Paid parental leave dad does a runner
A father who successfully lobbied the Government for parental leave after his partner died has done a runner, leaving the baby behind.
Rangiora man Keith Falconer’s partner died following the birth of their child. She had been having trouble breathing during the pregnancy so was taken to hospital, but her heart stopped after she arrived and their child was born by emergency Caesarean section at 33 weeks.
Falconer’s partner had not been working in the 12 months before she gave birth so she was not entitled to parental leave payments, which meant they could not be transferred to Falconer following her death.
The same day Falconer went to the media with his story in May, Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway confirmed the Rangiora father would receive a ‘‘one-off’’ ex-gratia payment equivalent to the paid parental leave entitlement he would have received as the primary carer.
Joanne Manera, a relative of Falconer’s partner, said he visited his son a handful of times in a Christchurch hospital after his partner’s death, but then did a runner and left the baby in the hospital.
Manera said it was not until the family received a call from Oranga Tamariki that they knew what happened. The family then filed a missing person’s report.
Canterbury rural area commander Glenn Nalder said police had been contacted by an associate of Falconer who had concerns about him.
‘‘We no longer hold those concerns from a police perspective,’’ Nalder said.
Manera, who already had two of the deceased woman’s children in her care, is now looking after the baby.
‘‘I feel really great. Everyone said [the children are] really lucky, I said I’m the lucky one.
‘‘I don’t dislike [Falconer] or anything. I just can’t believe what he did to the children.’’
Falconer told Stuff in an email that he was yet to receive any money from the Government. He said he left Christchurch as it was mentally overwhelming.
‘‘It was and still is the hardest, most difficult thing one can ever do, it is horrible and difficult to cope.’’
‘‘Every day I think about my son and what has happened; it makes me very sick every day. Did I take on too much? Who knows, have there been mistakes made while handling this situation – yes.’’
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) employment services general manager George Mason said agencies had been dealing with Falconer in ‘‘good faith’’ during an extremely difficult time for him and his family.
‘‘MBIE offered a payment option to ensure Mr Falconer was not disadvantaged compared to other New Zealanders who have a new baby in a working household, and who qualify for a parental leave payment.
‘‘The offer is contingent on establishing that Mr Falconer’s circumstances are similar in nature to other potentially eligible New Zealanders. The offer remains open on that basis,’’ Mason said.
Falconer earlier said he was ‘‘stunned’’ by the decision to grant him the money.
‘‘My first thought was ‘wow, this is incredible’,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s an extraordinarily generous move by the Government.
‘‘[But] I still don’t know anything about what’s happening, which is bizarre in its own way.’’
Lees-Galloway said earlier a situation like Falconer’s had not arisen before.
‘‘This has exposed a gap in the legislation, which is something we will need to address. But more immediately, I’m pleased to say we have found a solution for him,’’ he said.
‘‘Staff worked incredibly hard to find a solution within the legislation and they couldn’t, so they have now found a work around and we will now need to look at the legislation,’’ Lees-Galloway said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at the time she was so concerned about the case that she read through the legislation.
‘‘I think everyone wants to see that support in place and I have to say I was baffled when I read it,’’ she told reporters at Parliament.
‘‘No-one would agree that this is a good outcome.’’