Updates to the Parental Leave Scheme
Temporary updates to the parental leave scheme have come into force as a result of the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020. Permanent changes to the scheme will also come into effect from 1 July 2020.
Temporary changes to parental leave
The COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020 has made temporary changes to the parental leave scheme governed by the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 (the Act). Essential workers who are currently on parental leave will be able to temporarily return to work, without losing their entitlements under the Act.
A person may be deemed a “COVID-19 response worker” if:
- that person is currently entitled to parental leave;
- that person has agreed to return to work temporarily to respond to circumstances related to the outbreak of COVID-19 (or is a self-employed person who wants to return to work temporarily as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19); and
- in the circumstances of COVID-19, that person’s role cannot reasonably be filled by another person (because of that person’s skill, qualifications, or experience), or there is a higher than usual demand for workers doing that role.
COVID-19 response workers should be aware of the consequences of returning to work on a temporary basis, including that the worker will not receive any parental leave payments or pre-term baby payments during the period they return to work. Any parental payments received during the temporary return to work are deemed to be an “overpayment” and must be returned.
Access to the temporary parental leave scheme
Whether an employee becomes a COVID-19 response worker must be agreed to by both the employee and employer. Any person who left parental leave from 25 March 2020 to become a COVID-19 response worker will effectively have their parental leave entitlements put on hold.
Parental leave payments may resume following the workers’ temporary return to work, if specified criteria are met, including that the return to work was for no longer than 12 weeks (unless a labour inspector has deemed a longer period reasonable) and the return to work was for one continuous period (unless a labour inspector deems that more than one period was reasonable).
Permanent changes to parental leave
Pursuant to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill, entitlements to parental leave payments and primary care leave will increase from 1 July 2020. Specifically, amendments increase entitlements to parental leave and parental leave payments from 22 weeks to 26 weeks.
Want to know more?
If you have any questions about parental leave and your entitlements, please contact our specialist Employment Team.
This article along with many others were included in the June edition of our Employment Newsletter.