Parents of premature babies to receive more PPL entitlements

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The Government agreed last week to make changes to proposed paid parental leave (PPL) legislation – but only for the parents of babies born prematurely.

It was also reported that there would be no changes to assistance for parents of multiple birth babies, although the ACT party was attempting to negotiate changes to this as well as assistance for parents of children with disabilities.

The Bill for the new legislation is yet to have its first reading in Parliament, but will make some extensions to the existing PPL scheme for casual and seasonal workers when it comes into effect.

ACT leader David Seymour said that talks with Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse had led to an agreement that parents of pre-term babies would receive increased assistance.

This would come in the form of additional weekly payments for each week the baby was born prior to the 37-week gestation period.

Seymour added that both parties agreed that parents of multiple birth babies and children with disabilities already received other forms of special assistance.

The Employment Standards Legislation Bill – which is due to come into effect in April next year – will make the following changes to PPL in New Zealand:
  • Eligibility to claim PPL will be extended to those with “non-standard” working arrangements, such as casual and seasonal workers.
  • The term “maternity leave” will be replaced with “primary carer leave”. This will extend entitlements to anyone who assumes primary responsibility for the care of a child under the age of six. It will also mean that claimants will not have had to undergone the formal adoption process to be eligible for PPL.
  • Currently, employees are eligible for parental leave if they have worked an average of at least 10 hours a week in the six or 12 months immediately before the baby’s due date, or the date they assume responsibility for the child.
Under the new bill, extended leave of 26 weeks will be available to employees who meet the six month criteria, where previously they would not be entitled to any extended leave.
  • The bill proposes allowing employees to work and receive pay for up to 40 hours a week during a period of PPL, without being treated as having returned to work.
If agreed upon by both the employer and the employee, a “keeping-in-touch day” will be available for use, as long as 28 days have passed since the birth of the child.
  • Workers who have a child but are not the primary care giver will be entitled to request a period of leave, which employers will be obligated to consider but are not required to consent to.
  • The penalty for misleading – or attempting to mislead – officials in relation to PPL will rise from $5,000 to $15,000.

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