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UNICEF Encourages Government Support for Paid Parental Leave

UNICEF NZ Encourages Government Support for Paid Parental Leave Extension

Following an agreement by Sue Moroney to defer the Select Committee report of her Bill to gradually extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, UNICEF NZ is encouraging the Government to do all that it can to support a substantial increase in paid parental leave. The Bill will now be reported back from the Government Administration Select Committee by 28 February, 2014.

UNICEF NZ Advocacy Manager Deborah Morris-Travers, said, “We are pleased that the Bill has been delayed to enable the government to reconsider its position on this issue. The majority of New Zealanders support an extension of paid parental leave, recognising that this is an important investment in our youngest citizens. It makes sense for the government to support the Bill through parliament.

“New Zealand is obliged under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that the ‘best interests of the child’ are a guiding principle. Extending paid parental leave is an excellent example of a policy that upholds a child’s best interests while also delivering a range of other benefits, such as maintaining women’s links to the labour force. Department of Labour research has shown that inadequate paid parental leave increases the likelihood of mothers resigning their jobs, sometimes leading to extended periods of time outside the workforce.

“The current allocation of 14 weeks paid parental leave is low by OECD standards. The Bill is an opportunity to significantly improve that provision, enabling parents to focus on the developmental needs of their infants in the early months of life. Decent paid parental leave provision also reduces the likelihood of these small babies being exposed to infections and illness they’re more susceptible to when in group care outside of the home.

“Given New Zealand’s poor record on child wellbeing, there is a need for cross-party efforts to ensure appropriate policy and sustained investment in babies and children. Extending paid parental leave is an important component of this because it supports women to breastfeed and helps create the secure attachment between parents and their infants. According to the World Health Organisation, infants need a minimum of six months exclusive breastfeeding.”

A body of credible, international, neuroscientific research demonstrates that loving, stable, secure and stimulating relationships with ‘emotionally available’ caregivers in the earliest weeks, months and years of life are critical for every aspect of a child’s healthy development (UNICEF Innocenti Report Card 8 December 2008).

Positive attachment and bonding begin in the very earliest days and ideally the role of the primary caregiver should be enabled to continue for at least the first year of the child’s life. Developmental and behavioural problems – often continuing into later life, most commonly arise from disturbances in the relationship between the infant and the primary caregiver.

Ms Morris-Travers added, “To date, the government has said it won’t support the Bill and has threatened to use a financial veto at the third reading. We are pleased that this position is now being reconsidered.”

“UNICEF NZ is part of the ‘26 for Babies’ coalition, which has been campaigning in support of the Bill. We hope to see an agreement reached between Labour and National to ensure a substantial increase in paid parental leave, so the Bill can be passed with cross-party support. Mums and Dads around the country would welcome this move.”

- ENDS -

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