When an employee requests parental leave

Employees are entitled to take time off work for parental leave, where they meet the necessary requirements.

What you must do

If an employee asks for parental leave and meets the eligibility requirements, you must support them to take the time off. Their eligibility for parental leave will depend on the type of leave they apply for and how long they have worked for you. 

If they do not meet the criteria for parental leave, you can choose to give them a period of unpaid leave.  

When an employee asks to take parental leave, talk it through with them and make sure they meet the conditions for the leave they want to take. Then put everything into writing so you both know what’s been agreed. 

You also need to keep your employee informed if there are or will be any changes that may impact their role while they are on parental leave.

Types of parental leave

There are 4 different types of parental leave: 

Primary carer leave 

To take primary carer leave, your employee must have worked for you: 

  • for an average of at least 10 hours a week, and
  • for at least 6 months. 

Primary carer leave allows eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks off work. If they will have worked for you for 12 months or more, they can also take another 26 weeks off work with extended leave. 

You cannot decline a request if an employee meets the criteria and wants to take primary carer leave. This includes surrogacy situations, where both the birth mother and the new primary caregiver are fully entitled to parental leave (if they meet the eligibility criteria above). The birth mother’s entitlement does not end when she hands over care of the child.  

Primary carer leave

Parental leave payments

Partner's leave

If your employee is the partner of someone giving birth to a child or is going to be the primary carer of a child under 6 who they will have permanent responsibility for, they may be entitled to partner’s leave. 

If an employee wants to take partner’s leave, which is unpaid, you’ll need to work out when they can take it. Typically, they’ll take it as close to the birth as possible — or when a child comes into their care — but you can agree a date with them. 

Your employee is eligible for a week of partner’s leave if:

  • they’ve worked for you continuously for at least 10 hours a week (on average), for at least 6 months – but less than 12 months – immediately before the expected date of delivery (or taking responsibility for care of the child).

They are eligible for 2 weeks of partner’s leave if: 

  • they’ve worked for you continuously for at least 10 hours a week (on average), for 12 months or more, immediately before the expected date of delivery (or taking responsibility for care of the child).

Partner's leave

Parental leave payments

Extended leave 

Extended leave is a period of extra unpaid parental leave that is generally taken after primary carer leave ends. If an employee has worked for you for at least 10 hours a week (on average) for 12 months or more, they can take up to a further 26 weeks of extended leave. Extended leave entitlements can also be shared with eligible partners or spouses.

Extended leave is more flexible than primary carer's leave. Your employee can take extended leave before, after, or at the same time as your employee’s spouse or partner. An employee can take multiple periods of extended leave (up to their maximum entitlement).  

The one or two weeks of partner’s leave that your employee takes are not included in the 26-week or 52-week extended leave period. 

Extended leave

Parental leave payments

Negotiated carer leave 

Negotiated carer leave allows employees who do not qualify for primary carer leave to take unpaid time off work to care for their child. 

You can decline an employee’s request to take negotiated leave if: 

  • you cannot reorganise their work by giving it to other employees or recruiting extra employees
  • their absence from work would reduce your business’ quality, performance or ability to meet customer demand
  • you’re planning to make changes to the team
  • there will be too many extra costs involved.

Negotiated carer leave

Parental leave payments

Jacky is a full-time permanent employee but has changed jobs in the last 5 months, so has not worked for the same employer for the last six months. This means that Jacky:

  • does not meet the criteria for taking parental leave
  • does meet the criteria for parental leave payments because the work does not have to be with the same employer, but Jacky will only be able to get parental leave payments if Jacky is the primary carer of the child and can take negotiated carer leave or resigns.

Shayne has worked part-time for 2 different employers for the last 3 years; working one day a week for 8 hours (although the day worked varies) as a permanent employee. Shayne’s other job is casual, working when there is work available which fits in with Shayne’s other job and commitments. This means that some weeks Shayne does not do any casual work, but in other weeks he works one or two 8-hour shifts. Shayne:

  • does not qualify for parental leave from the permanent job because 8 hours per week does not meet the criteria of an average of 10 hours per week with the same employer
  • does meet the criteria for parental leave payments because Shayne’s total hours of work from both employers for each week in the last 52 weeks, add up to an average of 10 hours per week for at least 26 of these weeks. 

Shayne must be the primary carer of the child and will need to get negotiated carer leave (from the permanent job) or resign to be able to get parental leave payments.

Special leave for pregnancy-related appointments 

If your employee is pregnant, you must also give them up to 10 days of unpaid special leave. This is to ensure they can go to any pregnancy related appointments they have, such as doctor or midwifery appointments or antenatal classes. 

Contractors or self employed

A self-employed person or contractor needs to meet the parental leave threshold if they have been self-employed.

If you’re self-employed

Application for parental leave

Your employee must put the details of their leave in writing for you, and do it: 

  • at least 3 months before their baby is due, or
  • 14 days before they’re due to become the primary carer of a child under the age of 6.

You have 7 days after they write to you to ask for more information if you need it, and if so, they have 14 days to provide it. Once you have all the information you need, you have 21 days to let them know, in writing: 

  • if you believe they are not entitled to take parental leave — and if not, why not
  • their rights and obligations when taking parental leave
  • if you will be able to keep their job open for them while they’re on leave. 

Notice template: Entitlement to parental leave [DOCX, 22 KB]

You must also give your employees information about parental leave payments. Inland Revenue is responsible for parental leave payments, and your employees will need to apply to Inland Revenue directly to get them. 

An employee may be able to get parental leave payments even if they do not qualify for parental leave from their employment. 

Parental leave payments

Paid Parental leave - Inland Revenue(external link)

When parental leave should start

Employees who are taking primary carer leave can start it up to 6 weeks before:  

  • their baby is due, or
  • the date they become the primary carer for a child under the age of 6.

If agreed, they can choose to use up any paid leave they're entitled to before beginning primary carer leave, including: 

  • (annual leave)
  • (days in lieu)
  • other types of paid leave provided in their employment agreement
  • time off in lieu 

Employees can choose to start their parental leave payments after they have used up their paid leave — even if this is after their child's arrival, so long as they stop work from when their parental leave payments would otherwise start. 

If an employee needs to go on parental leave early

An employee may need to start their parental leave sooner than planned if advised by their doctor or midwife, or if their baby is born prematurely. 

If their baby is born before the end of 36 weeks gestation, they can get preterm baby payments to help cover their costs before their parental leave officially starts. Like parental leave payments, these payments are made by the government. 

Parental leave payments

Even if they go on parental leave early, they will still be eligible for 20 weeks of primary carer leave after their baby is born. That means they may end up taking more than 26 weeks of parental leave in total. If they take longer than 26 weeks, the extra time would not be counted towards their extended leave entitlement. 

They can also use some keeping in touch days to help them finish up at work — if they’re able to and want to. They can work up to 3 hours for every week they’re getting preterm baby payments. 

After your employee starts their parental leave

After your employee goes on leave, you need to confirm the leave arrangements with them in writing within 21 days. Your letter must include: 

  • the date their parental leave will end
  • either the date they’ll return to work (if their job is being kept open) or the date their ‘period of preference’ starts
  • a reminder that if their job is being kept open, they need to write to you at least 21 days before they’re due back at work to let you know their plans
  • details of the circumstances in which they can return to work early. 

Letter template: For an employee whose job is being kept open [DOCX, 25 KB]

Letter template: For an employee whose job is not being kept open [DOCX, 25 KB]

Covering parental leave and employees returning to work

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