A Whangārei father wanting to stay home and look after his premature son felt he had been left "high and dry" by an apparent gap in legislation, however he now has a glimmer of hope after MBIE asked him to contact it.

Despite working, Regan Morgan has been unable to secure paid parental leave to look after his newborn son, Robert, because his wife, Alison, was not eligible for paid parental leave.

Alison has fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Fibromyalgia is characterised by symptoms of widespread muscle and joint pain, stiffness and fatigue.

Due to her health conditions she had not been working before the pregnancy, deeming her ineligible.

Advertisement

Morgan said it was a "really rough" pregnancy for his wife. She suffered with dizziness, was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and was on bed rest for the entire pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition developed during pregnancy which most commonly causes raised blood pressure and protein in the urine and can put the health of mother and baby at risk.

Alison was induced two weeks early and Robert was born on Christmas Day.

"His growth was slowing and my wife was so sick."

Regan Morgan with his newborn son, Robert, and 6-year-old daughter Vivien. Photo / Tania Whyte
Regan Morgan with his newborn son, Robert, and 6-year-old daughter Vivien. Photo / Tania Whyte

The couple knew Alison was going to need time to recover after the birth and would not be able to care for the baby so had spoken to Morgan's employer who was happy for him to take paid parental leave.

Morgan said their doctor, midwife and Alison herself signed forms declaring she was too ill to care for the baby, and that he would be the primary caregiver.

He applied for two months paid parental leave in November and in mid-December a letter was sent to him seeking more information, albeit sent to an address different from the one he used in his application letter.

By the time the letter reached him, it was during the Christmas and New Year period when he was unable to do anything about it. He rang on Monday and was told there was no standalone eligibility for men.

"I don't qualify. She [Alison] would need to qualify, but because she hasn't worked she doesn't qualify. How it works is the woman has to qualify and then assign it to the man. I can't apply in my own right."

Baby Robert Morgan's dad, Regan, is not eligible for paid parental leave because his sick wife was not working before the pregnancy. Photo /Tania Whyte
Baby Robert Morgan's dad, Regan, is not eligible for paid parental leave because his sick wife was not working before the pregnancy. Photo /Tania Whyte

Morgan is currently on unpaid leave, but said he was going to "figure something out" with his boss. He has "some" annual leave left.

"I would like change. If your partner is too ill to look after the baby, why can't I look after my kid? The partner who is going to look after the kid should be able to apply."

He felt the rules as they are do not acknowledge that a father can look after his child.

"I don't expect change for me but I want to draw attention to it because it's a ginormous hole when they're trying to help people work and look after their children."

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment national manager labour inspectorate Stu Lumsden confirmed that under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act the primary entitlement for paid parental leave rests with the birth mother, who can transfer some or all of the payment to their spouse/partner, if they are also eligible.

"Unfortunately in the circumstance where the mother did not work, she would not have been eligible for payments, meaning the entitlement could not be transferred to the father."

Lumsden said MBIE is concerned the Morgans are facing these difficult circumstances.

"MBIE had not been made aware of the Morgans situation until now, but we would welcome them to contact us directly to explore solutions."

He said a bill which may address the issues raised in situations like this was introduced late last year and is awaiting its first reading.