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Family friendly job policy challenge

Friday, 7 March, 2008

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
7 March 2008

Family friendly job policy challenge for politicians

Women should be asking all political parties in an election year about their family-friendly employment policies, says EEO Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor.

“Women who are currently not eligible for paid parental leave, such as casual and seasonal workers and people with more than one job, will want to know where politicians stand on extending the scheme to cover them,” she said today.

“It is grossly unfair that seasonal workers who might have two employers in a year but are otherwise eligible don’t qualify. The problem around eligibility could be very easily cured by using workforce attachment not a single workplace as the entry point.”

The Human Rights Commission is urging all parties on International Women’s Day to include widening the eligibility criteria of the paid parental leave scheme in 2008 party policies and election manifestos.

“This would enable voters to make informed choices later in the year”, says the EEO Commissioner.

The EEO Commissioner and other groups want the eligibility criteria for paid parental leave to include many low income working mothers currently excluded. Many of those who miss out work in agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

Widening eligibility would also provide paid parental leave to mothers who work in casual and temporary employment between having their first child and subsequent children.

The EEO Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor, also supports a new paid parental leave entitlement for fathers to address the concerns of some men’s groups about men’s primary entitlement. If there was a separate entitlement it would help fathers take leave regardless of whether the mother has paid parental leave and support men to be more involved in family care.

“Ensuring fairness in the paid parental leave coverage of working families should be a No. 1 priority to remedy an obvious anomaly. Some women are being discriminated against just because they work for more than one employer at a time. This is happening when non-standard work relationships are common and employers are crying out for staff.”

She said New Zealand could feel proud of the fact that it had extended paid parental leave to self-employed women who often work for more than one client.
“Surely that makes it ridiculous that a mother who works for more than 10 hours a week for several employers is excluded from paid parental leave.”

The battle to extend paid parental leave has been supported by the Families Commission, Rural Women of New Zealand and the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Women (NACEW) among others.

In 2007 MP Dr Nick Smith lodged two complaints to the Human Rights Commission on behalf of a Nelson constituent claiming discrimination on the grounds of sex and of employment status but neither complaint could be progressed under the current Act.

ENDS

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