COVID-19 response: Measure to free up for employment those on parental leave | Employment Law Update

Updated: May 6, 2020

Legislation introduced into parliament today contains proposed amendments to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, which would allow workers entitled to parental leave to go back to work temporarily to assist in the COVID-19 response without losing entitlements to leave and payments.

The COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill (244—1) is an omnibus Bill whose chief focus is to enable businesses, local government and others to more effectively manage the immediate effects of the response to COVID-19 and reduce any deleterious effects long term.

Importantly, the provisions — which allow workers to pause their parental leave payments and then resume receiving them when they go on leave again — would have retrospective effect to apply to those returning to work in response to circumstances connected with the pandemic from 25 March 2020 onwards. A worker on parental leave, employed or self-employed, can qualify for this if their role cannot reasonably be filled by another or there is a higher demand than usual for workers performing their role.

The temporary return to work should be no more than one continuous period of 12 weeks but Labour Inspectors have the discretion to permit a longer period or more than one temporary return to work.

The provisions would be repealed two years after the end of the COVID-19 emergency period (ie the period during which New Zealand is responding to the pandemic (under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006)). This lengthy period is necessary because the Act contains rights to parental leave and payments for subsequent children and also rules in the Act deal with how payment for annual leave is calculated for leave accrued while on parental leave.

Information reproduced with permission of Wolters Kluwer NZ.