Parental leave

Overview of your parental leave rights

New parents who are working (including some self-employed people) are legally entitled to time off work so they can care for their newborn baby or their new adopted child under the age of six. Other people who permanently take over the primary care role for a child under six are also entitled to parental leave – for example, you’ll qualify if your grandchild comes to live with you and you’re going to raise the child in place of their parents.

There are different entitlements available to you depending on whether you’re the primary carer or the spouse or partner – some leave is available only to the primary carer, and some only to the spouse or partner, while some is available to either of them (see “Taking parental leave from your job: Types of parental leave” in this section).

Note: You can’t be fired because you’re pregnant, or because you ask to take parental leave or while you’re on parental leave. There is a limited exception for cases of genuine redundancy.

Who’s entitled to parental leave?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 2BA, 7, 8, 17

You may be entitled to take parental leave from your job if you or your partner is pregnant, or if you’re adopting or otherwise permanently taking over the care of a child under six years old.

To qualify, you must meet both of the following requirements:

  • you must have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 months (for full parental leave entitlements) or at least six months (for some entitlements) on the expected date of birth or on the date when you begin caring for the child, and
  • over that qualifying period, you must have worked for an average of at least 10 hours a week.

When is a spouse or partner entitled to parental leave?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 2, 23, 24, 71E

To be eligible as a spouse or partner you must be married to, or be in a civil union or de facto relationship with, the primary carer of a child under six. This includes same-sex partners. As the spouse or partner you don’t have to be a natural parent of the child.

To be eligible you must also have worked for the relevant qualifying period – either six months or 12 months with the same employer.

Can I take parental leave again for subsequent children?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, s 6

Yes. You can take parental leave 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’s entitled to parental leave?”).

Notifying your employer that you want to take parental leave

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 31, 36

You must give your employer written notice, stating when you intend to go on parental leave and how long you’ll be on leave for.

If the child is going to be born to you or your partner (as opposed to you adopting or otherwise taking over the primary care role for a child), you have to give the written notice at least three months before the due date. You’ll need to include a certificate from a doctor or midwife.

Your employer must respond in writing within 21 days, stating whether you’re entitled to parental leave and, if not, giving reasons for this. Their response must also tell you whether your job can be kept open while you’re on leave.

If you’re adopting a child or taking over primary care for a child, you must give your employer written notice at least 14 days beforehand.

If you become the primary carer of a child before their first birthday (where the birth parent has died or for any other reason), you must give your employer notice within a reasonable period after you become the primary carer.

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Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may also be able to provide ongoing support.

“Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options during and after pregnancy” (booklet)

This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.

Order hard copies from:

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley

Phone (04) 499 2928

Email: or visit to buy a copy or access free online

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of publications on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Labour inspectors

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on:

Free phone 0800 20 90 20

Worksafe New Zealand, Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa

Free phone: 0800 030 040

Worksafe New Zealand’s website has a range of information and publications on workplace health and safety issues.

Parental leave payments

The Inland Revenue website has information on parental leave payments.

Whistle-blowing (“Protected disclosures” by employees)

Free phone: 0800 802 602

The Office of the Ombudsman provides information and guidance to employees about making a protected disclosure.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi

Phone: (04) 385 1334

The NZCTU is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

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