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Parental Leave - Questions and Answers


Questions and Answers

How much paid leave am I entitled to?

Currently 12 weeks paid parental leave is provided at a maximum rate of $334.75 per week.

The Government has announced that from 1 December 2004:

- 13 weeks paid parental leave will be available if the birth of your child or expected date of delivery is on or after the 1st of December 2004

- 14 weeks paid parental leave if the birth of your child or expected date of delivery is on or after the 1st of December 2005.

This is not yet been passed into law, and legislation would have to be passed first.

Who is entitled to parental leave or a parental leave payment?

Currently you are entitled to a parental leave and payment if you are:

- in paid employment; and

- have worked with the same employer for more than 12 months; and

- are not self employed.

The Government has announced that leave and payment will be available if you are:

- in paid employment; and

- have worked with the same employer for more than six months.

This has not yet been passed into law, and legislation would have to be passed first.

Will parental leave or a parental leave payment available to the self-employed?

Currently parental leave or a parental leave payment is not available to the self-employed. However, the possibility of offering paid parental leave to the self-employed is being considered, but further work on the feasibility of this needs to be done before the Government can make a final decision.

Do employees have job protection while they are on parental leave?

Currently an employee taking parental leave who has been in a job for 12 months or more has job protection. That person's job must be held open for up to 52 weeks if they are on parental leave during this time. The first 13 weeks of parental leave will be paid (increasing to 14 weeks in 2005) and the balance of leave taken is unpaid.

The Government has announced that an employee taking parental leave who has been in a job between six and 12 months has job protection. That person's job must be held open for 13 (and later, 14) weeks while they take that leave. This has not yet been passed into law, and legislation would have to be passed first.

Situations that may be Covered by New Provisions

An employee with discontinuous service

Jean is a teacher aide. She's been working at her local school for a number of years but her employment each year is contingent on enrolments at the school. She has had an employment agreement that starts each year on the first day of school, and ends on the last day of school each year. As Jean has discontinuous employment she would never become eligible for paid parental leave under the current provisions.

She gets pregnant early in 2005 with her baby due in September. Jean is now entitled to paid parental leave of 13 weeks, or till the end of her employment agreement, which ever happens sooner.

An employee of a temp agency or on-hire labour firm

Tali has worked in a large number of workplaces over the last year, mostly doing packing and collating work. She is employed through a temporary work agency and originally that meant she was only taken on for particular jobs.

She's been with them for a while now and a few months ago she was put on a permanent employment agreement. Even though Tali works in a range of different workplaces, once she has more than 6 months continuous service with the temp agency, she would be eligible for 13 weeks of paid parental leave. She would also be entitled to return to work for the temp agency after that time.

An employer hires a new staff member who was pregnant when she was employed

Kevin, a small businessman in the electronics industry has had difficulty filling a technical position. He finds someone after months of working long hours to fill the gap himself and run the business. Shelly had been made redundant from her last job in a large firm, where she'd been for 3 years. A month after starting, Shelly informs Kevin that she is three months pregnant and will want to apply for leave. Her baby will be due 7 months after starting work for Kevin.

Shelly indicates she will want to return to work after the 13 weeks leave she is entitled to. Kevin, who's keen to keep her, is relieved to find she will get the statutory payment. Her previous firm would have paid her for the time off, but he's pleased he can offer to top up the statutory pay.

Other Existing Entitlements in Parental Leave Legislation and Related Legislation

What is the Parental Tax Credit?

It is a family assistance payment made through IRD to parents. The number of children in the family and the family's level of income are used to calculate whether the family is entitled to a payment. Details on all forms of family assistance can be found on www.ird.govt.nz and pamphlets can be obtained from either Employment Relations Infoline on 0800 800 863 or IRD on 0800 377 777.

Can I get both paid parental leave and the Parental Tax Credit?

No. You can only receive one or the other. Further, you cannot receive PPL payments if your spouse or partner has received any parental tax credit payment in respect of the same child. When you have decided which entitlement you will receive, your decision is final and cannot be changed. If you have questions about which one might be more beneficial for you, contact IRD on 0800 377 777.

What are the entitlements in multiple birth situations?

There is only one leave entitlement regardless of the number of children born at one time. In the case of triplets it is, however, sometimes better to consider applying for the Parental Tax Credit. If, as a birth mother, you are aware that a multiple birth is likely, discuss your options with IRD on 0800 377 777.

Who is a spouse or partner?

A spouse or partner is a person in a married or de facto relationship with the mother, or primary carer in the case of adoption, who assumes or intends to assume the care of the child. They do not need to be the natural parent of the child. Same sex relationships are given similar recognition to heterosexual relationships.

Where the partner works and the mother doesn't, will the partner be entitled to paid parental leave if they meet the eligibility requirements?

No. The original entitlement to the parental leave payment flows from the mother (or in the case of adoption the primary carer). All, or part of, that payment is available to be transferred to the spouse/partner. If the mother or primary carer is not eligible for the payment there is no entitlement to transfer.

What if your employer refuses to fill in your application form or grant you leave?

If you are eligible, your employer must fill in the form and grant you leave. If your employer does not fulfil their obligations here, you should contact your union, employment advisor or call Employment Relations Infoline free on 0800 800 863.

What if you do not apply for leave three months before the expected due date?

This does not exclude you from leave, although it can make arrangements for both you and your employer more difficult. Employers need to consider if it is reasonable to grant leave where the timeframe has not been met. If you have not applied in time and have any difficulties dealing with your employer, you should contact your union, employment advisor or Employment Relations Infoline 0800 800 863.

When is it too late to apply for paid leave?

Payment must be applied for before parental leave ends, the employee returns to work or resigns from their employment, or within 12 months of starting parental leave, whichever is the earlier.

What if your plans for returning to work are unclear?

You should complete your application for leave with your best estimate of your plans. If your plans change, you should advise your employer immediately. Employers and employees should discuss these plans openly, but employers should show understanding if employees cannot commit to returning to work. Maintaining contact with the workplace can, however, help you feel more comfortable about your plans to return to work.

Do you have to pay back parental leave payments if you don't return to work?

No. If you do not return to work, you are under no obligation to pay back what you have received. This is because the entitlement is based on previous employment, and because you have already taken the leave.

What happens if you have more than one job?

You should apply for leave with each employer, but there is a maximum entitlement of 12 weeks payment at $334.75 before tax per week - rather than $334.75 per job.

I have three jobs: one full time that I wish to take leave from, and two small jobs that I think I can continue doing. Do I have to take leave from all three jobs to get the paid parental leave payment?

No. The payment is an employment right created by your length of service and hours of work in each job. It is not affected by any other income, whether from employment or other sources. You are not required to advise either your employer or IRD of your intentions regarding employment from which you are not taking leave.

How do people who are adopting provide notice?

The expectation is that your employer will be provided with an indication of the likely timeframe for the adoption, and then any notice that can be given will be provided. Where an adoption occurs with little warning the notice provisions cannot apply. If this is the case, call Employment Relations Infoline free on 0800 800 863 to discuss what you should do.

What proof of adoption is required?

Proof of adoption can be a letter from a social worker, a court order or a statutory declaration that you are caring for a child that you will be adopting.

During my pregnancy I took 4 days unpaid special leave to attend medical appointments. Can these days be claimed as part of my paid parental leave?

No. While the right to ten days special leave is included in the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, the leave is separate from, and additional to, the 52 weeks extended leave that is available as parental leave under the Act. The right to paid parental leave does not apply to special leave taken under the Act to attend medical appointments or ante-natal classes.

Does the rate of parental leave payment change?

The rate of payment for paid parental leave is adjusted annually on the 1st of July based on the average movement in wages. It is currently set at $334.75.

Further help & information

Employment Relations Infoline can give you further advice and assistance about issues in this fact sheet. Contact us on 0800 800 863 or visit our website at www.ers.dol.govt.nz

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