Shared Paid Parental Leave

A few questions for Jacinda Ardern...

Ardern in the house.png

Prime Minister, a few moments of your time please.

Why, when you told New Zealand that your government was a "new beginning" and that in this Parliament you'd "like to do things differently" does your government act in exactly the same way as previous governments have done, as you deny the amendment making shared paid parental leave possible?

Why, when you've said you want to lead a government focused on the future, do you instead focus on what hasn't been done in the past, replaying the same lines we've seen from previous governments? Yes, it is National's fault that they didn't think of the policy of shared paid parental leave earlier, but you're now the person who can do something about it. Why won't you?

Why, when you made a commitment in front of New Zealand that you would "be a champion for good ideas" even if they came from the opposition benches, will you not allow the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill to be referred back to Select Committee so that the amendment can be incorporated?

Why, when you have admitted that allowing parents to share paid parental leave is an idea with merit, will you not save time in the House, and that there is clearly time for the bill to progress through the House before paid parental leave would increase to 22 weeks, will you not allow the New Zealand public to have their input into this legislation?

Why did you mislead the House when you said that the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill had already been through a Select Committee? Previous bills on this topic may have been, but this is a new bill, and it has not been through Select Committee, which would allow the new idea of shared paid parental leave, which was only brought into the policy debate during the 2017 election, to be properly discussed and implemented?

Why, when your campaign slogan was "Let's do this", is one of the first actions of your government to say "Don't do this," to an idea that's won broad support from across the country?

Why, when you remarked to Bill English during one of the election debates that you didn't want to look like bickering politicians, are you doing just that in the opening weeks of your government?

Why, when you promised to be different, when you committed to champion good ideas, when you agree it is a good idea, when your entire campaign was about "Let's do this", why don't you just get on with making shared paid parental leave a reality, instead of wasting the valuable time of the House, and New Zealanders, by playing politics?

Why, when you've promised to be a different kind of leader, is that leadership stumbling at its first test? New Zealand's families deserve better.

Why, Prime Minister? Why?

If you believe shared paid parental leave should be a priority for this government, I encourage you to sign and share my petition. It may be small, but hopefully it'll send an important message.

Jacinda risks empty promises over denying shared parental leave

Alex Snippet.png

In her speech to the Address in Reply debate, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made two commitments to New Zealanders: "I promise you that things will be done differently," and "to be a champion for good ideas wherever they are found, even if they're found over there," to which she pointed to National's opposition benches.

Yet, in the past 24 hours, we've seen that the new Labour-led government intends to carry on in exactly the same manner that they were so critical of the previous National-led government for employing similar methods.

As Labour pushes through its legislation to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks by 2020, National's Amy Adams proposed an amendment to the legislation that would have allowed both parents to choose how they split those 26 weeks between them, rather than one parent having to use all 26 weeks themselves.

The idea is simple, the cookie cutter approach of one parent taking 26 weeks on their own simply doesn't meet the often complex needs of modern families. By allowing parents to decide between them how to split the 26 week paid parental leave allocation, it would allow parents to come up with a solution that best met their needs. Whether it was having both parents at home for slightly longer after the arrival of baby, allowing a new mum to return to work sooner if she wanted to, or allowing a new dad to spend more time at home during those crucial and busy first few weeks. Likewise the idea of shared paid parental leave would recognise  for same sex couples too, allowing both mothers, or both fathers, to take take off as best suited their specific needs.

The amendment holds virtually no extra cost for the government, bar some small administrative changes required to make it happen. The amendment is also universally regarded as a good idea, recognising that, as a modern society, we want to view all roles in our lives as ones that women and men can do equally, and see them acknowledged and paid equally for those roles too.

So why, given the Prime Minister's promise to do things differently and champion good ideas, even those from the opposition, do Labour, the Green Party, and New Zealand First oppose this? While they protest it's because the change is too complex, we all know that's simply not the case. Bar introducing a new form to apply for a shared paid parental leave arrangement, the change would not come into effect until 2020, giving the government plenty of time to make any of system changes might be required.

Instead, the only way to explain the behaviour of the Labour-led government in rejecting the amendment is that it is an act of political spite. Critics have claimed that National had nine years that they could have introduced this change, but that ignores the fact that National was the only party that had this as a policy going into the 2017 election. In the prior nine years, nobody had thought of this as a policy solution, largely because we were all singularly focused on how quickly the paid parental leave entitlement should be raised.

It's a sad indictment on the new Labour-led government that barely a month into their first term, and not even a week since Jacinda Ardern made those promises to New Zealand in her first speech to the House as Prime Minister, they're already demonstrating that they were little more than empty words bandied about for show.

The real losers in this are New Zealand's parents. As I write this, I'm watching on our baby monitor as our son Alex takes his morning nap. As a stay-at-home dad, who has always wanted to be able to take as equal a role in possible in raising my children as is practical, the ability to share paid parental leave means a hell of a lot to me. We're fortunate that we were in a financial position for my wife and I to swap roles, but that's not the reality for all parents.

So often, one parent has to go back to work within a week or two, if not days, of their child being born. Amy Adams' amendment would have given these families so much more choice and flexibility about how they managed that transition back to work for one of the parents.

If this Labour-led government is to truly live up to Jacinda's promise to do things differently and champion good ideas regardless of where they've come from, they must reconsider their position on this amendment or, at the very least, commit to supporting shared paid parental leave should it come up in a Members' Bill.

At an even more fundamental level, if Jacinda Ardern is serious about her claim that she would bring kindness back, starting with supporting families through something as simple as shared paid parental leave is a perfect place to start.

Finally, if you're still here reading, I'd encourage you to sign and share a simple petition I've put together about this issue. I won't pretend that this petition is going to change the world, and being a stay-at-home parent on limited resources, I'll do what I can to promote. But ultimately the success of making this happen for New Zealand's parents rests with you.

Please head on over and sign and share the petition to show your support for shared paid parental leave in New Zealand.