Parental leave payments
You may be entitled to get parental leave payments for 22 weeks if you’re an employee or self-employed and you’ve worked for the qualifying period (see below).
Parental leave payments are funded by the government, not the employer, and you must apply for them through Inland Revenue (IRD).
Who qualifies for parental leave payments?
You can get parental leave payments if:
- you’re the primary carer of a child under six, and
- you’ve been an employee, whether with the same employer or not, or been self-employed, for an average of at least 10 hours a week for any 26 of the 52 weeks immediately before your baby’s due date or before you spouse or partner take over care of the child.
This qualifying test was introduced on 1 April 2016. Previously, you had to have worked for the same employer for a minimum qualifying period, which is still the basis for qualifying for taking parental leave from your current job. The current test also covers you if you’ve recently changed jobs, or if you’re a casual or seasonal worker, or if you’ve had several temporary or fixed-term jobs during the 52-week period.
If you qualify for the parental leave payments but not for primary carer’s leave from your job – because for example you’ve recently changed jobs – you can still ask your new employer to allow you to take leave from your job (called “negotiated carer leave”) so you can get the payments (see below).
Note: You’re allowed to resign from your job and still get the parental leave payments, provided you otherwise qualify for them.
Negotiating leave with your boss if you don’t qualify for primary carer leave
Because the qualifying tests are different, some people who qualify for parental leave payments may not qualify to take primary carer leave from their current employer – for example, if they’ve recently changed jobs. If you’re in one of those situations, you can ask your employer to allow you to take parental leave so you can get the payments – this is called “negotiated carer leave”.
Your request to your employer has to be in writing, and you must make it at least three months before the due date for the birth – or if instead you’re taking over the care of a child under six, then at least two weeks before you start that role.
Your employer has to deal with your request as soon as possible, and not later than one month after you make it. They have to tell you whether they’ve approved or refused your request, and if they refuse they have to give you reasons. There’s a list of available grounds on which they can refuse, including that they can’t reorganise the work among the existing staff, that your leave would affect quality or performance, or that there would be additional costs.
You can’t challenge the employer’s decision if they refuse you. However, you can challenge them if they haven’t responded to you within the time limit or haven’t responded adequately (for example, if they haven’t given you any reasons for refusing). In that case you can contact a labour inspector at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, or go directly to the mediation services provided by MBIE (free phone 0800 20 90 20).
If mediation doesn’t resolve the problem, you can apply to the Employment Relations Authority (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”). If the Authority agrees that your employer has breached the requirements, it can order them to pay you a penalty of up to $2,000.
How long can I get the parental leave payments for?
You’re entitled to parental leave payments for one continuous period of 22 weeks. (This will increase to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.)
You’ll also qualify for additional weekly payments, up to a maximum of 13 weeks, if your baby is born before 37 weeks into the pregnancy (called “preterm baby payments”).
Transferring your parental leave payments to your partner
You can transfer some or all of your parental leave payments to your spouse or partner, as long as they also qualify for the payments.
Note: If you’re an employee you must take your parental leave payments while you’re taking parental leave from your job. The payment period begins when you start your parental leave, whether this is primary carer’s leave, partner’s leave, or extended leave.
Who do I apply to if I want to get the parental leave payments?
If you’re an employee you must apply to your employer for parental leave, and then apply to Inland Revenue for the parental leave payments.
If you’re self-employed, you apply to Inland Revenue for the payments.
How much will I be paid?
The maximum amount you can get for parental leave payments each week is usually adjusted each year on 1 July.
To find out the current maximum, go to the Employment New Zealand website (http://employment.govt.nz) and search “Amount of parental leave payment”.
Note: Parental leave payments are provided by the government, not your employer. The rules for qualifying for the payments are different from the rules for qualifying to take parental leave from your current job (see above, “Taking parental leave from your job: Types of parental leave”).
Reasons why your parental leave payments may finish early
Your parental leave payments will end before the 22-week leave period is up if you:
- return to work before the end of that period, or
- transfer your entitlement, or some of it, to your spouse or partner (see above).
Note: Before the law was changed on 1 April 2016, your payments would also end early if you resigned from your job, or stopped being self-employed, or were employed under a fixed-term agreement that ended during that paid leave period. Now, however, your payments won’t stop in those cases, and so, for example, you can quit your job and get the parental leave payments.
You can go back to work briefly for what are called “keeping-in-touch days” while you’re getting the parental leave payments, so long as your employer agrees to this. For example, you may want to keep up with skills development or training. You can do up to a total of 52 hours’ work without this counting as a return to work and without stopping your payments. However, you can’t have any keeping-in-touch days until your child is four weeks old.
What if I’m also entitled to paid parental leave under my employment agreement?
Your employment agreement can’t change your eligibility for the government’s parental leave payments. However, you can get additional payments if your employment agreement includes better parental leave provisions – for example, your employer may have agreed to top up the payments to the amount of your full pay.
Can I get parental leave payments again for subsequent children?
Yes. You can take parental leave and get the payments more than once, so long as it’s been at least six months since you returned to work at the end of the previous parental leave. You must also meet the eligibility requirements each time (see above, “Who qualifies for parental leave payments?”).