An expectant mother forced to resign from her job as a result of a flood-damaged daycare centre has now missed out on paid parental leave by 10 days.
Terell Lambert was expecting her second child when the Napier daycare centre where her daughter was looked after, had to close for repairs caused by flooding.
She was unable to find alternative care, so quit her job at a fashion retail store in November 2020 – just days short of six months after starting the full-time role.
Employees who have worked for at least 10 hours a week for six months or more before the birth of a child – or the date they expect to take care of the child - are entitled to 26 weeks of government-funded parental leave as the primary carer, and 26 weeks of unpaid parental leave.
Inland Revenue decided she was not entitled to the paid leave because she had not worked the required length of time.
Lambert's challenge to the decision has now been declined by the Employment Relations Authority.
ERA member Sarah Kennedy acknowledged the circumstances were unfortunate but there was insufficient grounds for reversing IRD's decision.
Lambert began working for the fashion retail store on May 26, 2020, and resigned on November 14 to care for her young daughter after she had exhausted all alternative options for care.
Considering the two-week notice period, Lambert's last day on the job was November 29.
In March 2021, she also worked for an additional week at a kohanga reo, which brought her total period of work in that year to 25.2 weeks.
The ERA said if that week could have been taken into account it would have left Lambert just three days short of qualifying, but the eligibility test specifically applied to a period of employment with the same employer.
Kennedy said in her decision last month that Lambert had in effect worked for a total of 24 weeks, which meant she was two weeks or 10 working days short of qualifying.
It was on that basis Inland Revenue declined Lambert's parental leave application.
The ERA questioned if annual leave paid to Lambert in lieu of taking leave when she finished in the role might be taken into account.
"If that leave can be taken into account in terms of the 26-week threshold, Ms Lambert would be only a few hours short of qualifying for parental leave under the eligibility test," Kennedy said.
However, the threshold for eligibility was based on the number of weeks in employment and could not extend past the date an employment relationship ended.
"Even if Ms Lambert had taken the leave that was owing to her before resigning, although that would have extended her final day of employment, she would likely still have been just under the threshold for eligibility of paid parental leave."
The ERA said in declining the application that the specified statutory requirement for eligibility could not be overlooked.
Rates were adjusted annually. Last year the maximum paid parental leave rate increased 2.5 per cent from $606.46 to $621.76 per week. The minimum rate increased 5.8 per cent from $189 to $200 per week.