National promises to extend parental leave to 22 weeks

Labour has hit back at National's new parental leave policy, saying Bill English has "no credibility" on the issue after his party vetoed a bill to extend it to 26 weeks last year.

National is promising to extend paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks if re-elected to government and it will allow for both parents of a child to take time off work together.

While in government in 2016, National vetoed Labour's bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks by 2018. 

Labour MP Sue Moroney, who put forward the bill at the time, said "After vetoing 26 weeks Paid Parental Leave, which the majority of Parliament voted for, Bill English has no credibility promising more weeks now."

She said the policy was an election ploy and parents would already be entitled to 22 weeks of paid parental leave if National hadn't blocked Labour's bill.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern would introduce 26 weeks of paid parental leave during the first 100 days if she became Prime Minister.

Under National's parents and newborns package, announced on Tuesday morning, mothers would be offered a free dental course during their pregnancy and up until their child's first birthday, including a check-up and any resulting x-rays, extractions and fillings.

The party would also extend the IVF programme to allow for a third free cycle.

"All New Zealanders deserve the chance to have a family so we are also pleased to be able to stand behind people struggling to conceive, through funding for an extra IVF for those who need it," health spokesperson Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

Parental leave will be extended from the current 18 weeks to 20 weeks on July 1st 2018, and extended to 22 weeks on 1 July 2019.

"National's Parents and Newborns package recognises the role of both parents, and allows families to have the flexibility that suits their circumstances. It is good for parents, good for their baby and will help support women in the workforce," spokesperson for women Paula Bennett says.

The parents and newborns package is expected to cost $88 million per year, once the extended parental leave is fully implemented.