Maternity leave 101
Preparing for maternity leave involves planning, paperwork. Victoria Wells explains some points to start thinking about.
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.
Parental leave 101
- If you have been with the same employer or self-employed continuously for at least six months you are entitled to 14 weeks paid parental leave. (This will increase to 16 weeks from April 2015, and to 18 weeks in April 2016.) The maximum rate as at July 1, 2014 was $504.10 per week before tax.
- 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.dol.govt.nz) and Inland Revenue (www.ird.govt.nz).
Watch this space
The New Zealand government has recognised that the current Parental Leave Act fails to promote attachment to work or to encourage employees to maintain skills. In mid-2014 it sought feedback on introducing ‘Keeping in Touch Days’. These ‘KIT’ days are used in the UK and Australia and allow employees to work up to 10 agreed paid days during the entirety of their maternity leave (both the paid and extended portions) in order to stay in touch with their workplace. The New Zealand proposal is for five days, to be worked within the statutory maternity leave period (ie the first 14 weeks under current law, which will extend to 18 weeks by April 2016) but not within the first month of the baby’s birth. These days would not affect paid parental leave entitlements.
Submissions will be published on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment at www.mbie.govt.nz
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