Planning for child care while pregnant

Published on Wednesday, 19 August 2020
Last updated on Monday, 23 November 2020

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Pregnancy is an exciting time, and while you’re making a birth plan and choosing a pram, it’s also important to think about your future child care needs.

You might be intending to care for your infant full-time, going back to work soon after they’re born, or looking for some help here and there, and whatever your expectations, a little planning goes a long way.

Parental leave needs to be organised in advance, some child care services have long waiting lists and quality nannies are in high demand, so here are a few child care considerations before your baby arrives. 

Are you eligible for parental leave?

Parental leave allows many parents to take time off work to care for a new baby, and now is the time to see what you and your partner might qualify for.

There are five types of parental leave:

  • Primary carer leave, which allows employee parents to take up to 26 weeks off work to care for their baby
  • Partner’s leave, which allows a spouse or partner to take one or two weeks of unpaid leave
  • Extended leave, which allows employee parents to take/share an extra 26 or 52 weeks off work (with caveats)
  • Negotiated carer leave, which lets employees take time off if they don’t qualify for primary carer leave and
  • Special leave, which allows mums-to-be to take 10 days off work for things like scans, antenatal classes and midwife appointments before bub arrives.

Employment New Zealand has lots of information about parental leave, and the government’s eligibility tool will help you work out what time you can take off.

If you plan to take parental leave, you’ll need to give your employer written notice at least three months before your due date, by following the steps here.

This time with your baby is priceless, but it can take a toll on the family finances and for this reason, the government offers paid parental leave (PPL) to help cover loss of income while you’re caring for your baby.

To be eligible for PPL, you need to have worked an average of 10 hours a week in at least 26 of the weeks before your due date, and you can transfer all or some of your PPL to your partner (provided they’re eligible for it).

If you’re an employee, the government will match your ordinary pay up to $606.46 per week before tax, and if you’re self-employed, they’ll match your average earnings up to that amount, or pay a minimum payment of $189 a week before tax, for up to 26 weeks.

You can’t get PPL until you stop working or start parental leave from work, and need to follow these steps to apply, giving evidence of your baby’s due date (or birth date).

What kind of child care do you need?

Child care is helpful whether you’ll be staying at home for a while or returning to work, and there are several options, depending on your circumstances.

While you’re at home, a maternity nanny can help you establish a routine with your newborn, a night nanny can give you some quality rest in the first weeks of your baby’s life, and a mother’s helper can support you with child care and domestic duties.

Au pairs are an option in your baby’s first year, as long as they’re not solely in charge of your little one’s care. And you can get the support of other parents at playgroups, playcentres or kõhanga reo.

Once you’re back at work, a full-time or part-time nanny can be hired to look after your baby. Education and care centres cater to infants, and home-based education and care is an option, too. You might also think about grandparent care, if your baby and parents/parents-in-law are ready for this.

All in all, babies benefit from one-on-one attention provided by a single care-giver, so it’s important to find a carer both you and they feel comfortable with – whether that’s at home or in a centre.

Once you have identified the best type of care for your family sign up for Vacancy Alert, to learn when your preferred child care provider has a spot which matches your needs. 

Which child care provider will you choose?

There is high demand for quality child care in some areas, so once you know what type of care you’d like, it’s a good to idea to research quality providers well before your baby is born.

We recommend that you:

  • Search all the child care options in your area
  • Compare reviews, ratings, vacancies and fees to create a shortlist then
  • Contact your favourites by phone or email, explaining when you need child care to start and how much care you’ll require.

It’s important to visit your shortlisted services or interview prospective nannies before making a final decision, and you may need to put your name on a waiting list (or three) if your top choices are highly sought after.

There’s more information about waiting lists here, but as a guide, you’re encouraged to start planning early to ensure your little one has access to quality care when they need it.

Our Child Care Tool Kit for First Time Parents contains lots of helpful information and you can read all the tool kits here and remember Vacancy Alert enables you to register your child care requirements and be notified when a spot comes up.

How do you get child care assistance?

A Childcare Subsidy is a government payment that helps parents cover the cost of child care.

To be eligible for a Childcare Subsidy, your family must be on a low or middle income and your little one must be attending an approved early childhood programme for three or more hours a week. Approved programmes include child care centres and crèches, playcentres and playgroups, kõhanga reo and approved home-based care.

The Childcare Subsidy is paid directly to child care providers to reduce families’ fees (normally for up to nine hours a week), and you can read more about the subsidy here.

The government recommends that you apply at least three or four weeks before you need the payment to start, so make a note to do this after your baby is born and before they start at child care.

If you’re going to be a sole parent, then Flexible Childcare Assistance may help you pay for out of hours child care down the track, and the Early Learning Payment is available to some families with toddlers aged 18 months to three years.

Keep in mind, too, that when your child turns three, they’ll be eligible for 20 hours of free early childhood education per week.

What other government assistance is available?

Depending on your eligibility, there are quite a few payments on offer for parents-to-be and new parents that aren’t related to child care programmes.

Work and Income’s ‘Having a Baby’ page lists everything on offer, and you’ll be eligible for the weekly Best Start payment in your baby’s first year (and likely in their second and third year, too).

The Best Start payment begins from the day your baby arrives (or the day your PPL ends) and you’ll need to register your baby when they’re born and apply for the payment on the SmartStart website.

What you can take away from all this is that it’s important to think about the child care your baby will need and find a good fit before they arrive.

Whatever arrangements you make, planning is key and we wish you all the best with your pregnancy and your bundle of joy.

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