Confirmation that the new government will extend parental leave from next year has been welcomed by nurses union NZNO as extra time to boost bonding and establish breastfeeding.
The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that Cabinet had agreed to extend the current 18 weeks paid parental leave to 22 weeks from July 1 2018 and to 26 weeks from July 1 2020.
Kerri Nuku, the kaiwhakahaere for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), welcomed the extension of paid leave to 26 weeks (six months) pointing out that breast feeding for the first six months of life is recommended by the World Health Organisation as giving a better start for babies.
She said NZNO was a long-time supporter of extending paid parental leave because nurses and midwives understood the huge impact that family bonding has on a child’s health.
“Vulnerable mums, especially single mums, should be able to return to work when they are ready and this extension gives them a little more time without extra money worries. The bond with baby is so vital and it is a government’s duty to support that,” Nuku said. She said parents and babies benefited, also businesses by keeping loyal and trained staff, and society in general by helping to support New Zealand families.
Extending parental leave was a key pledge on Labour’s 100 Day Plan and supported by all parties in government. Ardern said currently 28,000 parents enjoy 18 weeks of paid parental leave – but that was one of the lowest rates in the OECD. She said the increased support for working families had a net cost of $325 million over four years and was budgeted for in its fiscal plan.
“We want children to have the best start in life,” said Ardern. “Evidence shows that having a parent at home as long as possible to care for a child provides a huge benefit for that child’s development.”
Nuku said NZNO would also like to see the barrier removed of having to work an average of 10 hours a week before you can access paid parental leave.