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Big News: Why Paid Parental Leave Is Unfair

Big News with Dave Crampton

Why Paid Parental Leave (As Announced) Is Unfair

Getting money for having kids sounds like a good idea – but not as suggested by the Government. If you are working for an employer and have kids you are valued more highly than if you choose to stay at home before having kids. Well not now you aren’t, but come 1 July 2002 you will be. The Nurses Association has said the paid parental leave announced this week is a way of valuing what women do. They wouldn’t say that if nurses were given self-employed contracts, as self- employed women are not valued for what they do in that way as they are excluded from paid parental leave.

Paid parental leave is not about providing the best start in a child’s life as claimed by proponents. If it was then all mums and dads will be included in the scheme. It is actually about getting employees back to work as fast as they can to contribute to the economy after having kids. If you don’t contribute to the economy in a paid capacity for at least 10 hours a week, or you are self-employed, you still pay tax but your MP’s have decided that your taxes are not going to contribute to your child-rearing. They will contribute to your neighbours child rearing instead. It’s that simple. It’s that unfair.

One third of working mothers that decide to have kids will not benefit from paid parental leave. Neither will mothers who choose not to work, or are unable to work.

Yet Laila Harre says the whole community will benefit from the health of new mothers and babies due to paid parental leave. But parental leave has got nothing to do with health of babies and mothers. What Harre actually should have said was that if you are unemployed, self-employed, have multiple employers, are in a job less than 12 months, or are not in the work force by choice, you miss out on getting up to $325 per week should you have a child. Well, for 12 weeks anyway. That’s before tax. Ditto if you are a student, a prisoner, in a job for less than 10 hours a week, or you are a voluntary worker. In the International Year of the Volunteer, it is crime not to recognise unpaid volunteer work, much of which is done by women.

If you earn more than $325 a week you are also financially disadvantaged if you have kids. You also miss out paid parental leave if you are on ACC, but many wage earners will be better off having kids on ACC as the corporation pays you 80 per cent of your wages. Half all wage earners who have babies will not get even 80 percent with paid parent leave. Many solo mums will spend half their allowance on rent or mortgage payments.

The weekly amount paid here will be a quarter of what is paid in Sweden, half the French and Canadian rate, while Germany offers 100 percent of earnings. However it is more than working British mothers get. But then many British mums have childcare paid for them by their employer as well as getting six extra weeks, so they get more in the hand in the long run. The New Zealand scheme is also less than international standards of 14 weeks. France has 16 weeks leave and Britain 18 weeks.

The self-employed are especially hard done by. They pay taxes just like any other worker yet if they have kids they are disadvantaged. Some may not even get the parental tax credit. Apparently the self-employed issue was “thoroughly canvassed” by Government officials, who concluded that there was no way of verifying whether self-employed people would take leave or work during the first three months of their newborn’s life. I bet they didn’t canvass self-employed people.

Come July 1 2002, politicians will get more than $325 a week for having kids as their government employer ( ie: you and I ) will top up their wages while they have kids. Other employers are encouraged to do the same, but small businesses will lose out as they will find it hard to lose a staff member, let alone top up her wages.

The Government is penalising families and rewarding some individuals. Paid parental leave should be reviewed and extended to at least 14 weeks, which is the international standard, with provision given for self-employed tax-paying workers and mothers who choose not to work for the benefit of their kids.

Oh yeah, the government seems to have forgotten that fathers are just as much parents as mothers are. The only thing fathers don’t do is breastfeed. (Note: Giving birth comes before fatherhood). Legislation and ministerial comment (most of whom are women) should reflect the role of fathers.

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at

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