Parents who have been working for their employer for at least a year are entitled to take up to 12 months parental leave. Parents who have worked for their employer for only six months have some entitlements to parental leave, but generally less than for parents who have worked at least a year.
Parental leave is unpaid by the employer. But parents who qualify for parental leave are entitled to have 14 weeks of this leave on pay. From 1 July 2006, self-employed people are also entitled to 14 weeks paid parental leave, paid for by the Government.
Employees qualify for parental leave not only if they are birth parents, but also if they're adopting a child under six years old.
To get more information about parental leave, visit the Employment Relations Service's website at www.ers.dol.govt.nz.
History of the parental leave laws
The right to 12 months unpaid parental leave was established by the PARENTAL LEAVE AND EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION ACT 1987. The Act was amended from 1 July 2002 to provide for a new state-funded scheme of 12 weeks paid leave. It was amended again on 1 December 2004 to increase this paid entitlement to 13 weeks, and to provide for some entitlements for those who have worked the previous six months. On 1 December 2005, paid leave was increased further to 14 weeks.
As well as being aware of their minimum rights to parental leave under the Act, employees should also check their particular employment agreement, as it may explicitly provide for parental leave.
To qualify for the full parental leave entitlements available under the Act, an employee must have worked
Parents who meet those minimum-hours requirements for the previous six months but not the previous 12 months have, since 1 December 2004, had some parental leave entitlements, but less than for employees who meet the requirements for the previous 12 months. For details, see the specific headings below.
From 1 December 2004, teachers employed by more than one state or integrated school in a 12-month period (whether or not at the same time) have been entitled to treat these different positions as a single employment for the purposes of qualifying for parental leave.
The same applies to junior doctors required to work for more than one district health board in order to complete their training, if the different positions are consecutive.
From 1 July 2006, self-employed people are also entitled to paid parental leave. To qualify, you must have been self-employed for at least an average of 10 hours a week for either the six months or the 12 months before your due date or, if you are adopting, before the date on which you assume care of the child with an intention to adopt.
Paid parental leave can be shared between two spouses or partners, provided each separately qualifies for paid parental leave, whether as an employee or as a self-employed person.
For details about paid parental leave, see below, "Paid parental leave for employees and self-employed people".
There are three types of unpaid parental leave. Employees who qualify on the basis of 12 months employment are entitled to
Employees qualifying on the basis of six months employment are entitled to
There is also an additional provision for 10 days of special leave for pregnant women.
Birth and adoptive mothers who qualify for parental leave (whether on the basis of six or 12 months employment) are entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave, which they must take in one continuous period. (Before 1 December 2005, the maternity leave entitlement for those qualifying on the basis of six months employment was only 13 weeks.)
The leave begins on the "date of confinement", unless it begins earlier in one of the following ways:
Where the leave starts on a date set by a medical certificate or as directed by the employer (as explained above), the employee is entitled to at least eight weeks maternity leave after the date of delivery, even if this means the total period of maternity leave is more than the 14-week maximum. Any maternity leave over that maximum is not taken into account in determining how much "extended" parental leave (see below) is available.
The spouse or partner of a pregnant woman (or adoptive mother) can take unpaid "partner's / paternity leave" in one continuous period of
The leave begins on the date of confinement of the mother, unless it begins earlier in one of the following ways:
Partner's / paternity leave covers husbands, and civil union and de facto partners of both sexes. Before 1 July 2002, it covered only men, and was referred to as "paternity leave".
Employees qualifying for parental leave on the basis of 12 months employment may extend the period of leave to a combined total of 52 weeks in one continuous period.
This period of entitlement is reduced by the total maternity leave taken (but in certain cases maternity leave of more than the 14-week maximum is not taken into account for this purpose: see "Maternity leave" above).
The extended leave can be taken by one of the two spouses or partners, or it can be shared between them. It is not an entitlement that each has separately. But any employee taking extended leave must himself or herself qualify for parental leave â€“ it's not enough that that employee's spouse or partner qualifies.
Parents who qualify for parental leave on the basis of only six months employment are not entitled to extended leave.
A pregnant employee is entitled to take up to 10 days of special leave before she begins maternity leave, for reasons connected to the pregnancy. This is unpaid. Any special leave taken does not reduce the period of entitlement for maternity or extended leave: it is in addition to the 52-week maximum for combined maternity and extended leave.
Parental leave can be taken within 12 months of either a birth or adoption.
If you qualify for parental leave as an employee (whether on the basis of a 12-month or six-month period of previous employment), you're entitled to have 14 weeks of your parental leave on pay, up to a set maximum amount, if
(Before 1 December 2005, there was a 13-week entitlement to paid parental leave. Before 1 December 2004 and after 1 July 2002, it was 12 weeks.)
You can transfer some or all of your entitlement to your spouse or partner if they are also eligible for paid parental leave as an employee or self-employed person (see below). Payments can therefore be taken by one parent or shared between two spouses or partners, if both qualify. But if the mother doesn't work and the spouse or partner does, the spouse or partner won't qualify for paid leave.
The weeks for which the payments are made must be continuous. If the maximum period is shared between the two spouses or partners, the two periods must each be continuous (but it seems that the second period does not have to follow immediately after the first).
It makes no difference that you don't return to work after your leave, because your rights are based on your previous employment.
To get parental leave payments, employees must apply to the Inland Revenue Department: see below, "How do I get my parental leave payments?".
To find out the current maximum weekly payment for paid parent leave, visit www.ers.dol.govt.nz. This maximum amount is adjusted on 1 July each year on the basis of any movement in average ordinary time weekly earnings.
You're eligible for 14 weeks paid parental leave if you've been self-employed for at least an average of 10 hours a week for either the six months or the 12 months before the due date of the birth or, if you are adopting, before the date on which you assume care of the child with an intention to adopt.
You must be taking leave from your business in order to qualify for parental leave payments. However, you can still continue some level of oversight over your business and do occasional administrative tasks.
You can transfer some or all of your entitlement to your spouse or partner if they are also eligible for paid parental leave either as an employee (see above) or as a self-employed person. Payments can therefore be taken by one parent or shared between two spouses or partners, if both qualify. But if the mother doesn't work, whether as an employee or a self-employed person, and the spouse or partner does, the spouse or partner won't qualify for paid leave.
To come within the definition of a "self-employed" person, you must do one or more of the following things:
The changes to the law allowing paid parental level for self-employed people take effect from 1 July 2006. You can get paid parental leave only if
You'll need to apply to the Inland Revenue Department. You can get a copy of an application form from
The application form must be completed by the mother or, if you're adopting, by the primary caregiver. (Two spouses or partners who are adopting jointly need to nominate who is the primary caregiver for parental leave purposes.)
If you're an employee, you'll need to first give notice to your employer that you want to take parental leave (see below). If your employer approves this, both you and your employer will need to complete an application form.
You'll need to send the completed form to IRD. They will then tell you how much your payments will be and when they'll start. It normally takes IRD up to 10 working days to reply to your application. The payments will be paid into a NZ bank account that you specify.
If you're an employee you must apply
whichever is earliest.
If you're self-employed, you must apply before you return to work or stop being self-employed.
You cannot receive both paid parental leave and the Parental Tax Credit. (The Parental Tax Credit is a form of family assistance paid by IRD to parents, calculated on the basis of the number of children and the family's income.)
An employee must notify the employer in writing that he or she intends to exercise the right to parental leave. This written notice must be given at least three months before the expected date of delivery.
The notice must be accompanied by a medical certificate verifying the pregnancy and stating the expected date of delivery. If the employee is the spouse or partner of a pregnant woman, the employee must provide, in addition to the medical certificate, a written assurance from the mother that the employee is her spouse or partner, and that the employee intends to assume care of the child.
If the employee wishes to take extended leave, the notice must state this and provide other information as required.
A female employee who wishes to begin maternity leave earlier than originally stated in the required notice must give her employer at least 21 days' notice in writing.
However, if an employee fails to comply with these formal requirements, the employer cannot unreasonably refuse to allow them the relevant parental leave benefits. If there is a dispute about this, the employer or the employee can apply to the Employment Relations Authority.
After receiving the employee's notice the employer has 21 days in which to reply. Their reply must state
Before you apply for parental leave payments, you will need to decide the dates when you will be taking leave from your business. Consider this carefully, because it's not easy to change your dates once you've applied.
You will then need to complete an application form and send it to Inland Revenue (see above, "How do I get my parental leave payments?").
If the continuous period of parental leave is not more than four weeks, there is a presumption that the employee's position can be kept open (assuming the notice requirements have been met), unless the employer can show that the position has become redundant.
If the period of leave is more than four weeks, there is a presumption that the employee's position can be kept open, unless the employer can show:
Determining whether the position is a "key" one will involve considering the size of the business, the training and skills held by the employee and the training and skills required by the job. The Labour Department advises that, in practice, employers will only rarely be able to show that a position is a "key" one.
If the job is a key position and cannot be left open, the employer must give the employee preference over other applicants for any vacant position for 26 weeks after the parental leave ends.
Their rights to parental leave, both paid and unpaid, are determined by considering their employment and self-employment separately.
If you have a multiple birth, this doesn't change how much leave you're entitled to, nor how much your paid leave payments will be. (But if you have triplets it may be better to apply for the Parental Tax Credit than parental leave payments: contact IRD about this.)
You may have grounds to complain about a decision or action of your employer to do with your rights to parental leave â€“ for example, if without good reason your employer fails to keep your job open or requires you to start your leave early. If the matter can't be resolved through discussing it with your employer, you can take your complaint to the Employment Relations Authority.
For information about bringing a complaint, call the Labour Department's free Employment Relations Service Infoline, 0800 800 863.
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