Labour pushes ahead with paid parental leave promise

Labour made its paid parental leave extension a priority during the election campaign. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

One of Labour's main promises from the campaign trail will soon be delivered with the announcement of an extension to paid parental leave.

The party had promised to extend the duration of leave to 26 weeks, up from the 18 weeks currently available to new parents.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Cabinet had approved the change, which will see leave rise to an initial 22 weeks on 1 July 2018, then to 26 weeks by July 2020.

The Bill will be introduced on Wednesday.

"The benefits of paid parental leave are well understood, but the benefits of paid parental leave have not translated into New Zealand legislation and practice," Ardern said.

"New Zealand's entitlement of 18 weeks is one of the lowest in the OECD where the average is 48 weeks. I'm proud that this Government will pursue one of the issues we pursued hard in opposition."

The Government's paid parental leave extension will cost $325 million over the four year forecast period. It was one of the keystones of Labour's pre-election 100 day plan if they formed the next government.

Former Labour MP Sue Moroney had long campaigned for an extension and her private member's bill for 26 weeks was drawn last year.

It passed its second reading in Parliament with the support of New Zealand First and the Maori Party, but was vetoed on financial grounds by then Finance Minister Bill English.

During the election campaign National also pledged to raise paid parental leave to 22 weeks by 2019 at a cost of $62m a year, despite railroading Moroney's bill.