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Parental Leave in New Zealand 2005/2006 Evaluation

International Comparisons

While this report examines the use of parental leave in New Zealand, paid maternity, paternity and parental leave policies available in other countries can have an infl uence on New Zealand policies in at least two important ways. First, when considering the effectiveness of New Zealand's PPL scheme policy makers often compare New Zealand's policies with those of similar countries. Secondly, the parents themselves may have experienced other countries systems of parental leave, and so may make comparisons themselves.

A number of countries provide statutory paid maternity leave. These include Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom (Kell, 2006). Australia does not directly have a period of paid maternity leave, but has job protection legislation and, from 2004, has provided a universal 'baby bonus' of similar value to the maximum possible payment available to New Zealand parents under PPL on the birth of child.

Where a specifi c period of maternity leave is provided, the duration is usually between 14 and 24 weeks. Norway, Sweden, Demark and Finland stand out internationally in the length of paid maternity leave offered with the length varying from 30 weeks to 64 weeks. Countries where paid paternity leave is provided include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (Kell, 2006). The period of paid leave usually varies from two days to around two weeks, and is generally paid on the same basis as maternity leave. Longer periods of paid paternity leave are available, however, in Norway and Sweden. For instance, in Sweden a specifi c 'pappa' month was introduced in 1995 and a second 'pappa' month followed in 2002. Paternity leave is usually not transferable to the mother.

A period of PPL, which either mothers or fathers can take, is available in many countries. The usual pattern is for eligibility for PPL to follow on from paid maternity and/or paternity leave, providing an extension to the period of continuous leave a parent can take after a birth or adoption. In some states of the United States, however, a short period of PPL or other income support is available to allow parents to have a short period out of paid work.