Primary carer leave

Leave for primary carers is available to employees, who are primary carer of a child.

Who can take primary carer leave?

Primary carer leave lets employees take up to 26 weeks leave from their jobs if they are:

  • pregnant, or have given birth to a child (including if they are acting as a surrogate)
  • the spouse or partner of someone who has given birth – if they will be taking primary responsibility for the child’s care – in which case, the parental leave payments must be transferred from the birth mother, and they will be entitled to primary carer leave
  • taking permanent responsibility for the care of a child under the age of 6 who is not their biological child; this could be through adoption, a whāngai arrangement, or under a Permanent Care agreement with Oranga Tamariki (previously known as Home for Life).

The employee must have worked for the same employer, for at least an average of 10 hours a week in the six months just before the due date of the baby or the date they become the primary carer of the child under 6.

They must take their primary carer leave in one continuous period. If they return to work, they will stop being eligible for primary carer leave.

Parental leave eligibility tool [PDF, 1013 KB]

They cannot take primary carer leave if:

  • they’ve already taken a period of parental leave or similar leave in relation to the same child
  • they’ve not worked for the same employer continuously for 6 months or more; if they’ve worked for their current employer for less than 6 months, they may be able to take negotiated carer leave instead.

Negotiated carer leave

When can employees take primary carer leave?

If they’re pregnant, their primary carer leave will officially start on their child’s due date, or the day the child is born, whichever comes first. In any other case, their primary carer leave will start on the date they become the child’s permanent carer.

They can start their primary carer leave up to 6 weeks before then if their employer agrees — they might want to take a bit of time off work before their child arrives.

If they’re pregnant, they may have to start their primary carer leave earlier than 6 weeks before their due date if:

  • their baby is born prematurely – meaning they may also qualify for pre-term baby payments
  • their midwife or doctor recommends it
  • they physically cannot do their job well or safely due to their pregnancy, and their employer does not have another job to move them to.

If they have other paid leave, they can take — like annual holidays (annual leave) or time off in lieu — they can talk to their employer about using that up before they start their primary carer leave.

Requesting parental leave

If they have to start parental leave early

If they’re taking primary carer leave, they can start it up to 6 weeks before their baby is due, or they become the primary carer for a child under the age of 6.

They may need to go on leave earlier than that if:

  • their doctor or midwife thinks it’s necessary for them and their baby’s health, or
  • their baby is born before their leave is due to start.

Their midwife or doctor can ask them to start their parental leave early if they think their job poses a risk to their health, or their baby’s health.

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’ve been directed by their employer, or on the advice of a doctor or midwife to begin leave early. If they do take longer than 26 weeks parental leave, the extra time would not be counted towards their extended leave entitlement.

Extended leave

If they're taking negotiated carer leave or partner's leave, they will need to speak with their employer to agree earlier or longer leave arrangements.

If the baby is born before the end of 36 weeks gestation, the employee may be able to get a preterm baby payment to help cover some of their costs during this time. They can get preterm baby payments for up to 13 weeks paid at the same rate as their parental leave payments, without it affecting their ability to get parental leave payments.

Parental leave payments

When you can apply for parental leave payments - Inland Revenue Department(external link)

When their primary carer leave ends

Their primary carer leave will end after 26 weeks. They will need to decide what they want to do at the end of that time — for example, they could:

  • take extended leave, if they’re eligible for it
  • return to work as planned
  • decide not to go back to work at all.

No matter what they decide, they will need to give their employer at least 21 days’ notice of their plans.

Returning to work after parental leave

Special leave

If they’re pregnant they can also take up to 10 days of unpaid special leave, in addition to any parental leave they take. They can use special leave for any pregnancy-related reason, such as:

  • meeting with their midwife or Lead Maternity Carer (LMC)
  • attending appointments – for example, having a scan
  • going to antenatal classes.

If they are pregnant or have given birth to a baby who will not remain in their care, they’re still entitled to the full 26 weeks of primary carer leave – their entitlements do not end when they hand over the care of the child. They are also entitled to parental leave payments if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Parental leave payments

If they’re eligible for primary carer leave and parental leave payments, then they will stay eligible even if their baby is stillborn or dies after birth. If this happens, they can use their primary carer leave to take time away from work to look after their health and wellbeing.

They’re still eligible for 26 weeks of parental leave payments, as long as they:

  • meet the work requirements as an employee or self-employed person
  • have not transferred their entitlement to parental leave payments to their spouse or partner
  • have not returned to work since their payment period began.

They cannot transfer parental leave payments if the mother, or spouse or partner, no longer has care of the child — for example, after the death of the child or their removal from their care. If their paid parental leave was transferred before the loss of care, then the payments will end on the date of the loss of care.

We have created a letter template employees can use to let their employer know what’s happened if they need it.

Template: Letter to an employer in case of stillbirth or death of a child [DOCX, 22 KB]

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