The basics of parental leave

Paid parental leave entitlements have changed as of 1 April, 2016 (and that's no joke!) Here are the changes, and some information about what you need to do before you go on leave.

Payment length

If your baby was due on or after 1 April 2016, then you could receive up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave payments instead of 16 weeks. Currently the maximum payment is $516.85 per week before tax. The amount you could receive is either your gross weekly rate of pay (your pay before tax) or $516.72 - whichever is lower.

Who’s eligible?

Paid parental leave is now available to more people than ever before. If you work part-time, or in casual or seasonal positions then you could now receive PPL payments, as long as you have worked a minimum of 10 hours a week for at least 26 of the past 52 weeks up to your due date.

Families come in all shapes and sizes

Becoming a parent can happen in many different ways through conception, adoption or by becoming a primary caregiver by other means – grandparents or other family members taking full-time care of a child, whāngai or Child, Youth and Family (CYF) Home for Life parents.

All of these parents want to give their child the best start in life, and to help with this PPL is now available to people who take full-time permanent care of a child under six, as long as they meet the work requirements.

Extra time to finish the job

When you go on parental leave, you may need to complete a handover with the person covering for you while you’re away or attend an essential training course. In the past you couldn’t do this without affecting your payment or having to do it unpaid. Now, because of Keeping in Touch (KIT) hours, you’re able to complete up to 40 hours of paid work over the parental leave period (you can’t do any work during the first four weeks though).

Additionally, if you decide that you no longer want to return to work, then you can resign at the beginning of your parental leave without affecting your payments.  

Babies don’t do schedules

If your baby makes an early appearance, you are now entitled to additional payments for every week they are born prematurely (before 37 weeks). So if your baby is born at 34 weeks, you’ll get three weeks of extra payments before your 18 weeks PPL will start. If you have already applied for PPL then you’ll just need to give Inland Revenue a call and let them know and they will change the date your payments starts.

How do I apply for leave?
You need to apply for leave in writing to your employer, and you must submit this at least three months before your due date. You need to write them a letter stating what type of leave you want to take (paid parental leave plus unpaid leave if you desire) and you need to tell them when you want your leave to start and how long it will be for. You must also attach a certificate, or copy of a certificate, from your LMC stating when your baby is due.
Once your employer receives your letter applying for leave, they have seven days to ask for any required information which you may not have previously given them. Once they have received all of the information (which you must then provide within 14 days), they must reply to you within 21 days, stating whether you are entitled to take parental leave, your legal rights and obligations, and whether your job can be kept open. If your employer says that your job cannot be kept open for you, you are able to dispute that, and you will also have preference for similar jobs for six months after the end of your parental leave. It is very rare that an employer can decline leave, and if you disagree with your employer's decision, you can ask the Department of Labour to investigate the decision on your behalf.
Once you and your employer have agreed on your leave arrangements, you will need to apply to Inland Revenue for parental leave payments. It's a good idea to fill out and submit this form at the same time you submit your letter requesting leave to your employer.

Do you need to know more?
Almost everything you need to know about paid parental leave is available through Employment New Zealand. You can also ring Employment New Zealand on 0800 20 90 20 if you need answers to questions that aren't covered by the website information, or you just want a human being to explain things to you in language that you can understand! Adoptive parents are also eligible for paid parental leave, so check out the website for specific details. There are also special rules for the self-employed, teachers, and junior doctors, so again, check the website if this sounds like you.

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