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As an employer in New Zealand, you must understand your employees’ leave entitlements. Employment law aims to protect employees and ensure that their employers do not take advantage of them. If you do not give your employees their legal benefits, you could be liable for fines or criminal proceedings. One such benefit that your employees are legally entitled to is parental leave. Parental leave allows an employee to take leave when they or their partner has a child. The amount of parental leave that someone receives can depend on how long they work at a business, and there are several different types of parental leave. This article will outline the different types of parental leave to help you understand your obligations as an employer.

Different Types of Parental Leave

In New Zealand, there are five key types of parental leave, namely:

  • primary leave;
  • special leave;
  • partner’s leave;
  • extended leave; and
  • negotiated carer’s leave.

The type of leave that your employees take will depend on specific circumstances to them and your business. We explore each type of parental leave in more detail below. 

Primary Leave

The law entitles primary leave to a parent who is giving birth to a child. Your employees can take primary leave for 26 weeks, starting on the due date of their child. Likewise, an employee also has the right to take primary carer’s leave if they become the child’s primary carer. In this case, your employee can leave when they take custody of the child. Importantly, an employee who takes primary carer’s leave must do so in one continuous period. Meaning they cannot break their leave entitlement into smaller periods of leave.

Your employees are only eligible for primary carer’s leave if they have worked for your business for at least six months. Additionally, they must have worked at least 40 hours per month during those six months.

Special Leave

Another type of parental leave in New Zealand is known as special leave. This allows a person who is pregnant to take leave for pregnancy-related appointments such as scans. An employee is entitled to ten days of underpaid special leave during the pregnancy.

Partner’s Leave

As the name suggests, partner’s leave allows the partner of the pregnant employee to take leave. For example, a partner can take leave for two weeks if they have worked for a business for 12 months. However, if they have only been working for a business for six months, they are only entitled to one week of leave. Note that partner’s leave is unpaid.

Your employees can take partner’s leave within a timeframe of three weeks before a baby is due to be born and three weeks after they are born. However, as an employer, you can negotiate with your employee and allow them to take partner’s leave at any time.

Extended Leave

Extended leave allows your employees to take a further 26 weeks of leave after taking the initial 26 weeks of primary carer’s leave. However, your employee in question must meet certain requirements. Eligibility for extended leave is only available if an employee has worked for a company for at least one year. Therefore, an employee who has been in your business for less than one year is only entitled to 26 weeks of primary leave.

Note that two parents can share extended leave. However, they must both meet either the 6 or 12-month criteria to get 26 or 52 weeks of leave, respectively. Further, partner’s leave is not included in any extended leave taken.

Negotiated Carer’s Leave

Another type of parental leave is negotiated carer’s leave. If your employee is the primary carer of their child but cannot take primary carer’s leave because they are not eligible, they can negotiate carer’s leave. Negotiated carer’s leave is fully negotiated between the employee and the employer, so the length of time and pay will differ in every scenario. 

Generally, your employees can take negotiated carer’s leave three months before the baby is due or 14 days before becoming the child’s primary carer. 

As an employer, you should consider how valuable your staff member is and the risk they might not return to work if you do not provide a reasonable length of negotiated carer’s leave. Acting on your good faith obligation to all employees creates a positive culture within your business. Likewise, it signals to employees that they can balance a career and a family with your support as their employer. If you choose not to grant your employee leave, you must provide them with a written explanation of your decision. 

Key Takeaways

Parental leave benefits employees, allowing them to take time off work when having a child. Employment law mandates this employee benefit and places obligations on the employer to support their staff taking leave. As an employer, you must understand the different types of parental leave your employees can take. Further, the amount of leave your employees are entitled to will depend on the amount of time they have worked in your business. 

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Do my employees need to inform me before taking parental leave?

Yes. Ensure your employees provide notice of their intention to take parental leave at least three months before the baby’s due date. Where possible, request this intention in writing to reduce the risk of liability against you if a dispute arises.

Can my employees take more than 26 weeks of primary leave?

As an employer, you are not legally obliged to give more than 26 weeks of primary leave. However, you may be willing to do so after negotiation with your employee in question.

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