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Why Should Employers Care About Government Changes to Parental Leave?

Published November 28, 2017 (last updated December 7, 2020) -

The new Government has jumped straight into action on a number of its commitments, with the latest workplace change on the agenda being the introduction of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill to the nation’s parliament to increase the amount of paid parental leave.

While there will be no direct cost to any employer, a major challenge for smaller businesses can be managing when employees decide to not return to work and only let the employer know at the end of their paid parental leave period.

The Bill’s introduction serves as a reminder of how every business should be managing employees on paid parental leave; and what employers can often overlook.

How much leave do employees get?

Previously, employees have been entitled to take a continuous period of up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave. However, with the recent Bill being introduced into parliament this could soon be 22 weeks from 1 July 2018, with a further increase to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020.

Employers may provide additional parental leave to employees in the workplace which can be outlined in their individual employment agreement. The amount of leave offered by an employer will not impact the amount of paid parental leave provided by the Government.

Keeping in touch days

To help with easing employees back into work, and allowing them to stay informed on changes in the workplace, employers will often encounter keeping in touch days. These days could see an employee work a full or part day while on leave to simply keep across what is happening in the workplace and catch up with colleagues.

During the period of paid parental leave an employee can work for a total of 40 hours, as full days or part days, a few hours at a time or all 40 hours in one block. However, whether an employee works a full day or part day, they must be paid their normal working wage. It is important for employers to note keeping in touch days do not affect an employee’s entitlement to government-funded paid parental leave.

Returning to work from parental leave

The length of time employees on parental leave are away from work can make re-adjusting difficult. This is exactly why employers should have processes in place to assist employees in returning to work after parental leave.

Parental leave, while not a direct cost to the business in most cases, can leave employers short-staffed or unsure of how to manage the employee. For advice, employers should call Employsure on 0800 568 012.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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