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Message to 14 Weeks Paid Parental Leave Rally

Hon. Laila Harre
March 8 2001 Media Statement

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!

Message to 14 Weeks Paid Parental Leave Rally Auckland

Congratulations on gathering to promote 14 weeks paid parental leave, the new international minimum standard. It is vital that the parental leave policy we agree to in government makes a real difference for women and their families. That means enough time and enough pay.

The short time I have spent in Britain and Ireland has encouraged me to keep working for a comprehensive scheme. In both these countries leave is paid from a fund mostly made up of employer contributions. In Britain pay is at 90% of wages for the first 6 weeks and then at a lower flat rate up to 18 weeks. Today’s budget has increased the paid leave to 26 weeks and increased the flat rate significantly. It has also created a two week entitlement for fathers. And of course, this is not a generous scheme by European standards.

There’s nothing like 12,000 miles of land and ocean to restore a sense of perspective, and I’ve been soaking up information here to bring home. I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about where we are heading in our campaign for Paid Parental Leave in New Zealand.

It seems particularly sad that a policy with so much public support and the power to do such good for working parents has become a symbol of difference within the government rather than one of unity.

So, I have been giving some thought to a process involving the coalition partners, unions, employers and community organisations which could help progress this and other issues affecting those with family responsibilities who are in paid employment.

I have seen some very hopeful examples here of such processes leading to very substantial recommendations. For example, an equal pay taskforce led by employers has recommended that pay audits should be compulsory. And the Low Pay Commission, which includes employer representatives, has argued for better youth wages.

Wishing you all the best for a successful rally and a winning campaign!

Happy International Women’s Day.

ENDS

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