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Communtity Law Manual | Employment: Conditions & protections | Taking parental leave from your job: Types of parental leave

Parental leave

Taking parental leave from your job: Types of parental leave

Note: Changes to the parental leave laws in 2016 modernised aspects of the previous system, which was centred initially around “maternity” leave. The current laws replace “maternity leave” with “primary carer’s leave”, which allows extended family or whānau, for example, to qualify if they’re permanently providing care for a child under six.

Primary carer’s leave (the old “maternity leave”)

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 7-14

The primary carer of a child under six is entitled to unpaid leave of up to 22 weeks if they’ve worked for either the six-month or the 12-month qualifying period. (This will increase to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.)

“Primary carers” include:

  • the birth mother
  • the birth mother’s spouse or partner, if the mother has transferred her parental leave entitlements to the spouse or partner (if the mother does transfer her entitlements to her spouse or partner, that means the mother herself will get no parental leave)
  • anyone else who permanently takes primary responsibility for the care and upbringing of a child under six. This would include, for example:
    • an adoptive parent (an adopting couple has to decide which of them they’ll nominate as the primary carer)
    • mātua whāngai (adoptive parents under tikanga Māori)
    • grandparents and other extended family or whānau who permanently take over primary care
    • “Home for Life” parents who’ve had a child placed with them permanently by the Family Court.

You won’t be a primary carer if you provide primary care:

  • only temporarily – for example, if you and your family/whānau decide that your grandchild will come to live with you for just a few months
  • only part-time – for example a grandparent who looks after the children during work hours.

You have the right to take up to six weeks of the 22 weeks before your baby’s due date or the date when you’ll begin caring for the child. You can begin the leave even earlier than that if your employer agrees. If you want to do this, or need to for health reasons, you should talk to your midwife or doctor about giving you a letter recommending that you begin your leave early.

Special leave for birth mothers

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, s 15

Before she takes primary carer leave, a pregnant employee can take a total of up to 10 days’ unpaid special leave for reasons connected with the pregnancy – for example, midwife or doctor’s appointments.

Partner’s leave (the old “Partner’s/paternity leave”)

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 17-22

Up to two weeks’ parental leave is available to you if you’re the spouse or partner of a primary carer, and you are or will be caring for the child. The leave is taken around the time of the birth or adoption or when you begin caring for the child.

You’ll be entitled to the full two weeks if you’ve worked for the 12-month qualifying period, but only one week if you’ve only worked for the six-month qualifying period (see above, “Who’s entitled to parental leave?”).

Note: A primary carer can transfer some or all of their parental leave payments to their spouse or partner, up to the maximum of 22 weeks (see “Parental leave payments” in this section). In this case the partner’s leave can be extended to equal the period of paid leave that’s transferred.

Extended leave

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 23-30

You can get extended parental leave for:

  • up to one year if you’ve worked for the 12-month qualifying period, or
  • up to six months if you’ve worked for the six-month qualifying period (for the qualifying periods, see above, “Who’s entitled to parental leave?”).

Extended leave can be taken by either or both parents to care for a child after birth or after they take over the primary care of a child under six.

Extended leave includes the 22 weeks of primary carer’s leave and parental leave payments (see above, “Primary carer’s leave (the old ‘maternity leave’)” and below, see also “Parental leave payments”).

When two parents both qualify for extended leave, the extended leave can be taken by either of them or it can be shared between them, in the following way:

  • If they both meet the 12-month test, their combined entitlement is 12 months
  • If they both meet only the six-month qualifying test, their combined entitlement is six months’ extended leave
  • If one meets the 12-month test and the other meets only the six-month, their combined entitlement is 12 months – but the partner meeting only the six-month test can’t take more than six months out of the 12-month combined entitlement.

The two spouses or partners can take their leave at the same time or they can take it one after the other.

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