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Parental Leave Eligibility.

Parental Leave Eligibility

The birth or adoption of a new child is an exciting time for soon-to-be parents. Naturally, these employees will want to take time off work to care for their new child, while remaining financially secure. Eligibility for government mandated parental leave is discussed here, 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.

Who is eligible for paid parental leave?

To be eligible for paid parental leave, an employee must work for the same employer for at least an average of 10 hours a week in the six or twelve months immediately before the child’s birth or placement into permanent care.

Any of the following candidates may have eligibility for paid parental leave:

  • employees who have given birth
  • 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.

Applying for parental leave

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. To avoid confusion and misunderstanding, this request should be submitted in writing and contain the following information:

  • the date the parental leave will start
  • when the parental leave will end
  • if the parental leave will be split into two or more time periods

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 if the business changes hands or is sold?

If one of the following changes happens to a business, it will not affect an employee’s ability to meet the six or twelve month criteria:

  • the business, trade or organisation is sold to a new employer, and the employee continues to work for the business
  • a trustee takes over the business after the original employer dies
  • a body corporate is changed or replaced due to legislation
  • a change in partners, trustees or personal representatives who employs the worker
  • the employee is transferred to an associate (subsidiary) employer

Ten hour weekly criteria and absenteeism

If an employee is absent from work for one or more of the following reasons, the time off will count towards their 10 hours per week criteria:

  • taking paid or unpaid leave (not including parental leave)
  • being pregnant and taking primary carer’s leave before the expected arrival of the child
  • taking volunteers leave
  • receiving payments from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)
  • a Labour Inspector decides the absence did not disrupt the normal pattern of working hours

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 paid parental leave, explain the six to twelve-month 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 paid parental leave eligibility in the workplace, contact Employsure on 0800 675 700.

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