On 14 November 2022, Contact Energy announced a comprehensive parental leave policy. The ‘Growing your whanau’ policy (“the Policy”) is aimed at providing primary carers with the support and flexibility required before a child arrives and when making the transition back to work.
In this article, we explore how the Policy differs to the minimum parental leave entitlements offered by legislation. We also look at other leading policies in this space, and the benefits of creating or updating your organisation’s parental leave policy.
What does the ‘Growing your whānau’ Policy include?
- 26 weeks salary top up for primary carers
- Employer KiwiSaver contributions of 3% while on parental leave
- 6 months flexible working for Primary Carers (employees can choose to work 80% of their normal weekly hours and still receive 100% of their normal weekly pay for the first 6 months)
- Childcare koha of $5,000 (before tax) as a contribution towards childcare for all primary carers
- Annual leave accrued at normal rate
- 10 days additional paid leave for primary carers –
- Pregnant employees will receive 10 days’ paid special leave to attend pregnancy-related appointments
- Paid partner’s leave for 4 weeks (which can be taken over 13 months)
- A ‘Fourth Trimester’ – 3 months free power for all Contact employees with a new-born
- Wellbeing support through Contact’s nominated employee assistance programme provider
- Delivery of pre-prepared meals on the arrival of baby through Angel Delivery
Who can access the Policy?
Anyone who is a primary caregiver can benefit from Contact Energy’s new policy. A primary caregiver is anyone who takes up the primary responsibility of a child under the age of 6 years; this could be a mum, dad, grandparent, or guardian. This definition is the same under our parental leave legislation.
Under the Policy, an employee whose partner is having a child or becoming the primary caregiver of a child will also be entitled to 4 weeks of paid partner’s leave.
How does the new parental leave policy differ from the minimum statutory entitlements?
Information on minimum rights and obligations is found in the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 (“the Act”).
The key differences between the Growing your whānau Policy and minimum entitlements are:
|An eligible primary caregiver is entitled to receive a parental leave payments up to the current maximum rate of $661.12 per week.
|The Policy entitles employees to a salary top-up to their full salary for up to 26 weeks of their parental leave.
|Pregnant employees are entitled to take up to 10 days’ special leave without pay for reasons related to the pregnancy.
|Pregnant employees who are pregnant are entitled to the 10 days’ paid special leave.
|Employees who are the partner of a primary carer are entitled to up to 2 weeks’ unpaid partner’s leave.
|Employees whose partners have just had a baby are entitled to 4 weeks’ paid leave.
|Employer Kiwisaver contributions
|Employers are not obligated to contribute towards an employee’s KiwiSaver while on parental leave.
|Employees can continue receiving an employer KiwiSaver contribution of 3% while on parental leave.
Parental leave benefits offered by other organisations
Out of the 45% of organisations in New Zealand that currently offer entitlements over and above the minimum statutory entitlements, 60% of those are large businesses.
While Contact Energy is the latest employer to announce its parental leave perks, other employers in New Zealand have adopted parental leave policies offering above minimum standards include:
- DLA Piper (which tops up government paid allowance for primary carers to their full salary for 26 weeks and recognises different family dynamics and the fact that a primary carer is not limited to a biological mother); and
- Z Energy (contributing 5% towards KiwiSaver for all employees on parental leave for their entire parental leave period.).
While cost and resourcing may initially be a barrier to more organisations offering additional parental leave benefits, both employers and employees stand to gain a lot of benefits in doing so.
Why should other employers consider taking a similar approach?
The most significant benefit that businesses stand to gain in offering additional parental leave benefits is the attraction and retention of staff. In today’s tight labour market, a good employer who is reasonably accommodating of a work-life balance and recognises an individual’s life outside of work is more likely to draw in employees.
Adopting a generous parental leave scheme is also likely to decrease the stress associated with the juggle of family and work life and increase productivity, which goes towards the organisation’s economic and cultural success. International research also demonstrates that a balanced parental policy (one that allows all genders to access the ‘primary carer’ benefits) helps to reduce the gender pay gap.
Get in touch with the team at Black Door Law for tailored advice on parental leave related issues.
Disclaimer: This information is intended as general legal information and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a specific issue and wish to discuss it get in contact with the Black Door Law team