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Paid Parental Leave first step towards balance

Media statement
Monday July 1 2002

Paid Parental Leave first step towards work/family balance – next step fifteen hours free childcare

Alliance leader and Women’s Affairs Minister Laila Harré is celebrating today’s introduction of paid parental leave with the release of her party’s Work/Family Policy.

The biggest policy commitment is providing 15 hours free childcare in licensed centres for all 3 and 4 year olds.

“Getting every child into early childhood education is our aim. Working parents keep telling me that quality childcare costs too much and I agree.”

Laila Harré said today is a red letter day for New Zealand families, and one the Alliance will make sure is just a starting point when it comes to improving the quality time New Zealand workers have with their families.

“Thanks to the Alliance, from today 20,000 families a year will benefit from 12 weeks paid parental leave of up to $325.”

The Employment Relations Service phone line has had 3700 inquiries on paid parental leave since March.

The Inland Revenue Department has had 2000 applications, the majority of which will be accepted and payments will be paid into bank accounts on Wednesday.

Five per cent of applications have been from a mother asking that her entitlement be transferred to her partner.

“That’s a great start, but we have a long way to go when it comes to delivering the goods to working families,” Laila Harré.

“The Alliance recognises the demands that exist on workers’ lives outside the workplace, especially care-giving responsibilities, and the need to ensure a balance between work and family life.”

Family and recreation time is precious. The Alliance will promote and preserve such time by:

 Boosting the quality of, and reducing the cost to families of pre-school care, starting with 15 hours a week free for three and four year olds.
 Increase sick and domestic leave from 5 days to 10 days and allow them to be accumulated.
 Introduce four weeks annual leave.
 Extending paid parental leave to 14 weeks, paid at 80% of wages, with two weeks for fathers – and providing leave to 7000 families including the self employed and mothers who have only been in the job for 6 months when the baby is due.
 Introducing legislated breastfeeding breaks.
 Working towards a reduction in working hours, starting with a commission on working hours.

Twelve weeks paid parental leave is a victory for the Alliance in Government and working families alike which was only obtained through the persistence of the Alliance. “

“Now we’re asking working families who think paid parental leave is great to say “thank you, now we want even more time to enjoy our kids” by putting Alliance back into Parliament,” Laila Harré said.

***

Striking a balance – Alliance Work/Family Policy 2002

New Zealand parents are participating in paid work in ever increasing numbers with very little adaptation by the rest of society to their roles as employees, mothers, fathers and family carers.

The Alliance recognises the demands that exist on workers’ lives outside the workplace, especially care-giving responsibilities, and the need for legislation to ensure a balance between work and life.

The Alliance believes that children and work are not either/or issues, and we must ensure that all parties involved are getting a good deal – children, mothers, families and the economy.

The Alliance work/family policy is based on the premise that no business can afford to lose workers that do their job well. Recruitment costs are high, even for low wage workers. Trained employees that know how a company works must be retained for the good of New Zealand’s small and medium sized enterprises.

A major success for the Alliance in the last Government was the introduction of Paid Parental Leave. This was only obtained through the persistence of Alliance Leader, Laila Harré, combined with the campaigning work of women’s and trade union groups. The Alliance is proud of this legislation but is also aware of the further improvements that need to be made.

The Alliance aims to improve the lives of working people and their families by:

 Boosting the quality of, and reducing the cost to families of pre-school care, starting with 15 hours a week free for three and four year olds.
 Increase sick and domestic leave from 5 days to 10 days and allow them to be accumulated.
 Introduce four weeks annual leave.
 Extending paid parental leave to 14 weeks, paid at 80% of wages, with two weeks for fathers – and providing leave to 7000 families including the self employed and mothers who have only been in the job for 6 months when the baby is due.
 Introducing legislated breastfeeding breaks.
 Working towards a reduction in working hours, starting with a commission on working hours.


The eight-hour day and forty-hour week was introduced in New Zealand before many other countries. It is still perceived as a reasonable limit to ordinary pay working hours. But it no longer exists in law. This situation can be changed. In many countries shorter working weeks are being progressively introduced, the most recent example being France.

A Working Hours Commission:
The reduction in working hours is an important but a complex issue. The Alliance will establish a Commission on Working Hours. As well as union and business representation, the commission will include expert and lay members who can take a broad view of working hours issues. The Commission will be resourced to undertake research and public consultation.

Its brief will be to recommend to Government a suitable length for the standard working week of not more than 40 hours, whether there should be any exception above or below this standard, and how the standard should be implemented and enforced.

It is envisaged that there will be an ongoing role for the Commission in the implementation, evaluation and modification of the standard working week.

Pre-school care:

The Alliance believes that high quality early childhood education is a key to our future as a nation.

UK research into pre-school care (Cohen and Fraser, 1991) found that the higher the level of government spending on pre-school care, the greater the financial returns to the economy. This was via a higher return to work rate of mothers, and job creation through growth in the childcare sector.

The Alliance believes that children and work are not either/or issues, and we must ensure that all parties involved are getting a good deal – children, mothers, families and the economy.

At the moment, over 90% of four-year-olds already receive some early childhood education in public, community or private centres, including kohanga reo and a number of other kinds of centre. However, many of our most disadvantaged children are not taking part.

The Alliance will provide free, high-quality pre-school education for all. We will start by providing 15 free hours per week for three and four year olds.

New community or government child care centres will be encouraged on existing school sites, in order to assist the integration between early childhood education and schooling.

Equity funding and special needs funding in early childhood education will be extended, including the very under-resourced early intervention system for children with severe disabilities.

The current timetable for the upskilling and training of early childhood teachers to meet quality targets will be upheld. However, the Alliance will fully fund the flow-on effects of these improvements to ensure that there is no increase in the fees.

Trained early childhood educators will be offered expert professional development to help them identify, respond to and seek help for developmental and learning disorders in young children.

Pay equity for the sector with other teachers will be implemented as quickly as possible – no more delays! The costs of pay equity should be met by government.

The government will invest more to increase the size, scope and responsiveness of early childhood education, with a focus on under-resourced areas.


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