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Parental leave

Can I get time off work while I’m pregnant, or to care for my baby when they are born?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 7 – 15, 17 – 29, 30A – 30J, 71CA, 71E, 71J – 71N

Yes. There are different types of leave available to workers who are pregnant or who are caring for a baby.

Depending on how long you’ve been working at your current job and the hours that you work, your employer must give you time off to go to appointments related to your pregnancy and to care for the baby. Some of this time off could be paid. Because parental leave depends on a few things, what you can get may be different to what someone else might get.

The best way to find out what you’re eligible for is to visit the Employment New Zealand website, www.employment.govt.nz and search “parental leave eligibility”.

You can also contact your local Community Law Centre if you have any more questions about your rights or would like help making an application for parental leave. See the “Where to go for more support” section

The different types of parental leave

  • Special leave
    • You can take up to 10 days unpaid leave for reasons related to your pregnancy like midwife or doctor’s appointments.
  • Primary carer’s leave (previously known as “maternity leave”)
    • Up to 26 weeks paid leave if you are the “primary carer” of the baby or will have the main responsibility for taking care of the baby.
    • You can start your leave from 6 weeks before your due date. In some cases, your employer, or health professional, may require you to take your leave earlier. If this happens, your leave will be extended so that you have 20 weeks of leave after the baby is born (this ‘extra’ leave might not be paid).
  • Partner’s leave
    • Partners can take up to two weeks unpaid leave (depending on how long they’ve been at work). Your partner does not have to be the father or other parent of the child to be eligible to take leave.
    • This leave can be started up to three weeks before the baby’s expected due date and must finish by three weeks after the baby’s actual date of birth.
  • Extended leave (unpaid parental leave)
    • You or your partner can take up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave. You and your partner can share this leave however you want to (taking it at the same time, or one after the other). If you or your partner have taken primary carer leave, then your extended leave is reduced by the amount of leave taken.

It’s also a good idea to read your employment contract (if you have one), or talk to your boss, to see if you have any additional options at your workplace. If you don’t have a copy of your employment contract you should ask your boss for a copy. They must provide you with one.

Although the above types of leave are your minimum rights, you and your employer can always agree on something else that works best for both of you.

See the “Employment conditions and protections” chapter in the Community Law Manual for more information

Can I take parental leave if I’m on a casual contract, or other non-standard work contract?

Yes. You are eligible for parental leave even if you are on a non-standard work contract like casual, seasonal, or fixed-term contract. You will need to meet the normal requirement for parental leave.

Can I give (“transfer”) my payment rights to my partner?

Yes, in some situations. If you’re entitled to primary carer payments, but don’t end up taking primary carer leave, you could give some of your payments to your partner while they are on leave. This could also happen the other way around (if they have a right to payment but don’t take it). You can transfer all or part of your payments.

What if I don’t meet the requirements for parental leave?

If you don’t meet the requirements for any of the types of leave listed above, you might still be able to get parental payments. If this is the case, you can ask your employer to give you leave so that you can get parental payments during this time. Your employer can only refuse this request on certain grounds.

When do I have to tell my employer I am planning to take parental leave?

You need to tell your employer that you are planning on going on leave at least three months before your baby’s expected due date.

How do I apply for parental leave?

To apply for parental leave, you need to send a letter to your employer. It’s best not to rely just on a conversation, make sure you make a request in writing.

To make sure you get paid for your leave, you also need to apply through the IRD website at www.ird.govt.nz, search “apply for paid parental leave”. This is because the government is responsible for parental leave payments.

What do I need to say in the letter to my employer?

In the letter, you need to say what type of leave you want to take, the date you want the leave to start and how long you want to be on leave for. If you are sharing your leave entitlements with your partner, you also need to explain this in the letter.

For more information and examples of letters you can send to your employer, visit www.employment.govt.nz and search “how to apply for parental leave”.

What if my employer has handled my parental leave request poorly?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 56 – 57

You should try and sort it out as quickly as you can. If you wait too long, you might not be able to hold your employer to account.

If you have a complaint, you should let your employer know as soon as you can so that they can try and make things better. This can be through meeting with your employer or writing to them. If you do meet with your employer, you can take a support person with you. You should also write your complaint down in writing after the meeting so that you have a record of it.

If you don’t feel comfortable telling your employer, you should ask your union (if you have one) to help you with the complaint.

You can also see a free lawyer at a Community Law Centre for support.

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 71G, 71L

Paid parental leave payments will continue for 26 weeks. However, you can end them earlier if:

  • You transfer your entitlement, or part of your entitlement, to your partner
  • You or your partner receive a parental tax credit payment
  • You return to work before the end of the paid parental leave period.

What other financial help is there to help me raise my child?

If you are taking care of your child, you could get payments through IRD’s “Working for Families” program. Working for Families has payments to help you with raising a family. You could get these payments even if you don’t get parental leave. One of these payments is called the “Best Start payment” where you’ll get $60 a week every week until your baby turns 1 (or in some cases, until your baby turns 3).

The best way to see what payments you could get is to visit the IRD website, www.ird.govt.nz and search “working for families”.

Next Section | Returning to work

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Pregnancy Rights

Where to go for more support

Community Law is a free service and has 24 centres across New Zealand.

You can find the details of the nearest Community Law Centre at www.communitylaw.org.nz

Checkout the Community Law Manual for more easy-to-read legal information across community, family and personal life. Access free online or email publications@wclc.org.nz to buy a hard copy

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