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Vexed Law Questions Answered Quickly

July 8, 2003

Vexed Law Questions Answered Quickly

When is a woman a father? That is the question that vexed one New Zealand company recently when a woman employee in a lesbian relationship applied for paternity leave to help her pregnant partner look after the baby they were having by sperm donor.

Both of the partners in this relationship worked for the same company which had already granted the pregnant woman's request for maternity and extended parental leave. But when the other partner asked for two weeks' paternity leave, the company wanted to know if she had the right under the law to apply for such leave.

It called on the question and answer service offered by tax and legal publishing firm CCH in Auckland whose analysts told them the law relating to parental leave had recently been amended to allow same sex partners to apply.

The Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, which prescribes minimum parental leave entitlements, was amended to reword paternity leave as partner's or paternity leave. So partner's leave, as well as applying to a married man, now also applies to same-sex and de facto partners and adoptive parents not assuming the main caregiver role.

The female partner of the woman who is having a baby can apply for two weeks' leave provided she has worked for the employer for the preceding 12 months for at least an average of 10 hours a week. Partner's leave generally occurs during the three weeks before or after the birth, the child's release from hospital or adoption. But it may be taken at any time with the agreement of the employer.

"It all goes to show that employment law is not just a dry set of clauses but deals with emotionally charged, sensitive human issues," says CCH managing director Sharon Bennett.

The partner's leave question was just one of the 30-plus questions a day that CCH receives through its question and answer services which it has now put on-line for its clients. The on-line, email service guarantees a detailed response within 24 hours and is part of CCH's regularly updated, on-line library, LAWsearch.

It's one of four services collectively titled LAWsuite that CCH is currently offering to 1600 small and medium-sized law firms round the country to help with their administrative, knowledge and website needs.

The others are LAWbase, a desktop software programme already used in over 300 New Zealand law firms to streamline their administration; WEBflavours, a series of templates helping firms develop and maintain their own websites; and Avon, desktop software that produces a comprehensive, ready-made supply of properly presented legal forms.

CCH is well-known for its annual publication, the New Zealand Master Tax Guide.

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