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Parental Leave Eligibility

Published May 9, 2018 (last updated on June 13, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

Parental Leave Eligibility

The birth or adoption of a new child is an exciting time for soon-to-be parents. Naturally, employees may want to take some time off work to care for their new child, while remaining financially secure. Eligibility for Government-paid parental leave is discussed in this article, however all employers are welcome to offer more generous parental leave as a way to attract and retain key employees. To be eligible for Government paid parental leave, employees need to meet particular criteria.


To be eligible for paid parental leave, an employee must work for at least an average of 10 hours a week, in at least 26 of the weeks in the year before:

  • your due date

  • the date the child comes into your care

It does not matter how many employers you had or if you were self-employed. However, you need to be eligible either as an employee or a self-employed person. You cannot combine the hours you worked as an employee with the hours you worked as a self-employed person. You can combine the hours from multiple employments.

To qualify you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • be an expectant mother

  • be a new mother of a child under 1

  • have new permanent primary responsibility for a child under 6 and be any of the following: an adoptive parent, a Home for Life parent, a matua whāngai (whāngai carer), a grandparent with full-time care, a permanent guardian

  • employees with a partner or spouse who has given birth

  • employees who have assumed permanent care of a child who is under the age of six

Under all circumstances, those taking parental leave must be the permanent primary carer of the child.

It is important to remember that an employee does not have to be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand to be eligible for parental leave entitlements, but they do need to be employed under New Zealand employment law.

How to Apply

Before submitting a Paid Parental Leave application to Inland Revenue (IR), employees need to talk to their employer about the intention to take parental leave. The employee must also given formal notice of their intention to take parental leave.  To avoid confusion and misunderstanding, this request should be submitted in writing and contain the following information:

  • Evidence of the expected due date or intended date of assuming permanent care

  • What type of leave the employee is wanting to take

  • The date the parental leave will start

  • When the parental leave will end

  • If the employee is wishing to take extended leave, details regarding if the employee’s spouse or partner is intending to take any period of extended leave or primary carer leave and the dates of such leave.

In the case of a pregnancy, this notice must be given at least three months before the baby’s expected due date. Where the employee is assuming permanent care of a child under the age of six, this notice must be provided at least 14 days prior to the date they intend to assume care.

Paid parental leave applications must be submitted prior to the employee returning to work. If the employee applies after the child is born, they will be back paid from the date the child was born or from when the leave commenced.

What Happens if an Employee Resigns?

Employees can get paid parental leave if they resign or stop working instead of taking time off.

What to Do When an Employee Is Not Eligible For Paid Parental Leave

If an employee is due to give birth but does not qualify for paid parental leave, they may place a request for leave without pay or negotiated carer leave.

Parental Leave Policy

While paid parental leave is a Government-funded entitlement, employers should have their own parental leave policy tailored to the needs of the business and its employees. The policy should inform employees who they must notify when applying for parental leave, explain the criteria, and confirm the minimum legal obligations that employers must follow. Documenting and clarifying the policy in the employee handbook can help avoid misunderstandings, and help employees feel supported.

Importantly, if an employer chooses to offer a policy that is over and above the Government policy, the employment agreement must contain the following information:

  • who can take parental leave

  • when parental leave can be taken

  • timeframe of leave

  • how well the job is protected during the leave

  • remuneration during leave

  • process for application and procedures to follow

For advice on parental leave eligibility in the workplace, contact Peninsula on 0800 568 012.

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