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IWD2018: Baby, baby - how workplace pregnancy has changed in NZ

To celebrate International Women’s Day, all week bluenotes will be guest edited by respected journalist and author Catherine Fox. We’ll be publishing content on women, their experience in the workplace and the future of equality. We hope you enjoy it.

ANZ’s General Manager Talent and Culture NZ, Felicity Evans, had her first baby in 1995.

Times have improved dramatically over the past 23 years. 

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Evans with her daughter, Isabelle Source: provided

“At the time there was no paid parental leave at all,” Evans recalls. “I had saved as much of my annual leave as I could and then took 6 months ‘maternity’ leave, as it was known then.” 

“I remember feeling frustrated and angry that I couldn’t stay at home longer and needed to get back to work for income.” - Evans

At the time such was one week of paid leave for having a baby and then one week of family leave. From July this year, ANZ NZ will provide staff 26 weeks of paid parental leave –increasing from the 18 weeks paid leave currently on offer.

The entitlement is one of the most-generous offered by a large employer in NZ. With more than 8000 staff, around 240 A take parent leave each year.

In 1995, Evans’ husband took another six months unpaid maternity parental leave so baby Rhiannon was cared for at home in her first year.

“It was pretty unusual for men to take parental leave in those days and as my husband was a fitter turner in a large industrial factory it was considered very strange by most,” she says. 

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Felicity Evans & her first child, Rhiannon. Pic: Provided.

Frustrating

In 2000, when second child Isabelle was born, Evans stretched out her leave over eight months to spend time at home.

“I remember feeling frustrated and angry that I couldn’t stay at home longer and needed to get back to work for income,” she says. “I wasn’t ready to go back to work this time and luckily I had a boss who helped me by allowing me to work from home and also with part-time work. This type of transition helped me enormously reconcile the stress and emotion of going back to work.”

Evans is proud ANZ’s parental leave policies are for parents and not just mothers, giving fathers the choice of an active role in the beginning of their child’s life.

“We have always been pretty progressive with paid parental leave at ANZ, slowly increasing the paid parental leave top-ups in line with government policy,” she said. 

“Giving six months of breathing space will really help families. It takes a village to raise a child, and ANZ is part of that village.”

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Chloe Taylor-Dykman Source: Provided.

Amazing

Twenty-six-year-old ANZ Insurance Claims Administrator Chloe Taylor-Dykman is expecting her first child in July with her partner Zane, a builder.

“I’ve always thought ANZ paid parental leave was good, especially after discussing it with my friends who are also having babies,” she said. “But these changes are amazing.”

Taylor-Dykman and her husband bought their first house together three years ago and between mortgage payments and a new baby assumed they could only afford a nine-month break for the new mother.

“I want to give our baby the best start and be able to stay at home as long as I can afford,” she said. “With the additional eight weeks I’ll now be able to stretch our budget to spend 12 months at home. It’ll be way less pressure.

“[The changes] make me want to come back to work after taking parental leave,” says Chloe.

At ANZ, primary caregivers are entitled to their full ANZ salary after the birth or adoption of a child. Employees can also take two weeks of paid family leave - usually before parental leave starts - increasing the entitlement to 28 weeks.

The New Zealand Government intends to gradually increase paid parental leave to 26 weeks by July 2020.

Susana Lei’ataua is a bluenotes contributor

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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To celebrate International Women’s day, all week BlueNotes will be guest edited by experienced journalist and author Catherine Fox. We’ll be publishing content on women, their experience in the workplace and the future of equality as the world looks to #beboldforchange. We hope you enjoy it. #IWD2017