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Paid parental leave overdue and underweight

07 November 2001

The Green Party today welcomed 12 weeks paid parental leave for parents, but said other practical measures are urgently needed to help new mothers remain in the workforce.

Women's Affairs spokesperson Sue Kedgley said paid parental leave was long overdue, and recognised the work of Laila Harre in getting the Government to introduce it.

However, Ms Kedgley said that while it is a move in the right direction, the final outcome was not ideal.

"Twelve weeks is an arbitrary period of time. The New Zealand scheme will not even meet the minimum international standard of 14 weeks, and many other countries offer longer leave and a higher rate of pay.

"I would not like 12 weeks leave to be interpreted as implying that 12 weeks is an adequate time for each and every mother to successfully bond with their child, establish breastfeeding, sort out health problems and learn parenting skills when in fact it could take up to a year to do all this."

Ms Kedgley said other practical measures were needed to remove the barriers facing women who want to be both mothers and workers.

"The Government should look at increasing subsidies for pre-school and out of school childcare, and bringing in legislation which would give mothers more flexible working conditions including an option to work part-time for up to five years."

Ms Kedgley said she was extremely concerned that self-employed women would not be eligible for paid parental leave, and urged the Government to review that decision.

"Now that paid parental leave has at last been secured, we need to turn our attention to supporting mothers who are not in the workforce or who choose to take more than a year out for fulltime parenting.

"It is essential that all mothers are treated equitably, whether they are inside or outside the paid workforce," she said. "We don't want to send a signal that mothers are only valued if they are returning to work."

Ms Kedgley said Maori and Pacific mothers, sole mothers and those with no formal qualifications are more likely to be outside the paid workforce, and therefore will not benefit from the new provisions.

ENDS


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