Govt changes to parental leave on the way

Govt changes to parental leave on the way

The Government could present changes to paid parental leave, which would include premature, special needs and multiple births, within days, ACT leader David Seymour says.

It comes on the day Labour MP Sue Moroney's Bill to give new parents an extra eight weeks of paid leave above the Government's current policy will enter the House for its first reading debate today.

Paid parental leave increases from 14 to 16 weeks in April this year, then rising to 18 weeks in April next year.

ACT Party leader David Seymour says he won't be supporting Ms Moroney's Bill, but says negotiations are continuing with National to make further changes to the Employment Standards Bill, which would cover people in "special circumstances".

The Bill was introduced into Parliament earlier this month.

"That's what the welfare state is meant to be about – helping people who have unexpected additional needs.

"What Sue Moroney is proposing to do is spray taxpayers' money over a wide demographic and it all sounds nice, but the group in favour are already saying they'll push for a year if they get 26 weeks," he says.

But Ms Moroney has called on National to support the Bill instead of coming up with its own plan to extend support for families under the Employment Standards Legislation Bill currently before Parliament.

Families with multiple babies and those born prematurely or with disabilities are set to be the winners out of the move to 26 weeks, she says.

"Between 18 and 26 weeks babies go through significant milestones such as starting solids and sitting up by themselves. All parents should have the opportunity to share those special moments with their babies," Ms Moroney says.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse wouldn't put a time on when National would announce its own plans, but denied they are copying Ms Moroney's Bill.

"I wouldn't say that at all. Ours is looking quite different and it has a broader range of eligibility criteria and we'll be introducing it as soon as we can."

Family First has backed the policy, saying the Government should value parenting and the role parents play during the early years of a child's life.

"The political and policy focus has been on the needs of the economy, rather than on the welfare of children and the vital role of parents," national director Bob McCoskrie says.

Ms Moroney's Bill was put back in the ballot after it was defeated in a 60-60 tie vote in February.

However, the numbers in Parliament since then have changed, with National losing its Northland seat to Winston Peters in the by-election.

United Future leader Peter Dunne wouldn't say which way he would vote on Labour's Bill, but said, "I've always been in favour of good parental leave support."

While the Bill should have the numbers to pass, Finance Minister Bill English still has the power of financial veto to stop it in its tracks.

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