From 1 April 2016, the period an employee can receive paid parental leave payments will increase to 18 weeks.
Further changes to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 will include extensions to eligibility for parental leave payments for employees who work on a ‘non-standard’ basis; extending unpaid leave to employees who have been employed for less than 12 months; and the introduction of ‘keeping in touch’ days.
Currently an employee must have worked a minimum number of hours for the same employer for at least six months. The changes will extend parental leave payments for those employees who are employed on a casual, fixed term or temporary basis for more than one employer, including those who have recently changed jobs.
From 1 April 2016, the employee must have worked an average of 10 hours a week with any employer over any 26 of the previous 52 weeks. However, this group of workers will not automatically have their job held open for them.
Under the Bill, parental leave payments and leave entitlements will be extended to “Primary Carers”. A Primary Carer is a person who takes permanent primary responsibility for the care of a child under the age of 6 years old, and may include Home for Life Parents, Whāngai and Grandparents. In order to be eligible for parental leave payments and leave entitlements, a Primary Carer would need to meet the same work-related criteria as a birth mother or adoptive parents.
A Primary Carer does not include anyone with part time or temporary responsibility such as a temporary foster carer or a child care provider.
Further changes include extending unpaid leave for employees who have been with their employer for more than 6 months, but less than 12. In addition to paid parental leave of 18 weeks, these employees will be able to take unpaid leave of up to 8 weeks, up to a total period for parental leave of 6 months.
The Bill also introduces “keeping in touch” days which will allow employees to work for up to 40 hours, and receive payment for these hours, during their 18 weeks of paid parental leave, however the keeping in touch hours may not be used where the child is under 4 weeks old.
An agreement would need to be made between the employee and employer as to the conditions of the keeping in touch hours worked, including payment for hours worked and the type of work to be undertaken. These keeping in touch days would allow an employee to keep up to date with training, or assist with projects, during their period of paid parental leave, without the risk of losing their entitlement to parental leave payments.
The Bill will allow an employee to resign if they wish and where there is no intention to return to work, and still receive parental leave payments. This will allow employers more certainty to plan resource requirements for their business, and recruit for a permanent replacement, rather than a temporary replacement.
Acknowledgement to Knowhow Limited for contribution to research and preparation of the above.
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