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Planning a Family? Your Guide to Parental Leave

PLANNING A FAMILY? 

YOUR GUIDE TO PARENTAL LEAVE

There are approximately 173 babies born each day in New Zealand. That's over 63,000 NZ mums, and 63,000 NZ dads welcoming a wee tot into their family each year. With new promises being made around paid parental leave, we thought it important to remind parents-to-be of their entitlements under the current and future laws, and to inform employers of their obligations.


Paid Parental Leave  

Who?

  • At present: Female employees who give birth to a child, or to either female or male employees where a couple has assumed the care of a child under the age of 6, which they intend to jointly adopt. Paid parental leave can be transferred to a spouse or partner if they are eligible. Currently, new parents are only entitled to paid parental leave if they have been working for the same employer (or have been self-employed) for more than 10 hours a week for at least 6 months before the baby's due date.
  • New law: From April 1st, 2016 more parents will be eligible, such as primary carers, Home for Life parents and other carers with similar permanent care arrangements. It will also apply to more workers such as people who have recently changed jobs , people with more than one job, seasonal and casual workers.

How long? 

  • At present: Currently you are entitled to paid parental leave for 14 weeks. The payment period begins when your parental leave begins. Your payment will stop if you return to work at any time (no matter how short) during the period of paid parental leave. You can also take up to 38 weeks extended leave (meaning one year total).
  • New law: The period of paid parental leave is to be extended in two stages - up to 16 weeks from April 1st, 2015; and up to 18 weeks on April 1st 2016. Currently someone on paid parental leave is prevented from coming back to work while still on paid parental leave, unless they are willing to forfeit the remainder of their entitlement. The new law intends to allow for brief periods back at work while on paid parental leave, such as for training or planning purposes, without jeopardizing the entitlement.

How much?

  • At present: During the 14 weeks of paid parental leave you are entitled to $504.10 per week, before tax (equivalent to a salary of $26k). This is usually a significant drop in income for most.
  • New law: At present there are no plans to increase this amount substantially. It will likely go up with inflation, but an increase to a more 'living wage' is not on the horizon.

Unpaid leave

Once you have used up your 14 weeks of paid leave you are able to take an additional 38 weeks unpaid leave, meaning you can take a total of one year off work.

What happens to my job?

An employer may not terminate you because of reasons related to pregnancy. After you apply for leave your employer must notify you are entitled to take parental leave, if you are not, they must state why. Your employer must tell you if your position can or can not be kept open while you are on leave. If your position can't be kept open then you have the right to dispute the statement. If your position is not kept open then, in the 26 weeks following the end of parental leave, the employer is required to give you preference over other applicants for any role that is substantially similar to yours.

What do I have to do?

You have to notify your employer at least three months before the expected date of delivery. You must tell your employer how much paid parental leave you are taking and the amount of extended leave required, including the dates that this will start and finish. If you are transferring some or all of your leave to your spouse or partner then your employer must be notified. This should be accompanied with a note from your doctor or midwife stating the expected due date.

Obligations as an Employer

The good news is you don't have to pay your employee while they are away from work, that gets taken care of by our friends in the government. Most of the work falls on the pregnant person to come to you. You will have to fill out the appropriate IRD forms and send those away.

If your employee is taking less than four weeks leave then you must keep their position open. If they are taking more than four weeks leave then you must keep their position open unless it is a "key" position, which cannot sufficiently be taken over part-time and must be critical to the business. This has a reasonably high threshold and it is rare that a position will not be able to be held open.

These are the statutory obligations and it is possible that there may be additional provisions in individual employment agreements which you will have to adhere to.

It can be a tricky area, for help navigating as an employee or an employer contact BuckettLaw, the employment law experts.

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