Parental leave survey

Entering parenthood is an event that requires a near unfathomable amount of energy, time and preparation.

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It also requires juggling between work commitments and adjusting to having a new baby in the home. The balancing act between work and parenthood is navigated by expectant mothers as well as by non-pregnant parents – whose roles cannot be understated – including partners of pregnant people, foster parents, and adoptive parents.

This is reflected in the rapidly increasing number of non-pregnant parents taking some form of paid and unpaid leave to ensure they get the time they need with their whānau both in the early and ongoing stages of parenthood. At present, legislation allows partners:

  • up to 18 weeks of primary carer leave that attracts government parental leave payment if transferred from the mother
  • up to 52 weeks (inclusive of any primary carer leave taken) unpaid extended leave with job protection that can be shared between both parents if they’re both eligible
  • two weeks additional unpaid partner’s leave.

Any other flexible working arrangements are at the discretion of their employer. But is this what families today want or need?

Through the December PSA News, we asked partners to share with us what arrangements they’ve made. On the birth or adoption of a child, most partners took up to three weeks of some form of leave. The dedicated unpaid partners’ leave was not widely used and seen as unaffordable, as taking it would leave their family with no income.

What people did do was use combinations of annual leave, sick leave and time off in lieu. About one in 10 partners were able to access paid parental leave from their employer and a similar proportion used government paid parental leave transferred from their partner. People said they deeply valued the time spent with their partner and new arrival and some wrote of their regret at not being able to take more time.

It seems that it’s outdated to assume that after a partner returns to work following the birth, fostering or adoption of a child, their working life returns to business as usual. We found that over half of parents continued to take leave for childcare purposes (mainly annual leave) and over half made ongoing changes to their working hours or location to enable them to cover childcare and school hours and holidays.

Many of those who did the survey were surprised or disappointed that there aren’t better entitlements for new parents and wanted better support from government and from their employers. Overall, it seems that it makes all the difference to have a good manager who is flexible and understands that people can’t just work as if they aren’t parents.

Taking time from work for a new arrival and having working arrangements that support families is something that’s needed not just by individuals but for healthy, resilient communities. It’s time that legislation and employment agreements caught up with this, and advocating for this through your union is a great place to start.