I’m having a baby - can I get time off work to look after the baby without losing my job?
If you meet the eligibility criteria
, you can take unpaid parental leave. While you are on parental leave your employer is obliged to hold your job
for you (there are some exceptions).
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Who is eligible for unpaid parental leave and what kinds can I apply for?
If you are an employee, you or your partner are having a baby (or will become the primary carers of a child aged less than six years), and you fulfil the minimum work requirement, then you will be eligible for unpaid parental leave. You do not have to be a citizen or a permanent resident of New Zealand to be eligible.
The minimum work requirement for eligibility is as follows:
- You have worked for the same employer in the previous six or 12 months before the baby's expected due date (or the first date you become the primary carer of a child); and
- You have worked for an average of at least 10 hours per week during that time
Exactly how much unpaid parental leave and what types you are eligible for, will depend on whether you meet the six or 12 month criteria ie how many hours you work and how long you have worked for your employer and whether you are the mother- or father- to be.
To work out the respective entitlements of you and your partner, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE's) Employment website. The MBIE website also has a summary of parental leave entitlements in table format.
If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria, you may still be entitled to parental leave if your employment agreement provides for it and you may still be entitled to parental leave payments.
Types of leave
There are four types of unpaid parental leave:
- Primary carer's leave (previously known as maternity leave) for female employees, of up to 22 weeks around the time of the birth or adoption.
- Special leave of up to 10 days, for pregnant employees for pregnancy related activities such as medical appointments and antenatal classes.
- Partner’s leave (previously known as paternity leave) of up to two weeks, for the mother's partner when the baby is born (or when a child aged under six years is jointly adopted or the employee otherwise becomes a child's primary carer.
- Extended leave of up to 52 weeks (minus any maternity leave or extended partner’s leave taken) which can be shared by both parents.
If you will be the primary carer of the child and would meet the criteria for receiving parental leave payments, but don’t meet the criteria for parental leave, you can ask your employer for negotiated carer leave.
You don’t have to take all of your unpaid parental leave in one continuous block; you can negotiate with your employer to return to work for a period of time and then take the balance of your leave later in the year.
More information about the types of unpaid parental leave is on MBIE’s Employment website.
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What is negotiated carer leave?
This is leave you can negotiate with your employer, if you will be the primary carer of a child and you meet the criteria for receiving parental leave payments but you don’t meet the criteria for parental leave – for example if you have not worked for the same employer in the last six months. Having negotiated carer leave allows you to take an agreed period of time off work to care for your child and receive parental leave payments.
You have to ask for negotiated carer leave at least three months before the baby’s due date (or at least 14 days before becoming the primary carer if it’s an adoption or similar). You can use the template letter on the Employment NZ website to do this in writing.
Your employer is allowed to deny you this leave, but they must have valid reasons for their decision and must give you a written explanation of the reasons.
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Can I get paid while I’m taking time off work to care for my baby?
If you meet the eligibility criteria you can get Government-funded payment (called “parental leave payments” but also known as “paid parental leave”).
Paid parental leave is available to employees who are expecting a baby or will be the primary carer of a child aged younger than six years - specifically, a person who :
- is expecting a baby or formally adopting a child aged under six years (this includes other arrangements where a person will become the primary carer of a child aged under 6 years, such as a Home for Life parent, a grandparent raising a grandchild, or matua whāngai); and
- has been employed as an employee (this doesn’t have to be for the same employer) for an average of at least 10 hours per week for any 26 weeks of the 52 week just before the baby’s due date (or the first date that they become the child’s primary carer) or;
- has been self-employed for an average of at least 10 hours per week, for any 26 weeks of the 52 week period just before the baby's due date (or the first date that they become the primary carer of a child aged under six years).
Generally only one person will receive the parental leave payments but it’s possible for one parent to transfer their parental leave payments to the other, as long as the other parent is also eligible for parental leave payments.
More about this is on MBIE’s Employment website.
On 1 April 2018 the period of paid parental leave increased from 18 to 22 weeks.
If you are not eligible for parental leave payments you may be able to get the Best Start tax credit.
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How much will I receive in parental leave payments?
The maximum level of payment is defined by Inland Revenue and is called the maximum payment amount. The maximum payment amount can change on 1 July each year. You can see what the maximum payment amounts are by visiting the Inland Revenue website.
If you are an employee your payment amount would be either your gross weekly rate of pay or the maximum payment amount - whichever is lower.
If you are self-employed it will be the greater of the following, up to the maximum payment amount:
- your average weekly earnings (you choose whether to average it over a 6-month period or a 12-month period) or
- the minimum parental leave payment amount for a self-employed person (around $150 per week).
More details about how the payment amount is calculated is on MBIE’s Employment website. These are the minimum legal requirements. If you are an employee, your employment agreement may offer you more, so it's worth speaking with your employer about your individual circumstances.
For information on other types of financial assistance available for new parents, see our Family Assistance page.
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What does the term “primary carer” mean?
The law defines a primary carer as being one of the following:
- A female who is pregnant or has given birth to a child (i.e. the biological mother); or
- The spouse or partner of the biological mother, if the spouse or partner becomes the person with primary responsibility for the care, development and upbringing of the child; or
- A person who takes on the permanent primary responsibility for the care, development and upbringing of a child under the age of six years who is not their biological child (this includes formal adoption ,whāngai adoption, Home for Life carers, and grandparents caring for their grandchildren - but not foster parents or child minders).
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How do I apply for parental leave?
If you are an employee who is eligible for parental leave you will need to apply to your employer for parental leave before you apply to Inland Revenue for parental leave payments.
Applying for parental leave
You must apply in writing to your employer for parental leave. Unless you have an agreement with your employer that less notice is required, or you are adopting a child, you generally need to do this at least 3 months before the baby is due. (If you are applying because you will formally adopt a child, you have to give notice within 14 days of receiving documentation confirming the adoption.)
Details about how to apply for parental leave, including what related documentation you need to provide, is on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE's) Employment website, including letter templates you can use for giving notice to your employer. You can call MBIE on 0800 20 90 20 if you have any questions.
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How do I apply for parental leave payments?
After you have applied for parental leave or negotiated carer leave, you can apply to the Inland Revenue for parental leave payments. The form for both employees and self-employed is form IR880.
You can apply before your baby is born, any time up to the child’s first birthday or – if a child is coming into your care – any time up until you have been the child’s primary carer for 12 months.
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Does my employer have to keep my job open while I’m on parental leave?
Your employment must keep your job open if your parental leave will be for four weeks or less and you give the right notice (and it’s the first period of parental leave for that child).
If your parental leave will be for longer than four weeks, your employer must keep your job open while you are on leave unless your job is deemed a key position or there is a redundancy situation.
A job may be deemed a key position if, due to the size of the business or the training and skills required to do the job, a temporary replacement is not reasonably practicable.
If your employer is unable to keep your job open because it is a key position or there is a redundancy situation:
- they have to tell you when they respond to your notice of taking parental leave;
- they have to tell you that you can dispute this decision; and
- during the 26 weeks after the end of your parental leave, they have to give you preference for any available jobs which are similar to the job you had before going on parental leave (i.e. the job you normally did, not the job you may have been given temporarily due to your pregnancy).
More information about keeping your job when you take parental leave is on the Employment website.