Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced paid parental leave will increase to 26 weeks by 2020 and locals think that is a step in the right direction.

In a press conference Ardern said until now New Zealand had one of the lowest paid parental leaves in the OECD where the average was 48 weeks.

The changes will see New Zealand's paid parental leave increase to 22 weeks from July 1 next year, then increase to 26 weeks from July 1, 2020.

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Allison Lawton said from a mother's perspective, a female perspective and a family perspective this was a fantastic move.

Advertisement

"Our babies are our future."

She said the change would mean businesses would have to think laterally and plan earlier, but the incremental changes gave them time to adapt.

"The Government paying for it means businesses don't have to find that money, but there will still be a pressure on reallocating resources.

"I think it could be more problematic for small businesses, because six months is a long period of time."

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce regional growth adviser Tatiana Kiwi-Knight is pregnant and four weeks from her due date.

She planned on starting her paid parental leave a week before and for the 17 weeks after she gave birth, the full amount she was entitled to under the current system.

Although parents were able to take up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave she had been in her job for less than 12 months and was ineligible to take it.

"It's my first baby and I am looking forward to it, but I am also really nervous.

"I just know when I am on leave I am actually in the hard part, where I have a little human to look after."

Kiwi-Knight said if she was able to take 22 or 26 weeks then she certainly would.

"I was employed while I was heavily pregnant.

"I like to think we are seeing a change in perception. That people are seeing it not as a cost, but as an investment."

Although she admitted it could hurt some small businesses, Kiwi-Knight said 26 weeks really wasn't that much more than 18.

"Those eight weeks would go so fast. I think [the increase] is a great thing."

Kiwi-Knight said there was a "massive issue" of companies losing talent because staff wanted to spend more time with their babies.

"I think this will definitely help. As long as people are changing along the way and start to see the real value in motherhood.

"Workplaces need to be more flexible. There's a lot that needs to change but I think this is a good first step."

Plunket chief executive Amanda Malu was pleased to see the new Government had prioritised actions that benefit families so early on.

She said new mothers experienced improved mental and physical health as a result of extended leave.

Plunket had been advocating for 26 weeks' paid parental leave for many years, welcoming successive governments' policies to incrementally extend paid parental leave.

"The first six months of a child's life is a crucial time for the establishment of the mother and infant relationship, breastfeeding, and building community connections," Malu said.

"It's a time when parents are adjusting to their new way of life and learning about their own needs and the needs of their growing baby."

She encouraged employers and communities to support the increase.

"Investing in the first 1000 days of a child's life is an investment in families today and in New Zealand's future.

"If we can all work to support families to give their children the very best start in these early days - then we all benefit as a society as a result. There will be better health and better life outcomes for children if we get things right in those early years."

What are the changes
Paid parental leave is currently 18 weeks
From July 1, 2018 paid parental leave will increase to 22 weeks
From July 1, 2020 paid parental leave will increase to 26 weeks
The Government will meet the cost of increasing it and estimates it will have a net cost of $325m over four years