whom about 240 take paid parental leave each year.
‘‘We want women to come back after they have a child, and we are getting more and more fathers taking more time off work to be with their children,’’ Evans says.
Communications manager Jane Grace has been on parental leave since her second child, Joe, was born in December. She says getting her full salary paid for 20 weeks during that time, and for 16 weeks after having daughter Hazel a couple of years before has made a huge difference.
‘‘It just takes money out of the equation and lets you concentrate on trying to get a handle on quite a crazy time.’’
The parental leave policy was not a factor in Grace’s decision to join ANZ seven years ago, but it is making her feel loyal to the company and ‘‘quite proud of them’’.
‘‘I’m really grateful. It’s taken the pressure off getting the financial support at the time you need it.’’
Evans says having more women accessing senior positions in New Zealand businesses has helped promote flexible work and more inclusive policies but the changes are also part of a ‘‘social movement’’.
Parental leave perks are costly but are not an issue for a large company such as ANZ, she says. The move has helped the ANZ brand as a bank and as an employer, and makes sense financially, with staff surveys showing very high engagement.
Smaller businesses might not be able to offer perks to the same level but they can be creative in providing more flexibility to employees and supporting them when they become parents, Evans says. Victoria University’s Centre for Labour, Employment and Work has analysed almost every collective agreement signed in New Zealand since 2000.
Its director, Stephen Blumenfeld, found that staff working in female-dominated public services such as health, education and social assistance were more likely to get top-up payments to their parental leave and other perks.
The research looked only at benefits obtained through collective bargaining and did not include perks coming from companies’ policies.
Blumenfeld says workplaces providing benefits to new parents ‘‘clearly value female staff of child-bearing age’’.
‘‘Granted, men can take leave too but international research shows they don’t often take it even if it is available, especially if they have to split the time with the mother.
‘‘In industries like mining or petroleum, you’re not likely to find people pushing for extended parental leave.’’
Some industries, such as engineering, were working hard to have more women on the payroll. ‘‘Most organisations value diversity and there is research to back that up. If they don’t make an effort to hire women, they could be accused of discriminatory practices, especially as more women graduate in the field.’’ Engineers and architects throughout New Zealand have joined forces to confront the industry’s gender problem through the Diversity Agenda initiative – a commitment to