A heated debate over paid parental leave has deepened with the release of advice from officials suggesting it would create a raft of legislative problems.
Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has also claimed National’s Amy Adams “gruffly rebuffed” his staff when they offered to help work with her on the issue. Adams for her part denies this and has said she never received such an olive branch.
The Government looks set to pass legislation today extending paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 22 weeks from July next year, rising to 26 weeks in July 2020.
It will be passed under urgency, meaning it will bypass the select committee stage.
A proposed amendment to the Government’s bill that would allow both parents to take leave at the same time was put forward by National’s Amy Adams but blocked by the Government.
Adams turned it into a private member’s bill but this second attempt also looks set to fail with the Government claiming that Adams’ proposal would require substantial reworking.
Newsroom requested under the Official Information Act all advice received by the Minister on paid parental leave since he took office.
Yesterday, his office said the information was still being prepared but provided a recent email sent this week by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment outlining the challenges of implementing Adams’ member’s bill.
It describes the bill as “substantially flawed” as the legal wording of the act meant that you could not have two caregivers with primary responsibility at the same time.
“We tried to reach out to Amy Adams’ office, my advisor … tried to reach out to Amy and we were pretty, I would say, gruffly rebuffed … by Amy herself.”
The email states that there has not been time to work through all the additional issues with Adams’ bill, as they were “numerous”, but they included potential consequences on how two carers could take Keeping in Touch hours.
Restrictions would need to be placed on this and consideration given to if they should be divided up or an entitlement given to each carer.
Payments for premature babies could also be affected, the advice said.
Lees-Galloway said his office had made an offer to work with Adams on the issues during a call asking for a copy of her amendment but was refused.
“We tried to reach out to Amy Adams’ office, my advisor … tried to reach out to Amy and we were pretty, I would say, gruffly rebuffed … by Amy herself.
“We were just roundly told to go away and that we would just see [the amendment] when we would see it kind of thing.”
He described Adams’ actions as a political stunt, considering the opposition had been in government for nine years but done nothing with the idea they now wanted rushed through.
Adams, however, strongly denied that Lees-Galloway’s office had extended an offer to work together or that she had rebuffed it.
She described it as “rewriting history” and that she would have taken up any offer to view the technical issues and work on them.
“The only contact I had from his office was when I was putting up my [amendment], a staffer in his office rang and said can I get a copy of it. I said it was just going through the final approval processes and as soon as I had it I would send it to them, which I did.”
After Adams denied the offer of help Lees-Galloway’s office later supplied a further email supporting their claim.
Sent on the 14 November to Adams and Louise Upston, an official writes that the amendment was challenging and would be unlikely to be supported.
“However, our door is open to discussion on this point and consideration of the idea – if not during the passage of this bill then in due course.”
Adams told Newsroom that the email had been sent to her electorate office and Lees-Galloway’s staff had then called her, where they discussed the request for a copy of the amendment but not working together.
For all the arguing, Lees-Galloway is supportive of the idea and has asked officials to prepare a reworked version that would be introduced alongside employment relations legislation in January.