Parental leave eligibility

Employees may be able to take leave from work to care for their new child. To take parental leave they must meet either the six or twelve month criteria.

You can now calculate how much parental leave you or your partner are entitled to by using the parental leave eligibility tool.

If you would normally have been at work for an hour (or hours) but were absent due to the reasons listed below, this time is still counted towards the 10 hour per week criteria:

  • absent on leave with pay
  • on leave without pay (other than parental leave) with the employer’s agreement
  • pregnant and on primary carer leave prior to the expected date of delivery
  • entitled to an ACC payment for that hour
  • on volunteers leave
  • absent for any other reason that doesn’t disrupt your normal pattern of employment, in the view of a Labour Inspector.

The Employment Court has previously determined that a period of time where someone has been engaged as an employee but has not yet commenced the performance of physical work with an employer will not be counted towards the period of employment with that employer for the purposes of parental leave eligibility requirements.

Usually, an employee's old employer counts as the ‘same employer’ if:

  • a trade, business or undertaking is transferred (eg sold) from one employer to another
  • a body corporate is changed or replaced because of legislation
  • trustees take over the business after the employer’s death
  • there’s a change in partners, personal representatives or trustees who employ the employee
  • the employee is transferred to an 'associated employer' (eg a subsidiary).
  • If you’re a junior doctor working for a district health board (DHB) and you’re required to rotate between different DHBs as part of your compulsory training, your employments with each employing DHB is treated as one employment for the purposes of determining whether you meet either the six or 12 month criteria for parental leave.
  • If you’re a teacher employed by multiple boards of trustees during the eligibility period, your employments by each board of trustees is treated as one employment for the purposes of working out whether you meet either the six or 12 month criteria for parental leave. You will still need to meet the hours of work criteria.

Paid parental leave (primary carer leave and parental leave payments)

Primary carer leave and parental leave payments enable the birth mother to look after a newborn baby as well as to recover from giving birth. If the birth mother is eligible for primary carer leave and parental leave payments, then she will remain eligible regardless of whether the baby unfortunately dies before or after the birth.

The birth mother would still be eligible for 22 weeks of parental leave payments provided that she:

  • meets the relevant eligibility work test as an employee or self-employed person
  • has not transferred the entitlement to parental leave payments
  • has not returned to work since her payment period begins (this begins when she starts parental leave or when she gives birth, whichever is earlier).

This allows the birth mother to take time away from work to attend to her health and wellbeing.

Paid parental leave can be transferred to a spouse or partner if they have (or intend to have) primary responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child and are eligible. However, it cannot be transferred if the mother or spouse/partner no longer have care of the child, e.g. after the death of the child or removal from care. If it has been transferred prior to the loss of care, then it ends on the date of the loss of care.

Unpaid extended leave

The entitlement to extended leave requires an employee to care for a child, which means this eligibility requirement is no longer met if the child they are caring for or intend to care for unfortunately dies. In this case the employee would need to discuss their circumstances with their employer in good faith. The parties could still agree to bereavement leave or other contractual time off. In the event the employee will return to work earlier than the date they originally specified to their employer, they would still need to give 21 days’ notice.

Template letter to an employer in cases of stillbirth or death of a child [DOCX, 22 KB]

Parental leave eligibility tool

Answer each question below to find out if, and for how long, you or your partner are entitled to parental leave.


Question 1

Are you giving birth to a child or going to be the primary carer of a child under 6 who you will have permanent responsibility for?

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Page last revised: 05 July 2018

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