Councillors could get $6K allowance for childcare - but no such luck for staff

Hamilton City councillors who are the parents of young children might soon be able to claim a childcare allowance of up to $6000 per year per youngster.
However, there is no such deal available for staff working at the organisation, who will have to continue to pay for their childcare costs themselves.

The lack of support for the staff could be a factor that scuppers moves to adopt the allowance as has happened at other councils around the country.

The council will ponder and possibly approve a staff recommendation on Thursday to tweak their elected members support policy to allow them to claim for childcare costs as part of their pay and entitlements package.

* Councillor childcare costs will be covered by the Waimakariri District Council
* Tasman District Council gives nod to childcare allowance
* Children of Whangrei District councillors to get ratepayer-funded childcare

While the allowance has been available to councils around the country since 2019 and the HCC advocated in support of it at that time the Hamilton council had since made no formal move to avail themselves of those funds.

At that time the HCC argued that the lack of childcare support could dissuade people, in particular women, to stand for councils in local government elections. This amounted to discrimination on the basis of family status, and as such was a breach of human rights.

Two Hamilton councillors Sarah Thomson and Kesh Naidoo-Rauf are the parents of young children and frequently have to attend meetings by audio-visual link, literally juggling their main responsibilities on their laps while they attend to council business.

At Thursdays meeting, councillors will also have the opportunity to chew over a submission to the governments Remuneration Authority that asks for childcare allowances to be included in the pay and entitlements package of councillors around the country who utilise family members such as grandparents to look after the children.

Kesh Naidoo-Rauf says she probably won't make use of a childcare allowance, "but it would be quite beneficial to have the option available".

The submission will also ask for the allowance to be made available to councillors who are grandparents, and are the principal caregivers for their grandchildren.

As it stands, the allowance is available only if the childcare is provided by someone who is not a family anggota of the councillor and does not ordinarily reside with the councillor.

But while the childcare allowance applies to the politicians who have stood for and been elected onto the council, there is no kind of corresponding deal for the staff who work there.

There are no paid form of allowances or benefits paid to staff who have young children needing care.

Thomson, who is mother to 9-month-old Leo, is advocating for the allowance as an incentive to encourage a broader range of people particularly young women to stand for councils.

She said she felt a responsibility to keep attending as many meetings as she could.

Theres no way to replace me, whereas if you are part of the workforce you have the ability to go on maternity leave and your employers have a responsibility to replace you with someone else to do your job while you are on leave.

Naidoo-Rauf, mother to 6-year-old Zaydin and 4-month-old Aaria, said she reckoned she could happily manage without the allowance, but it would be quite beneficial to have the option available.

Governance is very different to operational, she said. I might be only here for three years, and to take a six-month chunk out [for maternity leave] means I would miss out on too many things like the long term plan and all kinds of budgeting decisions.

A spokesman for the Public Service Association, the union that looks after council employees, said any extra help for staff who were parents would be welcome.

Childcare can be expensive. Everyone appreciates support to cover those costs.

PSA members, many of whom had young children, would soon begin bargaining with the council for a new collective employment agreement.

A fair pay rise will help council staff pay their own childcare bills, and addressing other issues like high workloads will reduce stress and support family life.

We look forward to a positive and constructive discussion with Hamilton City Council about the needs of its employees.

HCC staff who are parents are not completely ignored by their employer. As the organisation emphasises to potential new employees on its website, it offers paid parental leave support that allows annual leave to continue accruing while the staff anggota is away a gesture that is over and above what is provided for in government legislation.

Some councils around the country have rejected moves to pay councillors childcare bills. One of these was the Horizons Regional Council, where some around the council table cited as a lack of equity with staff as the reason for voting against the proposal.

The Palmerston North City Council likewise backed away from implementing the policy.

The Tasman, Waimakariri, Whangrei and Northland district councils are among those that have so far moved to adopt it.


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