National offers up extension to paid parental leave

National has promised to extend paid parental leave, as well as offering women free dental courses through pregnancy.

National has unveiled its plan to extend paid parental leave to 22 weeks, as well as adding flexibility so both parents can spend some of the extra together with the baby.  

The party has also promised to offer women free dental courses during their pregnancy and up to their baby’s first birthday.

The package is expected to cost $88 million per year from 2019/2020 once the package is fully implemented.

The announcement comes just over a year after the government used its financial veto to block a Labour party bill which would have increased paid parental leave to 26 weeks.

Bill English – finance minister at the time – said the cost was too high, with Treasury estimating the legislation would amount to $278 million over for years.

“That’s on top of the $251 million taxpayers are expected to spend by 2020 under the existing paid parental leave framework,” he said in June last year.

But in today’s statement, Workplace Relations spokesman Michael Woodhouse says National has always wanted to increase paid parental leave in a “responsible way.”

“We’ve already increased it to 18 weeks and widened the criteria for those that can access it – the improving fiscal outlook means we can now extend paid parental leave further,” he says,

Minister for Women Paula Bennett says this package will make a huge difference for thousands of families during a vital stage in their lives.

“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,” Mrs Bennett says.

The package also gives families a chance to have a baby by providing a third free IVF cycle and speeding up access to fertility treatment for eligible couples.

“Around 94% of eight-month-olds are now immunised and about 800,000 children under 13 are benefiting from free GP visits and prescriptions,” says Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman.

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