Paid parental leave increases this July (2018) from 18 weeks to 22 weeks, so what does that mean for your business?
We've created a guide outlining the minimum steps we recommend employers take when they receive a parental leave request.
Paid parental leave
As of July 1 2018, employees will be entitled to take 22 weeks paid parental leave (an increase from 18 weeks) and from 1 July 2020, employees will be entitled to 26 weeks paid parental leave.
Employees will also be entitled to more 'Keeping in Touch' days; from 40 to 52 hours from 1 July, and 64 hours from 1 July 2020. These allow parents to do limited work while on parental leave, if they choose to, for example to attend a team day or change announcement.
10 key steps for employers
As an employer you must be prepared and aware of your legal rights and the rights of your employee.
The following steps outline the basic response to an employee requesting parental leave:
Verify employee's eligibility
Is your employee eligible for parental leave? Check how much leave they are entitled to under the Government's six or twelve month criteria.
Open conversation with employee to establish parental leave plans
Have a conversation with the employee to establish their parental leave plans. Encourage the employee to formalise their plans in writing (see point three). Note: they do not have to confirm or disclose a formal date of return at this stage.
Ensure the employee has given the required amount of notice in writing
Employees must write to you at least three months before the baby's expected due date and state the type of leave, date they want it to start and how long the period of leave will be.
Amount of parental leave payment
The employee will receive a weekly payment for one continuous period of up to 22 weeks (from July 1). Talk to the IRD to arrange payments.
Verify employee's entitlements to annual leave
Has your employee accrued annual leave? Do they wish to take leave in advance? Discuss this with them to establish their plans and how much flexibility you can provide.
Formally reply to the employee about their entitlement
You have 21 days to formally reply to the employee's written request for parental leave and on receiving the letter, you have seven days to obtain further information from the employee, if required.
Minimise impact of employee's parental leave
Swiftly establish a plan to cover the employee's workload in their absence to avoid uncertainty and confusion amongst the team. I.e. arrange fixed term / temp cover, share workload, etc.
Keep in touch with employee
Avoid communication breakdowns and confusion by maintaining open dialogue with the employee during their parental leave; keeping in touch days are a beneficial way of doing this.
Return to work
Employees must give at least 21 days notice if they decide not to return to work after parental leave. Have an open discussion with the employee about returning to work arrangements, for example working from home, part-time, flexible working arrangements, breast-feeding, etc.
The key to a successful employer / employee relationship is to be open and communicative, be fair and reasonable in the decision you make, and ensure everything is agreed in writing from both sides.
This guide gives an outline of employer and employee responsibilities, it is not intended as legal advice. Further information about Government policies surrounding parental leave can be found here.