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Mum dies after birth; Dad denied paid parental leave

Author
Nick Bewley and Anastasia Hedge, Ryan Dunlop, NZ Herald ,
Section
Christchurch,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 8 May 2018, 6:21a.m.
A Christchurch father whose partner died after childbirth is excluded from paid parental leave. (Photo / 123RF)
A Christchurch father whose partner died after childbirth is excluded from paid parental leave. (Photo / 123RF)

A Christchurch father whose partner died after childbirth has been left struggling to get paid parental leave due to a gap in legislation.

The man's partner was due to be a stay-at-home mum, and didn't have a job in the 12 months leading up to the expected date of delivery so she wasn't entitled to paid parental leave payments, according to the Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation.

The baby was born at 33 weeks by C-section after the mother's heart stopped as she arrived at hospital.

"She was having difficulty breathing, so an ambulance was called.

"Just as she arrived at the hospital her heart stopped and staff gave her CPR before making the decision to do an emergency C-section."

After the C-section she started breathing again but then her heart stopped again and she had severe bleeding.

She was taken to surgery but died an hour later.

She had health issues in the past, including diabetes, but nothing of any large concern, her partner said.

The now solo father was currently off-work and being paid by his company, which had been supporting him after his partner's death.

But that is unsustainable.

"I work full time for a great company who are helping me through this but that can't go on. So I thought paid parental leave."

It was his partner's first child with him but she also had five other children who he is also taking care of.

"We want to support ourselves and get what we are rightly entitled to."

"I think people who work at Government departments on computers, things are black and white, they don't fully appreciate that this destroys lives and puts people into bad situations. They just have to follow what their computer screen says," he said.

His partner was proud to be giving him a baby, and had been excited about the birth of her third child, he said.

MBIE told him that because his partner had not been not working in the 12 months leading up to the expected date of delivery, she was not entitled to parental leave payments.

"We understand how unfair this situation is and our policy team is now aware of the gap in the legislation," an MBIE spokesperson told Newstalk ZB.

"We also checked if there was any Ministerial discretion under the Act, and unfortunately there is none."

The father did not meet the definition of primary carer as there was no payment entitlement to succeed from the biological mother.

"Our suggestion would be that you contact Work and Income, as there could be some form of emergency assistance and/or support.

"As mentioned earlier, Parental Tax Credits through Inland Revenue may also be another option."

Employment lawyer Anna Oberndorfer said it was difficult to accept that a situation like this could not have been anticipated by the legislators.

She also says he can no longer be defined as a spouse or partner, as his partner died, so should have the same entitlements that other primary carers would receive, whether adoptive parents or other persons.‚Äč

"Sadly he no longer has either a partner or spouse and he should, as the primary carer, now be availed of any and all entitlements that other primary careers would receive."

To interpret the situation in such a way to exclude the father was an "absurdity in the law".

"It raises the question of whether a mother could actually 'transfer' an entitlement posthumously (if entitled to the leave).

"Is MBIE saying that the transfer would be automatic in those circumstances or that the father would be considered a primary caregiver only because the mother had an entitlement?"

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