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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

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 26 weeks if they’ve worked for either the six-month or the 12-month qualifying period.

Who is a “primary carer”?

“Primary carers” include:

  • the birth parent
  • the birth parent’s spouse or partner, if the birth parent has transferred their parental leave entitlements to the spouse or partner (if the birth parent does transfer their entitlements to their spouse or partner, that means the birth parent themself will get no parental leave)
  • the birth parent’s spouse or partner, if:
    • the birth parent has died, or for any other reason the spouse or partner has taken on the permanent primary responsibility for the child, and
    • the child is under one year old, and
    • at the time the spouse took over responsibility the birth parent hadn’t applied for, or didn’t qualify for, a parental leave payment.
  • anyone else who permanently takes primary responsibility for the care and upbringing of a child under six. For example, this could include:
    • an adoptive parent (an adopting couple has to decide which of them they’ll name 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.

Who is not a “primary carer”?

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.

When can I begin my parental leave?

You have the right to take up to 6 weeks of the 26 weeks’ parental leave 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.

Your midwife or doctor can also give you a certificate so that you can begin your leave early.

What if I can’t do my work tasks while I’m pregnant?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, s 16

In situations where you can’t do your work safely or are incapable of doing your work adequately due to your pregnancy, your employer can temporarily transfer you from one job to another.

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, s 14

If you’re physically unable to do your job because of your pregnancy or not able to do it safely, and there’s no other suitable work available, your employer can make you begin your leave early.

Special leave for birth parent

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, s 15

Before they take primary carer leave, a pregnant employee can take a total of up to 10 days’ unpaid special leave for reasons connected with the pregnancy – including for midwife and doctor’s appointments and hospital scans.

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 26 weeks of primary carer’s leave and parental leave payments but apart from that is unpaid (see above, “Primary carer’s leave (the old ‘maternity leave’)” and 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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