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Sorting out maternity leave (sometimes known as parental leave or paternity leave for some dads out there) can be daunting for both parents-to-be and their employers. Remember, you are legally entitled to paid maternity so long as you meet the simple criteria. Knowing exactly where you stand and what steps to take and when to take them, will make you feel comfortable talking to your employers about maternity leave.
Currently in New Zealand, if you’ve been working continuously for a set period of time, you can take paid maternity leave for 16 weeks. You can then take extended maternity leave, without pay, for up to 52 weeks after your baby’s birth. Your job is held for you while you’re away. Often employers will fill your position temporarily while you’re on maternity leave.
This extension from 14 weeks, prior to 1 April 2015, is one of two steps to extend the paid parental leave to 18 weeks by 1 April 2016. The NZ Government also plan to extend 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 more details, see the release Government to boost parental leave provisions by Minster of Labour, Hon Simon Bridges.
You can also find detailed information about current maternity leave entitlements in NZ in the parental leave section on the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment website.
Currently, you’re entitled to 16 weeks of job-protected maternity leave if you meet the following criteria:
You have worked continuously with the same employer for an average of at least 10 hours a week (including at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month) in the six or 12 months immediately before your baby’s expected due date or adoption date.
For the self-employed to be eligible for parental leave payments, the birth mother or adoptive parent has to prove that they’ve worked an average of at least 10 hours a week over the six or 12 months immediately before baby’s due date or adoption date.
If you meet the six or 12-month eligibility criteria, you’re entitled to paid maternity leave for 16weeks. The pay comes from NZ Inland Revenue, not your employer, so to receive it you must apply first to your employer and then to Inland Revenue for parental leave.
Paid parental leave payments equal your normal pay (before tax) if you’re an employee, or your average weekly earnings if you’re self-employed.
For the most up to date maximum parental leave weekly payment amounts, visit the Inland Revenue website.
Use the online calculator below to find out how much money you’re entitled to be paid on maternity leave.
You’re also entitled to up to 52 weeks of job-protected unpaid parental leave, less any maternity leave taken, If you’ve worked continuously with the same employer for 12 months or more.
This is a great option for those women who want to spend the first year of their baby’s life at home, and then return to their old job.
There are several things to consider when thinking about taking (or not taking) an extended maternity leave. Here are a few of the issues that might pop up and affect your decisions.
You can take maternity leave for subsequent children provided you keep meeting the eligibility criteria. However, you won’t be eligible for another period of leave unless your due date or adoption date is at least six months after you’ve returned to your work following a previous period of maternity leave.
NZ has good reason to be proud of the maternity leave/paternal leave entitlements. Parents in some other countries aren’t quite as lucky. In Australia, paid parental leave was only introduced in 2011 and provides eligible parents with up to 18 weeks paid leave. In other countries, around three months of paid maternity leave seems to be the average, although in the UK mothers receive up to 18 weeks, and in Spain it’s 16 weeks. While in Papua New Guinea, only 6 weeks unpaid maternity leave is available.
Keep in mind that government policy can change and the criteria for maternity leave are no exception.
To stay up to date as the proposed parental leave changes come into effect from 1st April 2015, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website and keep an eye on the newspapers and check online for updates on eligibility and payments for maternity leave in NZ.
Last updated June 2015