Returning to work

You should tell your employer as early as possible whether you will be returning to work, returning early or not returning from parental leave. You must tell them at least 21 days in advance.

Temporary changes to parental leave law due to COVID-19

Law changes allow some workers on parental leave to temporarily go back to work without losing their entitlements.

Not going back to work

If you decide not to go back to work when your parental leave ends, you must tell your employer in writing at least 21 days before the end of your parental leave. If your employment agreement says you have to give more than 21 days’ notice of resignation (eg your notice period is one month), then that resignation notice period becomes the notice period you need to give your employer.

If you’re on leave and getting parental leave payments and decide not to go back to work, you will still get your parental leave payments.

If you don’t go back to work at the end of your parental leave, your job ends on the day you started the parental leave, not the day you resign or at the end of any notice period.

This means that any holiday pay you get in your final pay will be based on your last day of work being the day you started parental leave.

Payment for annual holidays has more information.

Notice of return

If you intend to go back to work after your parental leave, and your job was kept open, you have to write to your employer at least 21 days before your leave ends and advise them that you intend to return to work.

If your employer was unable to keep your job open while you were on parental leave, you need to tell your employer at least 21 days before the date you’ll be available for work. This date becomes the start of your six month period of preference.

Protecting your job during pregnancy or parental leave has more information on keeping your job open while you are on parental leave.

Early return to work

Usually you can only go back to work early or start your preference period early if your employer agrees. If you’re on primary carer leave in relation to a child you gave birth to, your employer may ask for a medical certificate showing that you are fit to return to work before agreeing to you coming back early.

You may go back to work early without your employer’s agreement if:

  • you or your spouse or partner are no longer the primary carer of the  child, or
  • the child is miscarried, stillborn or dies.

You need to write to your employer at least 21 days before the date you want to return to work early.

Keeping in touch days has information on returning to paid work for a limited period of time during your parental leave payment period or preterm baby payment period.

Parental leave payment period has information on returning to work during your parental leave payment period or preterm baby period.

Managing an employee's return to work

To help make the employee’s parental leave and return to work as easy as possible for both the employee and employer, you might want to consider:

Employee Employer
Tell your employer as soon as you can about the upcoming arrival of your child and your leave plans. Get back to the employee as soon as you can with answers to any questions they may have.
Take time to fully understand your parental leave rights and obligations, talk to your manager, HR person, union, lawyer or advocate or contact us if you need help with this. Help the employee understand their leave rights and obligations under the law and make sure they know about any extra provisions your workplace or the employee’s employment agreements may have.
Decide what’s right for you in your circumstances and negotiate with your employer, consider the needs of the organisation and what support you can offer them during your absence.  
Maintain contact with your workplace while you’re on leave. Make sure that the employee receives as much or as little communication from you as they want while on leave. If there is a proposal for change that might affect the employee you must consult with them just as you would if they were at work. Don’t forget the employee on parental leave if you are undertaking performance and pay reviews.
If you want to work from home on your return, make sure that everything is agreed in writing such as who will pay for work-related costs like phone calls. If the employee wants to work from home on their return from parental leave, make sure everything is agreed in writing including how long the arrangement will last and any review timeframes to avoid any misunderstandings.
Look at possible options for childcare, such as location, providers, hours etc., and book in advance. Make sure availability fits with work requirements. Try to be flexible with the employee as they’re adjusting back to the workplace. Make sure the employee knows any specific workplace policies supporting flexible working and familiarise yourself with the flexible working provisions in the Employment Relations Act 2000.
Try to get into a routine that will support your return to work.  
Discuss how to continue breastfeeding after your return to work with your employer if relevant. If a returning employee wants to keep breastfeeding (including expressing milk) at work, you have to make sure that (so far as is reasonable and practicable) there are appropriate facilities in the workplace and breaks for her to do this (the breaks don’t need to be paid unless you agree). Make sure the employee knows any specific workplace policies supporting breastfeeding.
Plan for contingencies such as who will look after a sick child: you, your partner or someone else. Make sure the employee understands their domestic sick leave entitlements and sick leave balance, and knows any relevant workplace policies or employment agreement provisions.
Try to be flexible Try to be flexible

An employee's time on parental leave is included as continuous service and taking parental leave does not affect entitlement to annual holidays.  But be aware of the impact of parental leave on payment for annual holidays.

Annual holidays has more information about the impact of parental leave on annual leave.

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