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What’s making our phone ring?

Maybe it’s something in the air, but we’ve had three calls in the past week or so asking about employers’ obligations and rights around parental leave.  Or maybe it was something in the air about six months ago!?  Either way, here’s a summary of the questions we’ve been asked, and the discussions we’ve had with these clients…

We’ve just employed someone on fixed term to help us out over calving for a couple of months and then we’d hoped she’d stay on relief milking on a casual basis.  She’s now told us she’s pregnant, due a couple of months after the end of the fixed term period.  She’s talked to her doctor about working safely through calving, and at this stage neither her nor her doctor have any concerns about her well-being or that of the baby.  What are our obligations around paid parental leave?

Exciting times for her and her family!  Great that she’s been proactive in the well-being space and has checked in with - and got the green light from - her doctor.  Of course, ‘life happens’ and things could change for her at any time (as it can for any of us, for a multitude of reasons), so as always on our farms, health, safety and well-being is paramount.

In terms of your obligations around parental leave and parental leave payment obligations, this is actually two separate questions, so let’s address them separately:

  1. In terms of parental leave, because she will have finished her fixed term employment with you prior to her wanting or needing to take parental leave, there are no obligations for you in terms of giving her parental leave.

  2. And with regards parental leave payments or paid parental leave – in New Zealand there is no obligation on the employer to make parental leave payments.  Unless you (as the employer) have additional provisions written into your employment agreements, payment for parental leave is as per the legislative requirements, and paid by the government, via the IRD.  So even if her fixed term agreement extended into her parental leave period (or she was a permanent team member), and you therefore were obliged to give her the leave, there would be no obligation for the company to make parental leave payments.

We are about to go into the consultation process with our team for a restructure, and one of our team members, who may be impacted by the potential restructure, is currently off on parental leave.  Do I have to consult with her regarding the proposed restructure?

Absolutely!  She still has all the same rights and responsibilities as a team member as she did prior to going on parental leave.  Nothing has shifted in terms of your employment relationship, and your obligations to each other.

The wife of one of my team members is due with their baby in late September.  He’s talking about wanting a week or so off over the birth of the baby, but it’s still in our busy time on farm.  I understand he will need a few days off, but I don’t know that I can afford to have him off for a couple of weeks.   Am I obliged to give him leave?

There is plenty of notice for his requirement for some time, so hopefully you can put some additional support and plans in place to manage through this time.  We would recommend early conversations with him to understand what his thinking is, what he’s actually looking for, whether there are things that can be compromised on etc.  And then with that shared information, both parties can hopefully work together to find sensible, fair solutions that work for his young family as well as for your business.  Let’s face it, if you force him to be there and he’s sleep deprived and focused on what’s going on at home, that’s not going to be a good outcome for anyone.

In terms of your question around ‘obligation’, as is often the case, the answer is: it depends.  Fundamentally it depends on the length of time he’s worked for you:

  • If he’s worked for you for six months for at least an average of 10 hours a week, then he is entitled to one week of unpaid partner’s leave

  • If he’s worked for you for 12 months for at least an average of 10 hours a week, then he is entitled to two weeks of unpaid partner’s leave