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July 6, 2016

Preparing for maternity leave involves planning, paperwork. Wondering where to begin? 

Your feelings about going on maternity leave will depend greatly on what kind of work you do, whether you enjoy it and how long you’re planning to take off with your baby. It may be that you can’t wait to stop work to focus entirely on being a mum, or perhaps the thought of not knowing what’s going on back at the office brings you out in a cold sweat. Here are some of the things you may find yourself dealing with.

Who will do my job?

It’s common for businesses to employ someone to cover the job of a staff member who takes maternity leave, unless their role can be covered internally. Depending on the type of industry you’re in and the size of the company, you could be involved with and possibly even given responsibility for, finding the person to cover your role while you’re on maternity leave.

It may be that you’re happy to pass the responsibility for your role on, knowing that internal systems will keep everything running smoothly. If your job is a big part of your life you may find it difficult to imagine handing its daily workings over to someone else, and therefore have a more vested interest in ensuring you have confidence in your cover to ensure all goes smoothly while you’re away.

For many women, this is a time of mixed emotions coupled with the fact that it usually all comes to a head towards the end of your pregnancy when you’re tired, often sore and probably can’t wait to get out from behind your desk to put your feet up.

Whether you’re involved in the hiring or not, if you’re planning on returning to your role then it’s in your best interests to ensure the person overseeing it during your absence has all the information they require to do a good job.

• Allow enough time before you finish to complete a comprehensive hand over. It pays to finalise maternity cover details well before your due date in case your baby arrives early.

• If there are specific projects that can be parked until you return then ensure that’s made clear.

• Make sure the contact details of the maternity cover person are communicated within your workplace
and to any external contacts who will need to deal with them.

What am I entitled to with parental leave?

  • If you have been with the same employer or self-employed continuously for at least six months you are entitled to parental leave. You will have had to work for your employer for at least an average of 10 hours per week over any 26 of the 52 weeks just before.
  • The time period of payment is 22 weeks paid parental leave, for one continuous stage. (This will increase to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020. The maximum rate as of July 1, 2019 is $585.80 per week before tax.
  • The minimum amount of payment for a self-employed person per week is $177 per week (equal to 10 hours of the minimum adult wage). You would receive this amount if you make a loss, or earn less than the minimum wage while working for at least 10 hours per week.
  • If you have at least 12 months continuous service with your employer you are also entitled to up to 52 weeks of employment-protected unpaid parental leave. (Any paid parental leave taken is included within this period).
  • There are also leave provisions for spouses/partners.
  • There are requirements around applying for paid parental leave and notifying your employer of your intention to take leave and for how long.
  • You can find more information about what you need to do and what your rights are on the websites for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (www.employment.govt.nz) and Inland Revenue (www.ird.govt.nz). 

Keeping in touch

The New Zealand government has recognised ‘Keeping in Touch Days’ through the Parental Leave Act to encourage employees to maintain skills. These ‘KIT’ days are used in the UK and Australia and allow employees to work up to 52 agreed paid hours or less from time to time, during the entirety of their maternity leave (both the paid and extended portions) in order to stay in touch with their workplace. These hours cannot commence within the first 28 days of the baby’s birth. These days would not affect paid parental leave entitlements as long as you do not work more than 52 hours during your parental leave. There are extra ‘KIT’ days for primary carers of preterm babies. For more information visit www.employment.govt.nz


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