Time for councils to adopt strong parental leave policies

10 March 2023

LGNZ's new guidance on parental leave and childcare allowances will make it easier for elected members to parent and lead.

"Caring for children and whānau is one of the major hurdles that stop people running for council - especially women,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.

It comes as Rotorua Mayor, Tania Tapsell made the announcement that she’s due to give birth to a baby girl in June. The first known Mayor to give birth while in office was Vicki Buck, Mayor of Christchurch who gave birth to a son in 1995.

“If we are to ensure that our council tables reflect the communities they represent, we need to make it easier for people to take on these roles,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.

“It’s time we took a good hard look at the policies and settings that our elected members have to operate in and LGNZ has a key role to help create the right environment that encourages a more inclusive and supportive local government.

"As the law stands, elected members aren't entitled to statutory ‘parental leave’, as they are not subject to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987. It's up to each council whether elected members will have a leave of absence to take care of their child, so LGNZ have created policies to help councils with that.

"This guidance provides an easily adoptable policy for councils to pick up, so that we can all begin to remove the stigma of caring for our tamaraki while in office,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.

Currently the Remuneration Authority provides discretion for local authorities to make childcare allowances. This guidance encourages all Councils to provide for this allowance in their policies, for both councillors and community and local board members.

It's clear that we're still dealing with a system created at a time that didn't have to accommodate modern parenthood,” says Susan Freeman-Greene.

"Over the last two elections we've seen a rise in the number of elected members under 45. The proportion of women among elected members in local government has climbed from 25% in 1989 to 39% in 2019.

“On top of this we now have 27 wāhine leading our cities, districts and regions. It's time we modernise those tired ways of operating that we've inherited.

"LGNZ is committed to working on Aotearoa being the most active and inclusive local democracy in the world,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.