Patrick Gower: Extend paid parental leave to school holidays

OPINION: For far too many Kiwi families the school holidays don't mean a break - they mean pressure and cost.

That's why I am promoting 'School Holiday Paid Parental Leave', so families can get some precious time together.

I am essentially talking about an extension of paid parental leave where families can have that quality time without the pressure of both parents working paid jobs.

This would help give that precious time to families, and take the pressure off parents and children.

It would also take the pressure off employers funding breaks in the productive times of the year.

I am talking about one week a year per parent depending on the wages earned - means-tested so rich parents can't get it. It would keep their costs down here and they could use it how they like to get a holiday boost.

I believe this could be a real boost for the modern family where both parents work because, for too many them, school holidays don't mean being together - they usually means being separate in some way as the juggling act goes on.

This is a much bigger problem than I think New Zealanders are acknowledging.

Just because the word 'holiday' is there, doesn't mean it is fun.

Sure, for the better-off it may mean overseas trips and the like. But for the hard-working families with both parents in jobs to make ends meet, holidays can be a nightmare. 

It means one parent using up valuable leave to cover at home, or it means high costs of finding holiday care, or low productivity in the workplace when parents have to be two places at once. 

Everything is more expensive during the holidays, and many Kiwis can only save up to take the family away for one decent break.

There are a huge number of holidays to get through and an increasing number of scare stories about kids being lonely in holiday care. With after-school care now a constant for many children, the need for a holiday break is even greater.

The truth is school holidays are a throwback to the olden days when usually one parent worked.

Teachers are worked to the bone in the classroom for far too little pay, they need a break to reset and re-organise - and kids need a rest and to reset too.

So what is the answer?


Well, I saw Jacinda Ardern on the Today Show talking about her Government's 'family-centric' policies that were there for Baby Neve.

I think the Government now needs to look further with paid parental leave and extend it to the school holidays.

This could work in a similar way to the early childhood education funding, but it it would be a band of support right through a child's life. If this is going to be the best place to raise a child in the world, then this policy needs to be there.

If I was Labour, I would work up a paid parental school holiday leave policy starting with under-sevens and take it to the next election. 

Promoted by the child-centric Prime Minister, I think it could help be an election winner.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's National Correspondent