Maternity leave

Maternity leave

Maternity leave (also called parental or family leave) can be a very confusing and sensitive subject with both mums-to-be and their employers. Chances are that you might not be familiar with all the statutory, legal and technical details of maternity leave. Huggies is here to simplify all the technical and legal jargon and make it easier to understand your rights as both an employee and a parent.

Some women may think that they’ll go back to their pre-birth routine and merrily return to work, only to find that when baby arrives the mothering instinct is much stronger than they expected and the desire to be home with their baby is far greater than their urge to climb the corporate ladder.

Other mums may have the opposite reaction to the sabbatical due to pregnancy and find that they miss work, the social interaction, sense of achievement that comes with a career and the mental stimulation that comes from working. Another possibility is that you might find living on a reduced income too hard and too stressful and have to return to paid employment.

Making the big decision

It could be a good idea to keep your options open: find out if your employer is open to negotiating a flexible maternity leave option or your return to work on a part-time basis following the birth of your child.

Before making any big decisions, you should keep in mind that having a child can alter your perceptions about your priorities in life. You may end up going down a completely different path than you planned.

You should also discuss maternity plans with your partner before making any big decisions.

If you feel very strongly that you want to return to paid work, ask your partner how they feel about staying at home with your child during the formative years. Another option could be for both of you to take an extended absence and then return to work part-time.

Paid maternity leave

Under current legislation, employers are not required to provide women with any paid maternity leave. New Zealand employers are only required to provide 12 months of unpaid leave to permanent employees who have worked for at least 12 months prior to taking parental leave. In our Paid Maternity Leave section, Huggies explores the following paid maternity leave related questions:

  • How much will I be paid from the Paid Maternity Leave Scheme?
  • Will I be able to get both parental leave and employer-provided maternity leave?

Paternity leave

Paternity leave is the time that a father takes off work following the birth of his child.

The New Zealand government has legislation regarding paternity leave, which Huggies has distilled and simplified for you. The paternal section includes answers to such paternity leave questions as:

  • Who can take paternity leave?
  • How long can I take as paternity leave?

If you fulfill the necessary obligations for paternity leave, your job will normally be guaranteed until your return to your employment (this may be subject to change in different industries). As with other employment practices in New Zealand, it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because you took paternity leave.

So if you are unsure about any legal element of paternity leave, peruse through our paternity leave section and find the answers to your questions.

The laws

The laws regarding maternity leave in New Zealand are entrenched in the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987. These laws govern almost the entire gambit of maternity laws.

  • Maternity leave for same sex couples
  • Maternity leave for parents who adopt
  • Employer specific benefits

Huggies has taken this complicated ‘legalese’ and made it easier and simpler to understand. The concise explanations of some of these laws are found within the maternity leave law section. However if you need more information, contact your designated industrial relations contact or HR department within your organisation. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • To examine your company policy and employment contract
  • Leave is generally not paid, unless your contract or company policy states otherwise

Maternity leave letter

When applying for maternity leave, it is in your best interests to be considerate towards your employer.

You should speak to your manager or director as soon as you have come to a decision regarding your sabbatical. You should put this intent down on paper in the form of a maternity leave letter. Included within the leave letter section is exactly what information you should have within your letter as well as other pertinent details.

In most cases, the minimum requirement for giving your employer notice is at least 3 months written notice before taking parental leave, although you should try give as much notice as possible.

Your entitlements

In this section, Huggies explores your entitlements. Questions such as:

  • Who is eligible for maternity leave?
  • For how long can I take maternity leave?
  • What happens to my job when I return to work?
  • When do I have to tell my employer that I am expecting?

Whatever decision you come to, it’s a good idea to have open and frank discussions with your employer, partner and family before making a final choice. With their support and the information provided by Huggies, you can make an educated decision that will be in the best interests of both you and your child to be.

Keeping up to date

In the 2014 Budget the Government announced a package of extra support for families to take effect from the 2014/2015 tax year.

This extra support includes;

  • an extension of paid parental leave of an additional four weeks, starting with a two-week extension from 1 April 2015, and another two weeks from 1 April 2016.
  • extending eligibility of paid parental leave to caregivers other than parents and to extend parental leave
    payments to people in less-regular jobs or who recently changed jobs.
  • for babies born on or after 1 April 2015 the Government will increase the parental tax credit from $150 a week to $220 a week, and extend the payment period from 8 weeks to 10 weeks.

For more details, see the release Government to boost parental leave provisions by Minster of Labour, Hon Simon Bridges.

To stay up to date as the proposed parental leave changes come into effect visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

Last updated May 2014