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Extended Employee Personal Leave. Your Rights, Their Rights and What’s Best

Published November 13, 2018 (last updated March 9, 2023) - Head of Operations

Extended Employee Personal Leave. Your Rights, Their Rights and What’s Best

At some point during their employment, every staff member will need to take personal leave. Whether it’s due to the flu or caring for a sick parent, life happens and we need to take time off work.

In New Zealand every permanent employee is entitled to five days of personal leave each year, in addition to a range other leave entitlements. For most employees, this is ample. Trouble arises when an employee takes longer periods of personal leave, whether paid or unpaid.

If not effectively managed, extended leave can have a significant impact on the successful operation of your small business.

How do you balance your business operations with an employee’s entitlement to leave? As a business owner, it is vital that you understand these rights in relation to extended personal leave.

Managing Extended Leave

Sometimes a staff member will take longer periods of leave. This could be for a variety of reasons, but it raises a common issue: what are the obligations of the employer and the rights of the employee in instances of extended leave?

Extended leave for circumstances such as holiday, sickness, injury or study, are not an automatic entitlement under New Zealand’s employment law and can only be taken with the employers’ permission. However, under the law employees are entitled to take extended parental leave, the length of extended leave available to the employee is set out within the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987.

The conditions of extended leave should be negotiated between the employer and employee and recorded in writing. If an employee takes an extended leave of absence without permission from their employer this will be considered unauthorised absence and they could face disciplinary action or dismissal.

The most effective way to manage extended employee personal leave is to establish clear written guidelines highlighting what employees are entitled to. If employees are away from work often and taking extended personal leave, it is crucial that the employer makes them aware of the guidelines and documents their absence in each instance, in case it is needed for reference down the track.

Does Extended Personal Leave Mean Termination?

As with many things in the world of employment relations: it depends. An employee cannot be terminated as a result of a temporary illness. So long as evidence of inability to work is provided, an employee can be protected from dismissal for exercising their workplace right to be on personal leave. In these cases, the employee is on a period of unpaid leave.

Termination of extended leave has been repealed from the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987

Ideally, you want to establish clear written policies regarding personal leave and extended personal leave in workplace documents, such as employee handbooks, contracts or document agreements with employees.

Know Where You Stand

If you’re unsure of your obligations or how to implement extended personal leave policies in your workplace documents, speak with one of Employsure’s workplace experts by calling 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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