Remove Annual Leave rate penalties for parents returning from Parental Leave in NZ

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"Under New Zealand employment law, employees are entitled to take time off work for holidays (annual leave) and also to take time off work to care for a baby (parental leave).

Where an employee becomes entitled to any annual leave during a period of parental leave under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, holiday pay for annual leave they take in the 12 months after they return to work is calculated and paid as average weekly earnings only.

There is no requirement to bring this amount up to the value of ordinary weekly pay when the leave is actually taken."

What this means for the majority of parents, a majority of whom are women, returning to the workforce, is that their annual leave is paid out at a severely reduced rate, not returning to the employees standard pay rate until they have been back at work for 12 months. 

Even if you only take the minimum amount of time available under the governments Paid Parental Leave Scheme, where your employer typically pays you nothing unless you're lucky enough to have another arrangement in your contract, on your return to work any leave taken will invariably be of a lesser value, in most cases, below New Zealand minimum wage.

It is at the employers discretion whether they decide to continue paying leave at the standard rate and with it being perfectly legal to pay less, unless the employee has the advantage of the weight of a union behind them, they're not likely to bother. In most employment disagreements you would be protected against unfair unethical or discriminatory practices however; right now this is totally legal however disadvantaged it can leave new parents.

Any parent male or female, returning to work with a young child to care for, faces heightened expenses, stress and chance of illness that a tiny 5 days a year of sick leave are unlikely to cover, especially with most daycare centres enforcing 48hr stand downs for incidents of sickness. Imagine returning to work, often unable to afford to do otherwise, and finding that on top of everything else, your annual leave has essentially become redundant for the first 12 months when you probably need it the most.

Some businesses have shut down periods over Christmas, so if you're unfortunate enough to retun after January, you can look forward to extra financial stress through one of the most expensive times of the year too. 

Many mothers hope to continue to breastfeed their baby and use their breaks or take unpaid breaks, typically extending their working hours, to be able to pump at work. They are using up to 30% more energy than those around them and along with the mental strain of sleep deprivation, they face a much higher chance of burning out at work. Even a few days break would make all the difference to their performance and mental health, yet how can they justify being paid sometimes less than half their normal pay for that leave?

I would like to ask for your support in petitioning our Government and relevant agencies to remove this unfair arrangement so that on return to work, new parents are treated fairly and as valued employees rather than facing disadvantage and discrimination. I would not expect this to extend to those who choose not to return to their place of employment prior to going on leave as this would disadvantage the employer and is likely what the policy exists for in the first place. 

Help me take a stand for working parents and women in New Zealand. Help support us to realise our value and insist that our employers do the same.