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Why do we care? The shifting concept of care in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Labour Law
Issue number1
DateAccepted/In press - 13 Dec 2019


In recent years, there has been increased activity on the part of legislators and policy-makers as they attempt to reconcile paid work and unpaid care. This paper explores the different approaches adopted by two common law jurisdictions: New Zealand and the United Kingdom. These case studies attempt to take a more expansive approach to the concept of care by purportedly disentangling the act of caring from traditional conceptions of motherhood. In the UK, this has been done by permitting mothers to transfer entitlement to caring leave to fathers but is underpinned by implicit assumptions that the primary responsibility for care will remain with the mother. In New Zealand, there has been a departure from historic reliance on gender identities to take a more gender-neutral approach by providing caring leave to whoever is a primary carer for a child regardless of biological connection. One unintended consequence of this has been that biological mothers have been left with the barest health and safety protection post-birth. These case studies reveal how difficult it is for legislators and policy-makers to devise care-giving protections that are not in some way tainted by the legacy of traditional care/home/women and work/market/men dichotomies and demonstrate the need for new models based on ungendered assumptions of universal care.



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