments. These will reduce child poverty and provide better support for New Zealand families,” Mr Lees-Galloway says.