NAV­I­GATE MA­TER­NITY LEAVE LIKE A BOSS

An in­sider’s guide

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS - WORDS JAI BREITNAUER

There is no such thing as a perfect time to get preg­nant. We all have to nav­i­gate the sit­u­a­tion as best we can – es­pe­cially when it comes to work. But it never hurts to be pre­pared. We’ve con­tacted the ex­perts to find out what your rights are, how to ap­ply for paid-parental leave, and what to do if you de­cide not to go back to work – or to ne­go­ti­ate more flex­i­ble work­ing hours. Q How and when should I tell work I’m preg­nant? And what re­spon­si­bil­i­ties do they have to me be­fore I go on parental leave? A “There is no le­gal obli­ga­tion to tell your em­ployer when you find out you are preg­nant,” says Jessie Lapthorne, a part­ner at le­gal firm Dun­can Cot­ter­ill, who is cur­rently on parental leave with her third child. “You have an obli­ga­tion to give three-months no­tice if you want to take parental leave, set­ting out the date you want your leave to start and the du­ra­tion of the leave. “That said, as a mat­ter of cour­tesy and in keep­ing with the duty of good faith, it’s prob­a­bly best to let them know as soon as you are com­fort­able do­ing so, so that they can be­gin to think about how to cover your ab­sence. It’s com­pletely up to the in­di­vid­ual, but I pre­ferred to tell them be­fore it be­came ob­vi­ous and they guessed!” Lapthorne says that once you’ve told work you’re preg­nant, you can take ad­van­tage of 10 days ‘spe­cial leave’ for ap­point­ments and other is­sues re­lated to preg­nancy. Just be aware that this is tech­ni­cally un­paid. If you’re hav­ing fer­til­ity treat­ment, you might want to let your man­ager know so you can take ad­van­tage of this – but ask them to keep it quiet. Once you go on ma­ter­nity leave, you will be en­ti­tled to weekly pay­ments, al­though not the same as your salary. “Paid Parental Leave is paid by the Govern­ment. The amount is based on an em­ployee’s earn­ings and is the greater of the em­ployee’s ‘or­di­nary weekly pay’ or ‘av­er­age weekly earn­ings’ up to a max­i­mum of $538.55 (gross),” says Lapthorne, who also notes that while you are on leave, you should still be con­sid­ered for pay re­views and pro­mo­tions that would have been on the cards while you were in the of­fice. “You should not be treated any dif­fer­ently to other em­ploy­ees as a re­sult of be­ing on parental leave. This could amount to dis­crim­i­na­tion.” In ad­di­tion, your em­ployer usu­ally has to keep your role open and al­low you to take time off for ma­ter­nity leave. “In most cases, the em­ployer is obliged to keep your job open for the du­ra­tion of your parental leave. There are a cou­ple of ex­cep­tions, such as when you are em­ployed in such a key po­si­tion that tem­po­rary cover would not be prac­ti­ca­ble or if a re­dun­dancy sit­u­a­tion arises, mean­ing that your role would no longer ex­ist,” says Lapthorne. “You can be made re­dun­dant when on ma­ter­nity leave, but there is a higher obli­ga­tion on the em­ployer when the re­dun­dancy con­cerns some­one on parental leave.” The onus is on your em­ployer to show that the se­lec­tion process has been fair. Q How do I claim parental leave pay­ments? A “Paid Parental Leave (PPL) is avail­able to em­ploy­ees who are ex­pect­ing a baby or will be the pri­mary carer of a child aged younger than six years,” says An­drew Hub­bard, Deputy Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Ci­ti­zen’s Ad­vice Bureau New Zealand. This in­cludes adop­tion, or tak­ing care of a fam­ily mem­ber’s child. There are con­di­tions. “You should have been em­ployed for an av­er­age of at least 10 hours per week, for any 26 weeks within the 52-week pe­riod im­me­di­ately be­fore the ex­pected due date of the child (or the first date that they be­come the child’s pri­mary carer) – as of April 2016, you have to have worked for the same em­ployer over this pe­riod of time and you don’t have to be work­ing at the time you ap­ply for pay­ments.” You can trans­fer your parental leave, and govern­ment pay­ments, to an­other carer, but they also need to meet the con­di­tions to be el­i­gi­ble. The mother also needs to be el­i­gi­ble. If you are not work­ing and don’t qual­ify, your part­ner can­not ap­ply in­stead. To ap­ply, you need to fill out a PPL ap­pli­ca­tion form – also known as form IR 880 – pro­vid­ing your IRD num­ber, in­come de­tails, bank ac­count de­tails and proof you have care of the child (if it’s a trans­fer-of-care sit­u­a­tion). Your em­ployer then needs to fill out the dec­la­ra­tion to say your in­come de­tails are true, and once com­plete you can post it to the ad­dress pro­vided. The form can be down­loaded from the IRD web­site. Q What if I’m self-em­ployed? A “I’m not re­ally sure how it is for peo­ple with a ‘real job’. All I know is that I have to earn above a cer­tain amount in the six-months lead­ing up to my ma­ter­nity leave to be able to claim,” says ac­tor and di­rec­tor

Miriama Mcdow­ell, who gave birth to her sec­ond daugh­ter Hero in De­cem­ber 2017. “As a self-em­ployed per­son, that in­come may not al­ways re­flect your an­nual in­come – some­times I earn more in a day than I do in 10 weeks so I def­i­nitely felt the pres­sure with both my ba­bies to be earn­ing steadily up un­til their births.” This could be prob­lem­atic if you have a very phys­i­cal job, or if your pre-natal health is of con­cern. Make sure that you are real­is­tic with work ex­pec­ta­tions. “Be­ing an ac­tress you have to pull out of gigs lead­ing up to the birth. I need to have a cer­tain amount of phys­i­cal fit­ness and dex­ter­ity to be an ac­tor on stage, and I also need to look a cer­tain way, de­pend­ing on the char­ac­ter I’m playing,” says Mcdow­ell. “This time around I pulled out of about four months of work lead­ing up to the birth, and the first time I had to pull out of three dif­fer­ent gigs in the lead up. That had a huge im­pact on my an­nual earn­ings, even be­fore tak­ing ma­ter­nity leave.” Q Can work con­tact me while I’m on ma­ter­nity leave, and when do I have to go back? A “You de­ter­mine how much leave you want to take,” says Lapthorne. “You can re­turn to work at the end of your leave pe­riod, or ear­lier. If you de­cide you want to re­turn ear­lier than you orig­i­nally in­di­cated, then you just have to give 21-days no­tice.” While paid leave ends af­ter 18 weeks, you are en­ti­tled to 52-weeks in to­tal – but the re­main­der will be un­paid. Dur­ing this time, work re­ally shouldn’t bother you. If you have a se­nior role, you might find it use­ful to still be on mail­ing lists or sent meet­ing min­utes, and oc­ca­sion­ally your cover per­son, some­one from your team or your boss, might need your ad­vice. If you feel con­tact with work is in­ter­fer­ing with your role as a mum, you might need to speak to HR about set­ting bound­aries. When the time comes to re­turn to work, you may not feel you want to re­turn to a full-time role, or you may feel that you need some flex­i­bil­ity. “You have the right to make a flex­i­ble work­ing re­quest, ask­ing to change your hours of work, days of work or work lo­ca­tion and your em­ployer has an obli­ga­tion to con­sider this and re­spond to you within a set time­frame, con­firm­ing whether or not your re­quest can be ac­com­mo­dated,” says Lapthorne. “Em­ploy­ers can only refuse your re­quest on spe­cific grounds (listed in the Em­ploy­ment Re­la­tions Act 2000), and they have to tell you, and ex­plain, which ground their re­fusal is based on.” Af­ter dis­cussing ar­range­ments for re­turn­ing to work with your em­ployer and your part­ner, you may find that you would pre­fer to stay at home longer. “If you don’t want to come back, the no­tice re­quire­ment is 21-days prior to the date you in­di­cated that you would re­turn,” says Lapthorne. “There is no obli­ga­tion to pay back Paid Parental Leave pay­ments re­ceived from the Govern­ment if you do not re­turn to work.” At this point your em­ployer may no longer be able to

hold your job open. How­ever, if you just need an ex­tra cou­ple of months due to health or child­care is­sues, speak with your em­ployer and see what can be done. If you are val­ued, they will try and sup­port your re­turn to work on mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial terms. Q Does ma­ter­nity leave hold women back? Al­though the rights of preg­nant women are en­shrined in law, not all em­ploy­ers are cre­ated equal in the un­der­stand­ing stakes. When Emily Writes, now Spinoff Par­ent­ing Edi­tor and author, first found out she was preg­nant six years ago, the sup­port she re­ceived was down to the per­son­al­ity of her man­ager, rather than the cul­ture of the or­gan­i­sa­tion she worked for as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­vi­sor. “I had only started the job a year be­fore and al­though I had a lovely man­ager who was happy and sup­port­ive, I felt it was frowned upon be­cause I hadn’t been there that long. “I went back to work af­ter 14-weeks as I’m the main in­come earner. My part­ner, a gar­dener, took on the role of full-time dad,” says Emily. “But I felt ex­pected to act like I didn’t have chil­dren, to still per­form 50 to 60 hour weeks and travel, and I was made to feel if I didn’t oblige then my job would be at risk. “I sup­ported and cam­paigned for the in­crease to 26-weeks parental leave, but even more im­por­tant than that is flex­i­bil­ity,” says Emily, who was able to ne­go­ti­ate with her man­ager a parthome work­ing ar­range­ment af­ter baby num­ber two. “Flex­i­bil­ity is es­sen­tial. We should have fair work­ing con­di­tions for all our lives, such as if you’re car­ing for an el­derly par­ent – if you’re a com­mit­ted em­ployee, then you’re com­mit­ted.” Jessie Lapthorne says that even if your em­ployer is sup­port­ive, the gender pay gap is real and part of the set-up of busi­nesses. “To give an ex­am­ple of how ma­ter­nity leave can widen the pay gap: con­sider the sce­nario where Bob and Mary are equal per­form­ers and paid the same rate at age 30,” says Lapthorne. “Both con­sis­tently achieve their tar­gets year af­ter year and nor­mally re­ceive a ‘per­for­mance met’ stan­dard pay rise of $5K each year. Then dur­ing her 30s, Mary takes 3 pe­ri­ods of ma­ter­nity leave, mean­ing that in those 3 years off, she didn’t meet her tar­gets.” Lapthorne says that even if Mary re­ceived a $2K pay in­crease for those years, to cover in­fla­tion etc., she’s still fallen be­hind her male coun­ter­part, to the tune of $9K, as a di­rect re­sult of tak­ing leave – as­sum­ing her per­for­mance would have re­mained con­sis­tent. “Throw in the fact that she also has to con­tend with get­ting back up to speed when she re­turns to work and strug­gle through the joys of preg­nancy and the pic­ture is pretty ugly.” The stay-at-home dad Bren­dan Miller used to be a peo­ple man­ager, but de­cided to stay at home and man­age his two daugh­ters. “My part­ner Deon is a lawyer. We didn’t plan for me to be­come a stay-at-home dad – I just de­cided that dur­ing that time I wanted to be a more ac­tive and in­volved par­ent. “We took a to­tal of 52 weeks off be­tween us. Deon took eight months and I took four. I gave my em­ployer four months no­tice, but I did feel they only gave me the time off be­cause they legally had to. I knew I was en­ti­tled to it, and I went into the con­ver­sa­tion in­formed.” When Char­lotte was born, Bren­dan had just taken on a more chal­leng­ing role. “I was trav­el­ling a lot, away from home, and I was miss­ing a lot. We were pay­ing a nanny most of what I earned; we ba­si­cally had some­one else bring­ing up our child.” Bren­dan feels there is an ex­pec­ta­tion that the fe­male will be the pri­mary carer. “It’s only re­ally just start­ing to change. In my pre­vi­ous role, I was man­ag­ing 90 per cent women and there was an un­der­stand­ing that most of them would go on ma­ter­nity leave at some point. That made my life eas­ier too, they were a for­ward­think­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

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