Parental leave is something that is changing rapidly and it’s getting better for parents. The latest trend that we have seen is that parents are now splitting parental leave, with mothers able to share up to 26 weeks of parental leave with the other parent.
The current leave rules in New Zealand may seem complicated but we are hopeful that the trend of splitting parental leave continues across all sectors. The benefits are huge, from fathers having a closer bond with their children and gaining the chance to be the main carer, to mothers being able to step back into their careers earlier and continue to grow professionally.
Being able to share parental leave also helps to reduce the gender pay gap. Data shows that there is a 9.1% pay gap between men and women in New Zealand, which meant that there was an economic incentive for women to be at home. When you combine this incentive with the societal attitudes toward gender roles you can see that men have long been blocked from taking on a bigger chunk of parenting when children are very young.
It's vital to understand that early childhood really does matter when it comes to positive outcomes in later life. If parents have the chance to share that load it’s the children who benefit and parents end up with a better relationship with their children overall.
We spoke to two parents from different families to gain an understanding of how splitting parental leave has worked for them:
A Mother Returning from 6 Months Parental Leave
What benefits have you and your family experienced with sharing parental leave?
There have been many benefits that we’ve experienced in our family, including the fact that this change has given Dad a chance to bond with the baby and build a much deeper bond in these formative years. It’s also given him a chance to see what being a parent who stays at home is really like.
Most partners don’t see the work that goes behind the scenes and imagine that they will get a lot of housework and yard work finished while with the baby. Of course, they quickly learn that they have to build their day around naps and feeds, other children and their activities and then their own wants and needs. It’s a learning curve for sure and it’s one that allows Dad to appreciate Mum on a new level.
For me, being able to go back to work and not worry about the baby being put into day care has been a relief. There’s less of a distraction knowing that Dad is there to cover any sickness, too, which gives me the space I need to get back into the swing of full-time work. It also helps to know that our older children have the chance to spend quality time with their Dad and enjoy having more of his attention.
What challenges have you come across? What things should be considered when planning parental leave and returning to work?
For us, we haven’t come across major challenges as this is baby number three so it’s not our first go around! We knew what to expect with leave. Our financial and career implications are our biggest considerations of my return to work.
It’s worked out really well for us to share parental leave because when I started out in my permanent role from a contract one, I was already six months pregnant and working on having more security. I didn’t want to take too much time out, so sharing leave has been great and it’s good to be earning again.
What has it meant in terms of your career?
I was able to feel more comfortable in returning to work sooner. Sharing leave gave me the flexibility to do it and have a high level of confidence that it would work out.
What are the challenges/benefits for your partner?
We’ve had some small challenges to overcome while sharing leave. As a mother, I had to relinquish control a little and be ok with Dad taking over and find his own rhythms and routines. This wouldn’t always align with how I would do things and that takes some time to get through without swooping in to help!
This can create some tension as we have different parenting styles, but it’s been fine overall.
A Father Heading onto 6m Parental Leave
What are you looking forward to most about taking parental leave?
Mostly, I am excited about spending so much more time with my daughter. Being able to see her development as she grows is something I am very much looking forward to.
What are the benefits to you and your family?
When we had our son I took six months to be with him and by the end of it, I felt that our relationship was much stronger than it had started out. I know that taking this time off will allow me to build the same strong relationship with my daughter.
Taking six months of parental leave also allows my wife to return to her career sooner. On the whole our family unit is made stronger as a result.
What are the challenges or things to think about when planning your parental leave and return to work?
Understanding the routines my daughter has already set is important and it’s the biggest challenge of planning parental leave.
Splitting parental leave is a fantastic trend that we are seeing across HR at the moment and we hope to continue seeing it across companies in New Zealand in every sector. Being able to assist families with their balance at home only makes for stronger and more productive employees.
To find out more about roles that include this option for your family, get in touch with the Beyond Recruitment team today. Our specialist team of Recruiters can talk you through the roles currently available and help you plan out your next step.