A local women's advocate has rejected claims employers will discriminate against women job hunters if paid parental leave is extended.
"Paid parental leave exists at the moment," director of Zonta Club Hawkes Bay Ailsa Allen said. "So if employers were less willing to employ women of child-bearing age they would already be doing that."
Business NZ created controversy on Wednesday when it presented its submission on Labour MP Sue Moroney's Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months' Paid Leave) Amendment Bill.
The lobby group warned that women job seekers may be discriminated against by employers if the paid parental leave period is extended from 14 to 26 weeks, as proposed by the bill.
The submission said employers struggled to find suitable temporary staff to fill parental leave vacancies.
"Employers who have been forced to bear considerable replacement costs, or to find those amongst their other employees willing to provide cover, may well think hard before again employing a woman of child-bearing age."
After the presentation, Business NZ employment relations manager Paul Mackay said the additional proposed leave allowance may cost more for employers as parents would lose their sharp edge in their workplace.
However, Mrs Allen rejected the claims.
She said extending the leave period was unlikely to make a big difference to employers, who were unlikely to have to fork out any additional training costs.
"If they have to train somebody to replace the [mother taking leave] for the 14 weeks, then that training comes in good stead if the time is extended."
These same concerns applied to any extended leave, she said.
"To single out women for criticism is unfair."
Employment law specialist Blair Scotland of Chen Palmer Law Firm said extending the paid leave period was unlikely to make any difference to people who already discriminated against women because of leave allowances.