An employee can take unpaid parental leave from the workplace when they are having a baby or taking on the permanent care of a child under six years old, providing the employee meets the eligibility criteria.

If the employee is eligible for parental leave and takes this leave they are then also entitled to government funded parental leave payments of up to 18 weeks (increasing to 22 weeks from the 1st July 2018).

Employees’ eligibility for parental leave

To be eligible for parental leave from the workplace an employee must have worked for the same employer for an average of 10 hours a week for either:

  • 12 months up to the expected due date or assumption of care, OR
  • 6 months up to the expected due date or assumption of care.

Employees must apply to their employer for parental leave. There is a presumption (absolute, except in cases of genuine redundancy) that a job can be kept open for one month. There is a similar assumption that a job can be kept open for longer periods of leave, and this is only displaced by genuine redundancy or by the employer proving that the position cannot reasonably be filled by a temporary replacement.

There are different unpaid leave entitlements available to employees depending on whether they meet the 12 or 6 month criteria:

Type of unpaid leave

12 months

6 months

Primary Carer Leave 
Available to birth mother or her spouse or partner and to person assuming permanent care to child under six years of age

18 weeks’ leave

18 weeks’ leave

Partners/Paternity Leave 
Available to spouse or partner

Up to 2 weeks (additional to the extended leave entitlement)

Up to 1 week

Extended Leave 
Available to only one of the two parents or it can be shared between them

Up to 52 weeks (includes the 18 weeks for any primary carer leave and paid parental leave). If shared the total leave taken between both partners cannot exceed 52 weeks

Up to 26 weeks’ leave

Each type of leave must be taken in one continuous period.

It is possible to have more than one period of parental leave but 6 months must have elapsed between the date of return to work after the last period of parental leave and the expected due date of the next child.

There is also an additional Special Leave of up to 10 days available to pregnant employees that can be taken before the maternity leave for reasons connected to the pregnancy. It is additional to the 52 weeks’ maximum of combined primary carer and extended leave.

In addition to taking unpaid parental leave, employees may also opt to use their paid leave (eg annual leave, alternative days, special leave or time off in lieu) first.

Eligibility for Paid Parental Leave

Paid parental leave is a government funded entitlement for eligible parents when they take parental leave from their job to care for their newborn or for the child under 6 years they have assumed the care of. The paid leave must be taken at the same time as the unpaid parental leave.

Where employees opt to use paid leave (eg annual leave, alternative days, special leave or time off in lieu) in addition to taking unpaid parental leave, their parental leave payment period can start at the end of their leave, even if it is later than the child’s arrival or due date.

Paid parental leave is available for workers who have worked for any employer for any 26 of the 52 weeks prior to becoming the primary carer to a child, and therefore may include:

  • casual and seasonal workers
  • people with more than one employer
  • a person who has recently changed jobs.

The mother or primary carer of the child is eligible to be paid for up to 18 weeks’ parental leave payments, provided they have qualified for parental leave from their job (increasing to 22 weeks from 1 July 2018).

They can then, however, transfer some or all of their entitlement to their spouse or partner provided their spouse or partner is also eligible as an employee or self-employed person.

Parental leave payments are administered through Inland Revenue. To receive the payments the employee must first apply to their employer for parental leave and then apply to Inland Revenue for the parental leave payment.

Employers’ Obligations under the Parental Leave Legislation

Your obligations:

  • inform your employee of their entitlements
  • consider, then approve or decline your employee’s request for leave
  • verify the details on the employee’s application to IRD for paid parental leave
  • confirm arrangements with your employee

Inform employees of their entitlements

Obtain a fact sheet with this information from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

Sample forms for employer responses are available from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

Consider your employee’s request

Your employee’s responsibilities are to:

  • approach you to apply for the leave
  • give notice at least three months before the expected delivery date, except where
    • you agree to allow the employee to give less notice, or
    • the employee is in the process of assuming the permanent care of a child under six years, when they need to give notice within 14 days of their intended assumption of care
  • apply to you in writing, stating what type of leave they want to take, when they plan to start their leave and the period of leave they intend to take
  • include a medical certificate (or copy of) verifying the pregnancy and stating the expected delivery date

What if they’re sharing leave?

If the employee is sharing leave with their spouse/partner, their application must also state:

  • the dates the employee and their spouse or partner plan to start and finish each period of leave
  • their spouse/partner’s name, and the name and address of their employer
  • they are both eligible for the leave they are applying for
  • the total amount of leave they are taking will not be more than their maximum entitlement
  • they and their partner are going to share the care of the child

Timeline

 7 days

14 days

21 days

application received

request further information required

employee to provide required information

information received

reply to employee

Respond to the application

Your response must state:

  • whether the employee is entitled to take parental leave and, if not, why
  • their rights and obligations regarding parental leave, especially those relating to when they can start their leave, and
  • whether their job can be kept open. If not, your letter must explain that they are entitled to dispute this and have preference for similar jobs for six months after the end of their leave

Verify application details

When the employee receives your response they should apply to IRD for paid parental leave.

Once the employee has completed their part of the IRD application form, you as the employer complete the section for verifying the length of their employment and their income details.

It is up to the employee to send the completed application form to IRD.

Confirm the arrangements within 21 days of the date your employee starts their parental leave

Write to confirm the arrangements, including the date your employee is to return to work and a reminder that they are required to write to you 21 days before their leave ends.

Keep in mind

Your employee’s employment agreement may allow for extra provisions regarding parental leave. It is important to check these provisions and discuss them with your employee.

You should also review your health and safety procedures to ensure any issues that may arise due to the pregnancy are taken into account and managed.

Should any problems or queries arise regarding your employees’ parental leave entitlements we recommend that you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on 0800 20 90 20 who can then help you resolve these and who can then provide you with further advice on the matter.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website also contains other useful information regarding parental leave.