An advertisement for a job at an Auckland vet clinic warns that it won't suit someone who plans to take long periods of "time off for parenting".

The job, as an internal medicine specialist at a new clinic being set up by North Shore Veterinary Specialists, is being advertised on the New Zealand Veterinary Association's website.

The ad says Dr Mark Robson "has a good understanding of the personal qualities and commitment that are needed".

"Strong preference" will be given to applicants who plan to stay in Auckland and to take over as senior clinician in time, it says.


"Looking to the future, this is not a position who (sic) would suit someone who plans to take long periods of time off for parenting, due to the likelihood that the medicine team will always be small."

The job ad.
The job ad.

Under New Zealand employment law it is unlawful to not employ someone based on their family status, age, or gender - including the possibility of future pregnancy. Job ads cannot reflect such discrimination.

But Robson told the Herald it was a very unusual and highly specialised role demanding a high level of commitment, research and study.

"It would be very unwise [and may not be permissible under the rules of the governing body in Australia] for a candidate to take time off to provide child care," he said.

Palmerston North city councillor Lorna Johnson, who is also a veterinary surgeon, noticed the job posting on social media.

She tweeted the link - without naming the company - saying "This one states it openly. How many more do it on the quiet?"

Johnson said she had no intention of hanging one business out to dry as it was an industry-wide problem.

"I'm sure they're no worse than any other veterinary practice but this is a continuing problem in the profession - we're still a bit behind the times."

As a young vet in the UK, Johnson was offered a contract that said she would be fired if she got pregnant.

She said 30 years later she was disappointed to see attitudes hadn't changed - especially after latent sexism in the New Zealand industry was very publicly aired in 2016.

Robson said while some may find the ad discriminatory it was not the case. The problem arose around the long period of leave required for child care.

After completing a three-year residency the vet would join a handful of specialists in the country that were difficult to replace when they were unable to work.

"The business will likely only ever have one or two specialists so how would a 12 month gap for maternity/paternity leave be covered?? Who is going to look after the caseload of sick animals??

"No doubt some people are going to think the ad is discriminatory against women, but that is not the case. Pregnancy and leave immediately after having a baby are an expected part of doing business and of course legally mandated [most of my staff are women and have been for 20 years] it's the long period of leave for child care that is the problem, and these days that applies equally to men or women," said Robson.

To date no one had applied for the position.

Last year Massey University chancellor Chris Kelly was forced to step down over his comments that female graduates were worth less to the industry because they had to take time out for marriage and family.

Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly resigned after saying female graduates only delivered two-fifths of a full-time equivalent veterinarian job over the course of their career. Photo / File
Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly resigned after saying female graduates only delivered two-fifths of a full-time equivalent veterinarian job over the course of their career. Photo / File

Johnson said it was not just illegal to discriminate in a job interview - the recruitment process also should not discourage people from applying for such jobs.

She dismissed the suggestion that people who wanted to be parents would find the job too difficult.

Veterinary services are no different than other employers and are not exempt from obligations to provide parental leave options, Johnson said.

Ironically, next to the advertisement is a link to an article by the NZ Vet Association claiming attitudes are changing within the profession and taking paid parental leave is no longer a barrier to a veterinary career.

"Extended career breaks for family or travel were once seen as detrimental to re-entry to the veterinary profession. But attitudes are changing - and for good reasons," it says.

The article says job-sharing and working part-time as well as keeping abreast of skills through an online course can all help keep vets keep their hand in while on leave.

It also suggests that parental leave can actually improve vets' life skills and coping ability.

North Shore Veterinary Specialists is a separate entity to Mt Albert's Veterinary Specialist Group (VSG).

VSG chief executive Cheryl Vratny said: "VSG bears no relation to the new company being set up on the North Shore by Dr. Mark Robson. We do not share or condone the views that Mark has expressed in his job advertisement regarding women of child bearing age. We are a supportive employer and take pride in the flexible working environment we provide for all staff."