Hopes NZ company's far-reaching new parental leave policies will spur others to follow suit

There are hopes more New Zealand businesses will introduce better parental leave policies after Contact Energy revealed its new gender-neutral policy on Monday. 

Under the new policy, anyone who is a primary caregiver can benefit - whether it's mum, dad, grandparent or guardian. 

Other perks include a full salary top-up for the 26-week Government paid parental leave, continued KiwiSaver contributions, six months of flexible working with full pay and a $5000 payment towards childcare.

As well as that, if you are the partner of a primary carer and work at Contact Energy you also get benefits including four weeks of paid leave.

Global Women Chief Executive Agnes Naera said the new policy is a step towards making positive change.

"If we see more businesses continue to imbed systems like this that support employees to show up as their best selves both at work and at home and the myriad of pressures that come with this, it will have a positive impact on the economic future of Aotearoa New Zealand," Naera said.

The latest employment data from Stats NZ showed the unemployment rate remained low at 3.3 percent in the September 2022 quarter. 

As many companies grapple with staff shortages they need to keep up with businesses offering sweeteners if they want to retain staff.  

NZ Institute of Economic Research Inc do a quarterly survey of business opinion and last quarter added questions about parental leave.

NZIER chief executive Jason Shoebridge told AM around 45 percent of organisations do something over and above the statutory entitlement but very few businesses would be doing as much as Contact's new policy.

Only 8.9 percent of New Zealand organisations that employ over 20 people top up the salary of staff on parental leave for 26 weeks, Shoebridge said. While only 6.4 percent of those same-sized organisations continue to contribute to Kiwisaver accounts while parents are raising the next generation.

"The question businesses always need to weigh up, so there is the cost, definitely to this, but the other way to look at this is, I guess, is an investment in their attraction and retention of staff," Shoebridge said.

Contact Energy chief of people Jan Bibby told AM they have "overwhelming support" for the policy already.

"We had a look at what we were doing and felt it wasn't really enough and we think we have a role to play in helping our people and supporting them through this really important journey in their life where they are either adding or starting to grow their whānau," Bibby said.

Parental leave policy

Primary Carer:

  • Salary Top-Up - to full salary for the 26-week Government paid parental leave period

  • KiwiSaver Employer contributions - 3% employer contribution for the duration of parental leave

  • 6 Months Flexible Working – returning employees can choose to work 80% of their normal weekly hours and still receive 100% of their normal weekly pay for the first 6 months

  • Childcare Koha - $5,000 (before tax) as a contribution towards childcare

  • 10 Days Paid Special Leave – pregnant employees will receive 10 days paid special leave for pregnancy-related appointments

  • Annual Leave – paid at normal pay when employees return from parental leave

  • Fourth Trimester – 3 months free electricity for employees who are Contact customers

  • Food Package:  Pre-prepared meals on the arrival of baby

Partner Benefits: 

  • Partner’s Leave – four weeks paid leave which can be taken flexibly over 13 months

  • Fourth Trimester - 3 months free electricity for employees who are Contact customers on eligible plans
  • Food Package:  Pre-prepared meals on the arrival of baby