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Parental Leave

Published June 7, 2017 (last updated on April 17, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

Some of your employees may be able to take parental leave, if they are expecting to care for a new child.

There are two situations where parental leave may be available to an employee:

  • female employees having a baby, and their spouses or de-facto partner (including same-sex partner)

  • employees, and their spouse or partner, if they begin caring permanently for a child under the age of six years of age, who is not their natural child (including adoption, home for life or whangai but not temporary care arrangements, such as foster care)

It is important to note that an employee does not need to be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand to be eligible for parental leave. Paid parental leave has different rules, please read our guide on paid parental leave here.

Different Types Of Parental Leave In NZ

As stipulated in the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, there are five types of parental leave available to your employees, being;

  • primary carer leave– for female employees expecting to give birth, employees who are the spouse or partner of the birth mother if the birth mother transfers some or all of their entitlements to them and employees expecting to become primary caregivers for a child under the age of six years

  • special leave– in addition to any other parental leave, this type of leave allows female employees who are pregnant to take up to 10 days’ unpaid leave for pregnancy-related reasons, such as antenatal classes, scans or medical appointments

  • partner’s leave– within certain timeframes around the time of birth, or when the primary carer takes responsibility for a child under six years, this leave enables the partner of the primary carer to take time off from work to support their spouse or partner

  • extended leave– depending on the tenure of an employee they may be entitled to an additional 52 weeks’ leave, less the amount of primary carer leave they have taken

  • negotiated carer leave– this is a more flexible leave arrangement for employees that fall short of the requirements of primary carer leave, but still want to take paid parental leave to care for a child

It is important you are aware of the different use of each type, as well as the guidelines surrounding them.

Entitlement Threshold Test

For an employee to be able to take parental leave, they must have been employed by the same employer for at least an average of 10 hours a week in the six or twelve months immediately prior to the due date of their baby. In the case of an employee who is assuming primary care for a child under six years of age, they must have been employed by the same employer for at least an average of 10 hours a week in the six or twelve months immediately prior to the day the employee becomes responsible for the child.

Whether an employee meets the six- or twelve-month criteria determines which type of parental leave they are entitled to.

Taking Parental Leave

In addition to the eligibility criteria and ensuring the right of type of leave is being used by employees, there are additional obligations on the part of both employer and employee.

For instance, in the case of a second child being born, or cared for, an employee may be able to take parental leave provided they still meet the parental leave criteria, and they have been back at work for six months before the due date of the child.

Also, employers are reminded of keeping in touch days for employees on parental leave. These keeping in touch days are for employees to ensure they stay connected to the workplace, and to the team. There are some restrictions on when employees can choose to work:

  • a total of 64 hours or less of paid work during the parental leave payment period

  • any work is outside 28 days of the birth of the child

If the criteria above are breached, in that work is done in excess of 64 hours or before 28 days have passed since the birth of the child, then the employee is considered to be back at work. Taking leave can be a unique challenge for employees. However, keeping in touch days are in place to help both parties manage what will likely be a long period away from the office.


Before your employees can take parental leave, whether it is paid parental leave or not, they must provide advice to you in writing at least three months before the due date, or the date they expect to first assume care of a child under the age of 6. The letter from your employee must outline the type of leave they are wanting to take, the date they intend to start the leave, and how long the leave will be. If the leave is being shared with an employee’s spouse or partner, it must also outline these details about the partner, as well as the details of their employer, if applicable.

A certificate from a doctor or midwife should accompany the letter, in the case of pregnancy, naming the mother and the due date. If an employee is taking primary care of a child, the letter must, as a minimum requirement, have a statutory declaration attached.

Parental leave enables your employees to take the necessary time to care for a new child at the time of birth, but this process has a lot of different factors to manage. For advice and support contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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