Midwives are celebrating the $40 a week increase in Paid Parental leave entitlements from 1 July as they see daily, new parents struggling to meet rising costs.
From Friday 1 July, the maximum weekly rate of paid parental leave will be increasing to $661.12 per week, a 6.3 per cent increase before tax. Those who are self-employed will also see an increase in their minimum payment to $212 per week.
MERAS, the midwives’ union, has been calling for an increase in the cap of Paid Parental Leave payments since the 2020 Election.
MERAS co-leader, Jill Ovens, points out that with average weekly earnings in New Zealand now being $1404.15, employees whose weekly pay is above the new maximum will experience a loss of income while on parental leave and may be forced to return to work to pay the mortgage and other fixed expenses when their babies are less than 6 months old.
“Some employers top up parental leave payments but not always for the full period. For example, midwives employed by DHBs get a top-up to their usual pay while they are on paid parental leave, but this is only for 14 of the 26 weeks paid leave,” Ms Ovens says.
Midwives say the first few months are the most important in a baby’s life, and MERAS supports the Government’s commitment to helping working families who have new-borns and young children. However, the union is calling for partners to have some entitlement to paid parental leave at the same time as the birth mother to strengthen the family unit.
“Currently if her partner wants to take parental leave, the mother has to transfer some of her leave as it is only for the primary caregiver. But after the birth, it would be great for the baby’s mother to have her partner there to look after both them and any other children in the family. This helps her to recover from the birth and to establish breastfeeding,” Ms Ovens says. “We think this is especially important when mothers are being sent home from hospitals within 24 hours of the birth.”
MERAS says it is also important for partners to bond with their new-born babies and share in the experience of welcoming a new member to their family.
The union says there are some employment issues with the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act that need to be addressed. These include:
- entitlement to the full 52 weeks parental leave for those who have changed their employer in the previous 12 months,
- the way annual leave is paid out after return from parental leave, and
- the rights of surrogates to some paid leave after the birth.