Parent leave backed
Victoria Dawson-Wheeler won't have to go back to work when her paid parental leave ends in a few weeks.
Her family situation allows her to stay home but lots of other parents she knows would struggle.
The Arch Hill mother-of-two says she would like to see the paid leave period extended from 14 weeks.
"It would make a huge difference to a lot of mums," she says.
"Parents will always make do and sacrifice other things because of all the new expenses they find themselves with.
"Mums are so low on support anyway, every little bit helps."
Concerned parents and members of the 26 For Babies coalition gathered in Albert Park last week to sign postcards to Prime Minister John Key asking him not to veto a bill which would extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks.
The bill, tabled by Labour MP Sue Moroney, passed its first reading in Parliament last year, but the Government has signalled it will veto it should it reach the third reading.
Finance Minister Bill English says paid parental leave costs $150 million a year and extending it would mean borrowing $500m more over the next three or four years.
The bill passed its first reading with support from the Maori Party, the Green Party, NZ First, UnitedFuture and the Mana Party.
It is now before a parliamentary select committee, with a report due on September 19.
The 26 for Babies coalition, made up of organisations Every Child Counts, Plunket, Unicef, New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority, Women's Studies Association New Zealand, Working Women's Resource Centre and unions, is pushing for the Government to pass the bill.
Auckland co-ordinator and Auckland Women's Centre manager Leonie Morris wants to stress the importance of providing parents with an additional 12 weeks of paid leave.
"The only argument that has been advanced against this bill is cost, just as it was when paid parental leave was first introduced," she says. Extending paid parental leave is in the best interests of babies, parents and the workforce, she says.
First Union organiser Jared Abbott says he knows of mothers who return to work after three months and find daycare options close to their work to spend their breaks breastfeeding or are forced to wean their child earlier than they would like.
"This bill isn't about a free hand-out. This is about a critical time in a child's development. Supporting parents through this financially difficult time is an investment into our future.
According to a report by UN Women, New Zealand falls short with paid parental leave compared to other Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD) ntecountries, ranking 16th out of 22.
Parents in New Zealand are offered 14 weeks' paid leave while countries such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden have the option to take 46, 52 and 68.4 weeks respectively.
- unwomen.org.nz, July 2011
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you wear a lifejacket when you are on the water - no matter what vessel you are in?