Extending paid parental leave to six months may lead to employers discriminating against women of child-bearing age, Business NZ says.

The lobby group has been forced to defend itself against accusations of sexism from the bill's sponsor, Labour MP Sue Moroney, who compared Business NZ's views with former Employers and Manufacturers Association boss Alasdair Thompson's notorious comments about women workers.

Business NZ employment relations manager Paul Mackay yesterday presented the group's submission on Ms Moroney's Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months' Paid Leave) Amendment Bill. The submission said it was difficult for employers to find suitable temporary staff to fill parental leave vacancies.

"Employers who have been forced to bear considerable replacement costs, or to find those amongst their other employees willing to provide cover, may well think hard before again employing a woman of child-bearing age."


Business NZ accepted that attitude could be seen as discriminatory but Ms Moroney said it was "from a bygone era" and echoed the views of Mr Thompson, who resigned last year after his suggestion that menstruation could be a factor in women being paid less than men caused an uproar.

"It is out of step with what I understand modern-day employer attitudes are towards women and I cannot explain, for the life of me, why an organisation like Business NZ would come to select committee with this type of written submission."

After presenting the submission, Mr Mackay said Business NZ was not saying that extending paid parental leave would discourage employment for younger women. "What we're saying is research shows that might be a possibility and we should make sure we design that possibility out before we move ahead."