Parental leave issues 

My child was born prematurely – how will this affect my parental leave payments?

If the baby was born before the end of 36 weeks’ gestation and you are eligible for parental leave payments then you may be eligible for preterm baby payments. These are in addition to the standard parental leave payments. 
You would receive one week of preterm baby payment for every week that your baby is early, up to a maximum of 13 weeks. The preterm baby payment amount would be the same as the parental leave payment amount.

Preterm payments begin on the day the child is born (or the date you became the baby’s primary carer). They end on the date that the child would have been born if it had not been born prematurely; or when you return to work; or when you cease to be the primary carer of the child – whichever is earlier.

For example, if you give birth at 34 weeks you will receive three weekly preterm payments from the date of the child’s birth and at the end of the three weeks the standard 18 weeks of payments begin. In total you would receive 21 weeks’ of parental leave payments.

More about this is on the Employment website.

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I have worked for several employers in the last year – would I be eligible for paid parental leave? 

You have to take either parental leave or negotiated carer leave in order to receive parental leave payments.

You would not be entitled to parental leave if you have not worked for the same employer for at least six months before your baby’s due date (see our Parental leave page) but you can talk with your current employer to take negotiated carer leave. 

If you can get parental leave or negotiated carer leave you can also apply for parental leave payments.

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My partner is not working. Am I entitled to any leave when she has our baby?

If you are an employee you may be entitled to some unpaid parental leave if you meet the eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to some unpaid parental leave:

  • 2 weeks’ unpaid partner’s leave if you have worked for the same employer for the previous 12 months; or
  • 1 week’ unpaid partner’s leave if you have worked for the same employer for the previous 6 months.

You can also use some of your annual leave to supplement any parental leave entitlement you have.

You can use the online tool on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Employment website to work out what unpaid parental leave or parental leave payments you may be entitled to.

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Can I take primary carer leave early?

Primary carer leave is 16 continuous weeks of leave that normally starts up to six weeks before the expected date of birth (or date when you become the primary carer for a child aged less than six, who is not your biological child), and is available to eligible employees.

You can start your primary carer leave earlier if:

  • your baby is born before your leave was scheduled to begin;
  • your doctor or midwife believes it is necessary for the health of you and your baby
  • your employer believes you cannot continue doing your job safely and adequately; or
  • you and your employer agree to it (in which case your primary carer leave can start at any time before the baby is due).

If the early start to your primary carer leave is on your doctor's or midwife's medical advice they will need to provide you with a certificate to give to your employer, which specifies the date on which your leave should begin.

In this situation you are also entitled to at least eight week’s primary carer’s leave after the baby is born (this means your primary carer’s leave may be extended to more than 16 weeks).

There is more information about this on MBIE’s Employment website.

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Am I allowed to go back to work while receiving parental leave payments?

If the child’s expected date of birth (or the date you will become primary carer) is on or after 1 July 2018, you can negotiate with your employer to work up to 52 hours during the 22 week period (these are called “Keeping in Touch” days) while still receiving your parental leave payments – as long as your baby is at least four weeks old.

If your child is a preterm baby, you may work for an additional three hours per week (on average) for each week that the baby was born early - and you don’t have to wait until your baby is four weeks old. For example if your baby was born at 35 weeks you can arrange to work for up to 46 hours while receiving parental leave payments.

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Can my employer make me redundant, dismiss me or change my job conditions while I am on parental leave?

Your employer can not dismiss you because you are pregnant or because you have applied for parental leave, but:

  • they can dismiss you if they have a legitimate reason for it (see our Dismissal page); and 
  • they are entitled to make your position redundant if it is a genuine redundancy.

If you think your employer has terminated your employment because of your pregnancy or parental leave, or you disagree with your employer’s decision whether to keep your job open, you can go directly to the  Employment Relations Authority for an interim order to get your job back for up to 26 weeks while you go through the disputes process (refer next question). 

Note that if you are made redundant while on parental leave and after you have applied for parental leave payments, your entitlement to parental leave payments will be unaffected. 

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What can I do if I have a problem with my parental leave entitlements?

If you are an employee and you think your employer hasn’t properly fulfilled their obligations, it’s best to start by talking to your employer about the issue. If this does not resolve it, or if you feel unable to talk to your employer about it, you can talk to your union representative or an employment lawyer.

You can also contact MBIE on 0800 20 90 20 for advice and, if appropriate, referral to the Labour Inspectorate. If necessary you can escalate the matter by making a complaint to the Employment Relations Authority.

You can find more information on our Resolving employment disputes page.

If you are self-employed and the issue is with your parental leave payments you can go to the Labour Inspectorate (call MBIE on 0800 20 90 20 to be referred to them).

If you want to make a complaint you need to do it no later than: 

  • 26 weeks after the date when the issue occurred
  • 26 weeks from the expected date of birth or date you became the primary care giver of a child under 6 years or
  • Eight weeks after the end of any parental leave you have taken (whichever is the latest).

More about this is on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Employment website.