New Zealand’s first ever Parental Leave Register is live as of Tuesday 20 May. To say hit the ground running would simply be an understatement.
With 500,000 employees under the umbrellas of the organisations who have signed up—that’s 1 in every six employed New Zealanders, for context—it’s safe to say the launch is looking bright for Crayon, the local organisation behind the registry.
We talked to Stephanie Pow, Founder and CEO of Crayon, ahead of the registry’s upcoming launch to hear about the crescendo of sign ups, what has developed since our first kōrero in December last year, what it means for today’s employers and employees.
What has the response to Crayon’s registry been like in the last few months?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, to our great delight (and relief!). At launch, over 180 employers are represented on the register, covering more than 500,000 employees, or 1 in every 6 employed Kiwis. They range from organisations with 4 employees to 40,000+ and include eight of NZ’s largest 10 employers.
“At launch, over 180 employers are represented on the register, covering more than 500,000 employees, or 1 in every 6 employed Kiwis.”
What do you think was key to this momentum?
From the start, we knew that for aspiring and expecting parents to truly be able to use the register to plan for parenthood, the information had to be verified and at a level of detail that was unprecedented globally.
“To truly be able to use the register to plan for parenthood, the information had to be verified and at a level of detail that was unprecedented globally.”
The only way to achieve that was to work constructively with employers. Our goal is that every employer is represented completely, accurately and positively on the register — regardless of whether they offer the statutory entitlements or the full bells and whistles. We made deliberate choices to encourage every employer to join. For example, employers are listed in alphabetical order, and website visitors can filter by industry and employer size but not by benefits.
Why is it important for companies to sign up now more than ever?
It’s simple: to attract and retain talent.
We’re still in a tight labour market, and by joining the register, an employer is signalling their commitment to transparency and their support of working parents — two traits that are highly valued by job seekers. 60% of candidates who want to ask about an employer’s parental leave policy hold themselves back — when they needn’t be in that position in the first place.
“We also hope that the register offers employers the chance to work together and learn from each other about what entitlements are most beneficial to employees”
Not only that, having a child is a big life change and a very expensive one! In fact, 70% of expecting parents report experiencing financial stress (AMP Financial Wellness Survey). And financial stress isn’t just bad for employees, it’s bad for employers too. Employees under financial pressure are twice as likely to look for a new job (Salary Finance) and miss an extra 16 days of work each year, on average (WTW).
The more employers can help employees navigate this stage of life, for example, by making their parental leave policies publicly available, the more likely employees are to do well at home and at work.
We also hope that the register offers employers the chance to work together and learn from each other about what entitlements are most beneficial to employees, how they can get creative with benefits and how to ensure policies are inclusive and celebrate diversity in our workplaces.
“There were so many things I didn’t know about parental leave when I had my first child — information that would have led to different choices”
What are you most proud of at the moment?
That we’re sparking an open conversation around parental leave! There were so many things I didn’t know about parental leave when I had my first child — information that would have led to different choices. My big hope is that fewer parents face those surprises because now we’re talking about it. After all, parenting comes with enough challenges as it is!
Have you noticed any interesting trends from those signing up?
First, parental leave policies are developing and changing all the time. Even in the five years since I was pregnant with my first child, the offerings have changed markedly. Employers continue to modify them based on the needs of their specific workforce, and there are a number of employers planning to join the register once their new policies have been rolled out.
Second, while paid Primary Carer leave is what usually makes the headlines — and it is valuable – employers are increasingly recognising the role that partners play. More and more employers offer full pay for the two weeks of statutory partner leave. And a few employers have begun offering equal primary carer and partner leave to give both parents the chance to stay at home with their newborn. It’s by no means a standard offering in NZ, but it’s interesting to see some employers following the lead of Scandinavian countries.
Third, we’ve also been struck by the long tail of employee benefits, especially from smaller employers. From phased returns to work, child care assistance, extra sick days, cleaning services, meal packs and access to parenting courses, employers have been creative with affordable ways to support working parents.