HRINZ PARENTAL LEAVE AND EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION BILL SUBMISSION
HRINZ (Human Resources Institute of New Zealand Incorporated) is a not-for-profit membership organisation representing the interests of 3300+ individual members. HRINZ members include those working in private and public sector organisations, as well as students and academics. HRINZ provides members with education and information services, conferences and seminars, publications, representation at government and official levels, and networking opportunities. This helps members to develop their professional skills and knowledge in the practice and teaching of human resource management.
HRINZ is making this submission on behalf of its members, all of whom are individual members as HRINZ does not offer corporate membership.
HRINZ has canvassed member views via online discussion groups and we feel there is strong support from our membership for an extension of paid parental leave to 22 weeks from 1 April 2016 and from 22 weeks to 26 weeks from 1 April 2018.
There is also strong support from our members for a legal, but optional and mutually agreed, “keeping in touch” days arrangement, and our members have said that such arrangements are already in place in the UK, and many European and Scandinavian countries. It is good to see the provision for this in new sections 71a to 71c. This can only help people to remain up to date with their employer, remain part of the social group and also to instil a higher level of comfort and confidence when that person returns to the workforce.
Our members have also advised us of the need to keep up and compete for talent internationally and have progressive legislation in place that signals this. New Zealand has proud history and legacy in this space but, in truth, we are clearly lagging behind international competition. For example, the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Norway are all ahead of us in this respect.
We have received feedback from our members that how the financial impact of this change is managed is an important factor but that cost should not be put forward as a “show stopping” objection. It can be said that this is easy to say for someone who is not footing the bill, but without progressive and visionary steps ahead, we could well still be employing children to undertake work.
Another objection, again financially related, is that the fear of a small medium enterprise incurring the increased cost of extended paid parental leave could lead to covert sexual discrimination by subtly ensuring that women of child bearing years are not employed. The view from members is that this is a spurious argument for two main reasons. Firstly, parental leave applies equally to men as it does to women. Secondly, there is a clear pattern emerging that with changed demographics and shifting societal attitudes, employers and countries that do not offer attractive employment support for talented workers will find that they cannot attract and/or retain the essential talent required to service their customers. HRINZ is sure that good employers and NZ Inc would not wish to be in such a situation.
We also need to clearly signal that family and family fertility are important to society. HRINZ believes it is particularly important to encourage fertility in a country like New Zealand for two reasons. Number one, we are a sparsely populated, small populated country with most people living in urban centres. Number two, demographic studies have shown that one of the reasons for declining or ageing populations in advanced economies is that whereas in agrarian or manufacturing economies higher numbers of children are an advantage to the family unit, service economies with increased urbanisation create an environment where children become more of a liability and often for an extended period due to the need to achieve higher levels of education. The Institute has the view that New Zealand is particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon as we shift to a highly urbanised, service based economy with the agrarian sector increasingly subject to mechanisation/robotisation.
The Institute’s exposure to psychometric research also very strongly confirms that the first three years of life and the bonding with the infant’s primary carer are, along with inherited genetics, key determinants of the ultimate citizen that society inherits.
HRINZ fully supports the Bill and applauds the progressive, farsighted ambition to look beyond the immediate and the pecuniary to achieve longer-term, strategic and economic benefits for our country.