Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Door open for more paid parental leave

Labour MP's reworked bill proposing another 12 weeks off may yet win the backing of the Government.

Labour MP Sue Moroney. Photo / APN
Labour MP Sue Moroney. Photo / APN

An extra 12 weeks of paid parental leave could be back on the cards after the Government appeared to reconsider its position, though a new scheme could have a later start date to make it more affordable.

Shadow Social Development Minister Sue Moroney said the "weight of public opinion" had convinced the Government to reconsider its threat to scupper her bill to extend parental leave from 14 weeks to a maximum of 26 weeks.

It is believed to have the numbers to pass into law, but Finance Minister Bill English has previously said the Government would use its powers to veto it because it was unaffordable.

Mr English said yesterday he had not changed his position on the bill but he understood amendments were being considered to make it more palatable to the National-led Government.

He said he had been surprised by the extent to which the MPs in the committee had worked on changing the legislation.

"What I'm advised is that the bill will now look substantially different and may be worth looking at."

At National's request, the select committee considering the bill has been given a later deadline to report back to MPs, meaning the debate could come in the lead-up to the 2014 general election.

Mr English said: "The select committee has done quite a lot of work to come up with a bill that wouldn't be vetoed, and we just haven't had the opportunity to look at the detail of where they've got to."

Asked whether a later start date could be considered, he said: "Those are all possibilities. The original bill just cost too much too soon to be acceptable or to be workable."

The number of extra weeks of payments could also be reduced.

Ms Moroney said the "signals were very good". "I hope they're going to change their mind because putting a financial veto against hard-working families was never going to be a good look for the Government."

Paid parental leave

* Maximum now - 14 weeks.

* Proposed maximum - 26 weeks.

* Payments of up to $475 a week would be phased in by four weeks a year over three years.

* The Government said it would cost $450 million over the first four years but now says that costing has changed.

- NZ Herald

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