Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Legal boost for new parents

Move to allow some work during time off having baby

Under present law, employees could in theory lose their paid parental leave even by returning to work for a few paid hours. Photo / Thinkstock
Under present law, employees could in theory lose their paid parental leave even by returning to work for a few paid hours. Photo / Thinkstock

Employees on paid parental leave will be able to return to work occasionally on so-called "keeping in touch days" without losing their entitlement under the moves to increase the flexibility of the scheme.

The Government's Budget policy to extend paid parental leave from 14 to 18 weeks went out for public consultation yesterday and it includes the proposal to allow employees to work limited days during that leave period.

Under present law employees could in theory lose their paid parental leave even by returning to work for a few paid hours to complete a handover or attend a training session.

A spokeswoman for Labour Minister Simon Bridges said data on how many people had lost entitlements in that way had not been kept but the issue had been the subject of complaints.

Under the Government proposal, which is based on the "keeping in touch days" offered as part of the UK's paid parental leave regime, employees will be able to do five days paid work during their paid parental leave beginning four weeks after the birth of their child.

Louisa Buchanan, a 34-year-old Aucklander and mother to two-year-old Ruby, said the "freedom and flexibility" to occasionally return to work would have been of benefit to her when she was on paid parental leave from her job as a a human relations consultant for Coca-Cola Amatil.

"What I find is a lot of people who go on parental leave, because we do have a lot here at Coke, is that not everyone wants to stay in touch and not everyone wants to be contacted or come in for project work which is fine, but this flexibility would be great. Whether it's to do a roadshow or to keep in touch with major changes or anything like that we think it's good."

The public is also being asked for views on proposals to extend eligibility to all those who worked at least 10 hours a week for any employer over any 26 of the 52 weeks before their due date.

Foster parents who formally take on a child under six in a "home for life" contract with Child, Youth and Family or under any other court order will also be eligible.

Unicef New Zealand national advocacy manager Deborah Morris-Travers said one of the challenges around any policies for children was "actually having policies that take account of modern reality".

"All of this looks like good stuff for people to have a think about and hopefully there will be a good number of submissions made so some sensible new flexibility can be put around the scheme."

Paid parental leave modernisation

• Extension from 14 weeks to 18 weeks by 2016

• Extending it to "non standard" workers in seasonal, casual or multiple employment situations

• Greater flexibility to allow employees opportunities to occasionally return to work while on paid parental leave

• Extending eligibility to non-parent carers such as grandparents, and foster parents with Child Youth and Family contracts and court care orders.

- NZ Herald

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