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Parental Leave Policy

Category Human Resources
Type Policy
Approved by Vice-Chancellor's Advisory Group, 27 April 2009
Date Policy Took Effect 27 April 2009
Last Approved Revision 20 May 2015
Sponsor Director, Human Resources
Responsible Officer Manager Recruitment, Development and Equity
Review Date 20 May 2020

Purpose

The University recognises and celebrates the importance of whānau by providing a comprehensive and inclusive parental leave policy which aims to support all parents appropriately.

The parental leave policy is based on the principle of manaakitanga (generosity of spirit) and should be implemented in a way that:

  • normalises a positive approach to child birth and parenting, an acceptance that parents are an integral part of our society and working environment: a whānau approach;
  • supports all staff to achieve a satisfying and productive life/work balance;
  • bases all decision-making on the principles of equity, transparency and social justice;
  • is as flexible as possible, focussing on finding creative solutions that will work for individuals while at the same time safeguarding the interests of the department and the University;
  • minimises the impact of parenthood on career development and ensures that all staff regardless of their family circumstances have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential;
  • is culturally appropriate; and is inclusive and recognises changing social norms.

Organisational Scope

This policy applies to all staff employed at the University who have it referenced in their employment agreement.

Definitions

  • Mother: includes both birth mothers and adoptive mothers according to context.
  • Primary parent: the parent who takes primary responsibility for care giving in cases of adoption. The term is gender inclusive.
  • Partner: the term partner is gender inclusive and may apply to both men and women, who play a key support role, but are not the primary parent
  • Whāngai: adoption under Māori customary practice.
  • Family/whānau: The group or unit that the individual staff member identifies as “Family” and for whom they accept caring responsibilities.

Policy Content

1. Implementation date

This policy has been approved by the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Group and will apply to parents whose babies are born on or after 27 April 2009, and to those adopting children on or after that date.

2. Content

The legal entitlements to parental leave are contained within Parts I to V of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987. The terms of this policy reflect the minimum requirements, but are supplemented with additional entitlements.

3. Eligibility

All University staff covered by this policy are entitled to unpaid leave under the provisions of this policy. To be eligible for the paid parental leave provisions the staff member must have a contract that extends at least six months beyond the date they propose to return to work.

4. Maximum leave entitlement

Parental leave of up to 52 weeks may be granted, including any paid period agreed to by the University. The maximum period of parental leave may be taken by either the mother/primary parent exclusively or shared between the mother/primary parent and their partner. The two week paid leave entitlement for partners employed by the University is in addition to the 52 week total entitlement, but no individual may take more than 52 weeks in total.
Access to the University’s parental leave provisions does not affect the individual’s entitlements under the government’s paid parental leave provisions. For more information on this payment, and eligibility, click here.

5. Types of leave

(a) Special leave

An employee who is pregnant is entitled, before taking up Maternity Leave, to take a total of up to ten days special leave without pay for reasons connected with her pregnancy. This leave is also available to an employee intending to adopt.

(b) Maternity leave

Maternity Leave is unpaid leave of up to 14 weeks available to a woman over the time the baby is due, and may start up to six weeks before the due date.

(c) Adoption leave

Adoption leave, including whāngai, is unpaid leave of up to fourteen weeks over the time of an adoption. It is available to an adoptive parent who will be the primary parent during this period. Adoption leave may commence up to six weeks before care is first assumed.

(d) Extended leave

Extended leave is any other period of leave during the first 12 months after the birth or adoption. This leave can be taken by either partner, or shared, and can take the parental leave total to a maximum of 52 weeks.

(e) Partner’s paid leave

Partners of mothers/primary parents are entitled to take up to two weeks (ten days) of paid leave based on their pay rate and FTE applying immediately prior to their taking leave. This applies whether the birth mother/primary parent works for the University or not. Partner’s leave may be taken in a block, or in any configuration that suits the family and is agreed with the department. The entire entitlement must be taken within the allowed parental leave period (52 weeks).

(f) Paid leave for birth mother/primary parent

Only the birth mother/primary parent is entitled to a paid leave allowance of up to 12 weeks based on their normal pay rate and FTE applying prior to their taking leave. A temporary reduction of hours during the last few weeks of pregnancy does not affect this rate, and the paid leave may be taken at any time during the period of parental leave. The birth mother /primary parent can choose to share their entitlement with a partner who is also employed by the University if it is intended that both partners will take the major responsibility for caregiving at different times over the first 12 months following the birth or adoption. A staff member can only claim for the amount of paid leave that they have personally taken, the maximum being twelve weeks.

Where a staff member meets the terms and conditions they can if they so wish apply for the University’s Parental leave payment provision, as an ex-gratia payment, instead of paid leave as above.

An employee, who has taken parental leave, but chosen not to take the paid leave option, may on return to work qualify for a payment equivalent to the amount of leave taken (maximum 12 weeks), based on their normal pay rate and FTE applying prior to their taking leave. A temporary reduction of hours during the last few weeks of pregnancy does not affect this rate.

Application must be made within six months of an employee’s return to work. Approval of applications outside this timeframe and/or the terms and conditions will be at the discretion of the Director of Human Resources. Any ex-gratia payment approved will be paid after the employee has returned to work

6. Terms and conditions for ex-gratia payment and paid leave options

Application for either the Ex-Gratia payment or the Paid Leave alternative will require the employee’s written agreement to repay all monies paid under these provisions if the employee resigns or does not otherwise return to work and complete a further six months continuous service. The Director of Human Resources has the discretion to waive the requirement to repay the paid parental leave/ex-gratia payment on compassionate grounds, on written application from the individual. The application must have the approval of the relevant Head of Department, Manager or Dean.

Where the expiry date of a fixed-term agreement is less than six months from the return to work from parental leave, the employee will not in the first instance be eligible for any payment. However, if a further fixed term appointment is offered and accepted, application can then be made.

Any paid parental leave entitlements for research funded staff, which cannot be met within the research group, should be funded by the host Department, and supplemented if necessary by financial support from the Division or School (in Health Sciences).

An employee who is absent on paid Parental or Adoption leave for less than twelve weeks can receive payment only for the number of working days absent.

7. Job protection

While on Parental Leave an employee’s job must be kept open unless a redundancy situation occurs under a Management of Change process, or the job is a key position and a temporary replacement is not reasonably practicable. The employee’s job may be filled on a temporary basis.

8. Service entitlements

For the purpose of calculating leave entitlements, service while on parental leave is unbroken. Annual leave and sick leave will accrue while a staff member is on parental leave. Payment of such leave will be calculated based on their normal pay rate and FTE applying prior to their taking leave. Time on leave should not affect seniority or status including eligibility for consideration for promotion or progression.

9. Redundancy

The University is required to take into account the possible loss of paid parental leave when compiling the redundancy package for a pregnant staff member who has applied for parental leave and has, or would have had, the application approved, and to compensate the staff member accordingly.

10. Reduced hours prior to commencing leave

Birth mothers preparing to go on Parental Leave may wish to work reduced hours during the last few weeks of work before their intended departure, for reasons directly related to the pregnancy. This should be discussed and negotiated with the relevant HoD/Dean/Manager, and a Change of FTE/ Hours form completed.

11. Return to work

An employee absent on Parental Leave is required to give at least one month’s notice in writing of their intention to return to work.

Employees returning from a period of Parental Leave may wish to work reduced hours for a period or take up a part-time position within the University.

Departments are encouraged to take a sympathetic view of employees’ circumstances and have regard to the University’s policies on Equal Employment Opportunities and Flexible Working Arrangements when negotiating variations to normal working hours, either before the period of leave, or on return to work. The principles underlying the Parental Leave Policy should be borne in mind, and an agreement reached that protects the best interests of both the family and the department.

12. Employment while on parental leave

Staff are not permitted to work while on any form of paid parental leave (either from the Government or the University). However, staff on unpaid parental leave are allowed to undertake a restricted amount of work, and to be compensated for that work. Any such work should be initiated by the staff member and must not be confused with a graduated return to work. A person’s right to have their job protected in accordance with the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act will not be diminished by them undertaking part-time work during parental leave in accordance with this section.

Staff members should be protected from pressure to work while on unpaid leave. Divisional HR staff will be available to help both the staff member and the Department reach an agreement that protects the best interests of the family/whānau.

13. Re-employment within the University after absence due to childcare

Applications for re-employment from employees who have taken Parental Leave under the terms of this policy but resigned from the University to care for an under school age child or children will be given full consideration provided that the applicant has the necessary skills and qualifications to competently fill a vacancy which is available in the University.

Application under this provision must be made to an advertised vacancy within four years from the date of resignation, that is, prior to the fifth birthday of the child for whom the employee was the primary carer.

Where the above criteria are met and provided that the individual has primarily been involved with caring for their preschool aged children (that is, has not been in regular paid employment) then departments are encouraged to shortlist these applicants.

Application under this provision is at the discretion of the applicant. It is their duty to alert selection panels to their application under this provision; otherwise no concession will be made.

14. Flexibility and variations to policy

Under the current policy staff are encouraged to take up the various kinds of leave available under the umbrella of parental leave in a way that best suits the needs of the individual and their family/whānau. However, the leave plan must comply with both the University’s policy and current legislation. Negotiation with the HoD or appropriate manager should also take place in order to ensure that the best interests of the department are protected as far as possible. The aim is flexibility with responsibility.

Small or under resourced Departments which do not have the ability to offer any flexibility must be assisted by the Division or School (in Health Sciences) to provide flexible working options, either through financial support, or by sharing resources from elsewhere in the Division or School.

It is not possible to write a parental leave policy that will cover every eventuality. From time to time staff will require variations to the policy, and the Director of Human Resources has the discretion, under exceptional circumstances, to authorise variations to the parental leave policy.

Any application for variation to the policy should be made in writing to the Director of Human Resources, and, if appropriate, should be endorsed by the Head of Department, Manager or Dean.

15. Application for parental leave

(a) Notice of intention to take any type of leave under the Parental Leave policy: mothers, primary parents and partners

Notice of leave must be made in writing to the University on the Parental Leave Application Form, stating types of leave required, proposed dates of leave and whether leave is being shared with a partner. A certificate signed by a medical practitioner or midwife certifying the expected date of delivery must accompany the application. Notice of intention to take leave must be provided at least three months in advance.

(b) Notice of intention to take leave for Adoption/Whāngai

Notice of intention to take leave for adoptive parents must be made in writing to the University at/or around the time of acceptance as approved adoptive parents and must again be given as soon as it is confirmed that a child is available for adoption. Given that the period of time from notification of acceptance into an adoption programme to the time of adopting a child may be very long, the career path or opportunities of that staff member must not be adversely affected.

For the purpose of this policy, adoption is deemed to incorporate Whāngai (adoption under Māori customary practice). Where Whāngai takes place, supporting evidence including a reference or references from within the Māori community must accompany the application.

(c) Late Applications

Staff, who do not apply for leave within the required timeframe, and for whom unforeseen circumstances arise, may apply for Maternity/Partner’s Leave at short notice provided that supporting evidence accompanies the application.

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Parental Leave application forms and further information

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, please contact the Manager Recruitment, Development & Equity at denise.lindsay@otago.ac.nz or 03 479 5431.