Better parental leave call

Otago Daily Times 28 May 2018
Family First Comment: Echoing calls that we have been making….

Better parental leave should be made a priority in New Zealand, because support for children in their early years pays “massive dividends” when they grow up, an Otago academic says.

Changes to parental leave will take effect next month, after the Government agreed last year to increase the leave to 26 weeks by 2020. Data made public last year revealed only 1% of people receiving parental leave in New Zealand were fathers, and recently experts urged the Government to provide more support to parents.

Family law academic Prof Mark Henaghan said countries where both partners could take leave at the same time found it led to societal advantages, such as people displaying more respect and tolerance for one another.

National MP Amy Adams unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a shared parental leave Bill into Parliament in November last year. Prof Henaghan said investment in a child’s early years paid “massive dividends” throughout the child’s later life.

New Zealand could experience improvements in society as a whole if it provided better parental leave, as some countries, for instance in Scandinavia, did.

“No country is perfect, but they do put a lot more support into the early years,” he said.

Making changes to paternity leave so more men took it should be a “slightly higher priority” for the new Government, he said.