Temporary changes to parental leave

To support both employers and employees through COVID-19, the Government has introduced temporary changes that allow some workers to temporarily 'pause' their parental leave.

What are the changes?

The biggest change allows some employees to return to work during the COVID-19 outbreak without losing their remaining parental leave entitlements. In short, that means employees can go back to work for up to 12 weeks and then return to parental leave without it affecting their payments.

These changes apply to anyone who went back to work early as a result of COVID-19 since 25th March 2020, including anyone who may have already returned to work if they were receiving parental leave.

Who can apply?

Employees can return to work early if one of the following applies to them as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak:  

  • their skills, experience, or qualification means that nobody else can fill the role, or
  • there is an unusually high demand for workers in their role.

Employees are advised to contact Inland Revenue directly to enquire about their situation and if they can apply. 

Does it affect parental leave allowance?

The changes do not affect an employee's parental leave. They will not be considered to be 'on parental leave' in any way while they are temporarily back at work due to COVID-19.

This change allows one temporary return to work for up to 12 weeks.

While the employee is back at work the following applies:

  • Parental leave payments will temporarily stop.
  • They will receive Best Start payments.
  • They will not use any of their 'keeping in touch' hours.
  • The weeks that the employee works will not be deducted from the maximum period they can receive parental leave payments.
  • The weeks worked will not be deducted from the maximum period that they can be on parental leave, including extended leave.
  • The employee will not be able to transfer their parental leave entitlement to their spouse or partner during that period.

Restarting parental leave

Employees should notify Inland Revenue when they stop work to ensure their parental leave resumes from the day it was paused to allow returning to work. 

This will ensure:

  • Parental leave payments restart. 
  • If receiving parental leave payments, Best Start payments will stop until paid parental leave permanently ends.
  • Employees can continue using their keeping in touch hours. 

Next steps

For employees: Employees who wish to temporarily return to work due to COVID-19 should contact Inland Revenue directly to check their eligibility on 0800 227 773.

For employers: Employers cannot force their employees to return to work due to COVID-19 under the changes. Both parties need to agree before the employee returns to work.

Principal Consultant, Viv Patterson adds: "The parental leave update can benefit both employers and employees. Some organisations may find they are struggling to recruit the skills they need or are experiencing much busier periods, meanwhile an employee may appreciate the extra income if their personal circumstances have changed as a result of COVID-19. If the criteria have been met and both parties agree, only then can the employee 'pause' their parental leave. Employers cannot force employees to return. Employees should call and check with Inland Revenue before pausing their parental leave. If you want to talk through the implications of having someone back at work during the parental leave period, give us a call."

More info

To find out more about the temporary changes affecting parental leave click here.