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Are you a New Zealand employer? If you are, you must be aware of the responsibilities that you hold to your employees. Your employees are entitled to a certain set of rights and benefits, and if you do not abide by these, you could be in breach of employment law. One of these rights is parental leave. This allows a parent to take time off when they have had a child. While your employees are entitled to take this, they must give you enough notice before going on leave. This article will explain the process for taking parental leave and how much time and notice an employee can give you before leaving.

What Is Parental Leave?

Parental leave is a legal right for an employee to take leave from work when they have had a child. However, the amount of leave an employee can take will depend on how long they have been working for your business. It will also depend on whether the employee looking to take leave is the child’s primary caregiver. 

Your employees are entitled to up to 26 weeks of parental leave in New Zealand. They may also receive up to 52 weeks of extended leave.

Types of Parental Leave

Primary Carer Leave

Primary carer leave is the main type of parental leave that the law reserves for a child’s primary carer. If one of your employees is a primary carer, you must allow them to take up to 26 weeks of parental leave in one continuous period.

Special Leave

This is a form of unpaid leave that females can take for pregnancy-related reasons such as antenatal classes or scans. In addition, you must allow any relevant employees to take up to ten days of unpaid special leave.

Partner’s Leave

Partner’s leave is leave that the partner of a primary carer can take. Your relevant employees may either be entitled to one or two weeks of partner leave. This will depend on how long that employee has been with your business. 

Extended Leave

Extended leave is a type of unpaid leave that parents can take after the birth of their child. Your employees can take up to 52 weeks of extended leave, but they must share this leave if both parents qualify for this. The 26 weeks of primary carer’s leave will reduce the amount of any extended leave your employees take. 

Negotiated Carer’s Leave

Negotiated carer’s leave is a type of leave that an employee can negotiate with you if they do not meet the requirements for parental leave. As an employer, you have a good faith obligation to your employees. Therefore, it may be a good idea to allow any relevant employees to take time off. Otherwise, you risk that employee resigning from the role. 

However, keep in mind that your business has no legal obligation to give leave. For example, from a commercial perspective, you might need that employee to continue working. Likewise, the law does not provide your employee with any bargaining power. If you decide to refuse leave, you must explain your decision. 

How Much Notice Do Employees Have to Give?

It can be a challenging period when one of your employees provides notice of their leave. However, they too have obligations to provide as much notice as possible before going on leave. At the end of the day, you want to ensure you can cover their role and prepare for their departure. However, keep in mind that the law only requires your employee to give fourteen days notice before taking parental leave. 

In addition, your employee should provide a written letter detailing how much leave they wish to take. Importantly, it is not sensible to rely on a verbal conversation. This is because if a future dispute arises, it can be extremely challenging to remember details. Likewise, note what type of leave your employee is asking for and whether they are the primary carer. You should also expect your employee to provide proof of the baby’s due date. This document should be signed off by a doctor or midwife. 

Key Takeaways

Employers are required to provide several rights and benefits to their employees. Parental leave is a common right that your employees are entitled to receive. As an employer, you must be aware of the responsibilities and the law pertaining to parental leave. The amount of leave your employees can receive will depend on whether they are the primary carer and the amount of time they have been with your business. Additionally, the law requires employees to give fourteen days notice. However, you should encourage your employees to give you as much notice as possible to allow your business time to prepare.

For more information or legal assistance with managing parental leave, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to give parental leave?

Yes, parental leave is a legal requirement if your employee meets the requirements.

Can my employee choose not to take parental leave?

Yes, an employee does not have to take parental leave, but they will utilise it in most cases.

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