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Special Leave

Published November 21, 2017 (last updated on May 16, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

Special Leave

In New Zealand, employees who are pregnant are entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid special leave. This allows them to take time off for pregnancy-related reasons such as attending medical appointments, antenatal classes, and preparing for childbirth. Special leave is a separate entity which does not impact an employee’s parental leave entitlements.

When Can Employees Take Special Leave?

Employees who are pregnant can take special leave for any pregnancy-related reasons. Some of the most common reasons are to attend:

  • Midwife appointments

  • Baby scans

  • Antenatal (prenatal) classes

Keep in mind, an employee may wish to take special leave for other pregnancy-related reasons outside of attending appointments.


Special leave is only available to employees who are pregnant, this is a legal entitlement and cannot be transferred to the pregnant employees’ spouse or partner.

An employee with a pregnant spouse or partner can make a request to their employer to take additional unpaid leave for pregnancy-related reasons. This additional leave can only be taken with the employer’s permission. The conditions of this additional leave should be negotiated between the employer and employee and recorded in writing. If an employee takes additional leave without permission from their employer this will be considered unauthorised absence and they could face disciplinary action or dismissal.

Special Leave Policy

While special leave is only a small aspect of parental leave entitlements, employers are still legally obligated to allow pregnant employees to take special leave.

As part of a Parental Leave policy, the conditions of special maternity leave should specify the following:

  • Employees who are pregnant get up to 10 days of unpaid special leave

  • Pregnancy-related reasons for taking unpaid special leave

  • Whether or not an employee with a pregnant partner or spouse is able to apply for additional unpaid leave for pregnancy-related reasons

Our guide on Parental Leave outlines some other entitlements that employers need to be across when managing employees who may be starting a family. For tailored advice on managing pregnant employees or for assistance in understanding special or unpaid leave in the workplace, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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