12 More Weeks

Parental Leave: NZ vs the OECD (Source: OECD Family Database)

Popping in to see the Select Committee

On April 10th, three On Campus volunteers presented EJP's submission on the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months' Paid Leave) Amendment Bill to the Select Committee in Mangere.

Parental Leave QuoteThe Bill seeks to increase paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks. EJP submitted its written submission in favour of the Bill in October last year. Select Committee members hearing the submissions were National's Chris Auchinvole, Jackie Blue and Kanwal Singh Bakshi; Sue Moroney from Labour and Jan Logie (Greens). Several other groups presented including the YWCA, Auckland Womens' Centre, the Human Rights Foundation and Family First.

What the Justice Kids Said…

EJP's submission focused on the overall health benefits to mothers and babies resulting from extended leave. For mothers this centered around the prevention or treatment of post-natal depression. For babies the benefit relates to greater breastfeeding exposure, attachment and bonding. What about employment? Our volunteers submitted that, while the burden for other employees may be greater if leave were extended, it would be easier to hire temporary staff for 26 rather than 14 weeks. Importantly, it was highlighted that New Zealand ranks second to last in the OECD in respect of the quality of its parental leave scheme. EJP further submitted that National's use of the financial veto to block the Bill would be undemocratic in seeking to bypass MMP. Parliamentary sovereignty and separation of powers would also be at risk if the veto were used.

Yays and Nays

Overall, most submissions supported the Bill. National's Chris Auchinvole also appeared to be a fan. While not openly expressing support, his demeanour was sympathetic towards pro-Bill arguments. Sue Moroney and Jan Logie openly supported the Bill while Kanwal Singh Bakshi was its only vocal opponent. Jackie Blue largely remained silent.

The Select Committee posed questions relating to whether judicial review might be brought against the government for using the veto, as well inquiring whether taxes would be raised to support the extended paid leave period.

...and what they learnt

One of the volunteers, Anjori Mitra, says "while working on the submission helped us understand the issues from a legal point of view, hearing some very emotional stories first hand really brought the issues home. I enjoyed meeting a wide range of submitters and being exposed to a network of advocates for the rights of women and children. Further, engaging in the democratic process was fulfilling and enlightening. It gave me a chance to reflect on how much laws have changed, but how much further they still have to go."

Our submitters would like to relay their thanks to the team who worked hard to put the written submission together last year. The Select Committee was impressed by our total of enthusiastic volunteers!