Mothers' appeal for paid parental leave denied

Author
Anne Gibson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 6 Jan 2022, 10:54AM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Mothers' appeal for paid parental leave denied

Author
Anne Gibson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 6 Jan 2022, 10:54AM

Two mothers who appealed paid parental leave refusals following the births of their second children failed to win their cases. 

The Employment Relations Authority upheld decisions by Inland Revenue to deny payments to the women. 

That was because of Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act provisions that demand a six-month gap between one round of paid parental leave and the next. 

When paid parental leave was introduced in 2002 the restriction on taking parental leave for a subsequent child was set at 12 months, the ERA noted. 

In 2006, that was cut to six months, at the same time that paid parental leave was extended to self-employed people, it noted. 

Parliament had clearly intended to limit payments to parents having second or further children relatively close to their earlier children. 

"Such a limit inevitably meant some people would not qualify for the payments. It was a policy decision by Parliament at that time, unchanged since, for what and when it was prepared to pay out of the public purse," the ERA said. 

Decisions were released on both appeals on December 23. 

In one case the woman's first child was born in September 2020, earlier than the expected due date. 

She used annual leave until October 9, then began her first paid parental leave period on October 10, 2020. This leave was due to finish last April. 

But last January, she found she was pregnant again. The expected due date for her second child was August but she planned to use some annual leave around that time and wanted her second period of paid parental leave to then start from last September. 

"Checking the parental leave legislation early in 2021, [she] realised she would need a six-month gap between the first and second parental leave periods. She also thought she might be needed back at her work in March to help with some end of year financial year tasks," the ERA decision said. 

She tried to cut short the parental leave she was taking at the time and arrange a return to work last March. 

Her employer ended up not needing her help then. Maternity leave cover for her was also still in place at work until April. That meant she was not able to return to work until her original planned date after April 9 last year. 

Inland Revenue initially approved the woman's application for the second period of paid parental leave from last September to March this year. 

But its letter of approval noted: "At the time you applied for paid parental leave you had not worked 26 weeks … If you do not work 26 weeks before your expected due date, you must let us know …". 

Last August, she got another Inland Revenue letter, saying paid parental leave was now declined. 

The second case was not dissimilar. In that case the woman took paid parental leave ending last February, following the birth of her first child. Her second child was born last August and she applied for paid leave after that too. 

But Inland Revenue said no because the second paid leave would have been less than six months after the first paid parental leave entitlement ended. 

The woman's request for review also identified that she had worked for 23 weeks between ending the leave taken for her first child and starting leave for her second child. 

In those 23 weeks she had worked in a sales and marketing role in the business in which her husband was the managing director. 

She said her husband had become seriously ill, requiring extended treatment 
and surgery. That meant she was unable to return to any employment in the foreseeable future and he was unable to assist her as a full-time carer for their two infant children. 

She proposed "some middle ground" could be achieved by having parental leave payments to her end three weeks early "to balance out the shortfall in meeting the standard criteria". 

But in both cases, the ERA said no. 

The provisions of the law had been correctly applied by Inland Revenue in denying the second round of paid parental leave to both mothers, the ERA decided.