Increase in parental leave payments

The Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 (Act) provides the minimum leave entitlements for new parents.

In New Zealand, if an employee or their partner is having a baby, or taking permanent responsibility for the care of a child under six years old, they may be entitled to be able to take Parental Leave, with 22 weeks of this leave being government-funded (i.e. paid).

As of the 1st of July 2019, the maximum weekly rate of Parental Leave payments increased from $564.38 per week to $585.80 per week, before tax.

Furthermore, parental leave provisions are set to increase to 26 weeks paid parental leave from July 2020.

Eligibility for Parental Leave

Employees are eligible for unpaid Parental Leave if they have worked at least an average of 10 hours a week for the same employer for 6 to 12 months immediately preceding the expected date of delivery of the child, or assumption of responsibility for the care of the child.

An employee who meets the 6 month threshold is entitled to 26 weeks unpaid Parental Leave (with 22 of those weeks being paid), and an employee who meets the 12 month threshold is entitled to 52 weeks (with 22 of those weeks being paid).

To be eligible for paid parental leave, an employee must be the ‘primary carer’ of the new born child. Section 7 of the Act defines a ‘primary carer’ as:

  • A female (biological mother) who is pregnant or has given birth to the child.
  • The spouse or partner of the biological mother, only if –
    • The spouse or partner has succeeded to all or part of the biological mothers entitlements to a parental leave payment; or
    • The biological mother has transferred all or part of her entitlement to a parental leave payment to that spouse or partner.
  • A person, other than the biological mother or her spouse or partner is also included, if they are taking permanent primary responsibility for the care, development and upbringing of a child who is under the age of 6 years old. This could apply, for example of whangai and grandparents. Note that the legislation does not extend to include those with only part-time and temporary responsibility, such as foster care.

It is important to note that employees and self-employed persons are not entitled to Parental Leave payments if they have taken Parental Leave for another child within the previous 6 months or they have previously taken Parental Leave for an adopted child as the birth parent.

Food for thought

Although it is not a legal obligation, some employers are beginning to pay their employees parental leave payments at an increased rate to the government-funded payments, to further support working parents in their organisations. The Act does prescribe that employers and employees may, on their own terms, agree to replace the Act’s provisions with parental leave rights and benefits that are “in their overall effect” as favorable or more favorable.

If you require further advice regarding your parental leave entitlements, or understanding the minimum entitlements of your employees – contact us for assistance.

Workplace Law team

If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other Workplace Law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen DrewittMaria Green,  Hannah Martin, Joseph HarropHolly StruckmanAlex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia StrickettKen Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh)Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske SchutteLingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

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