During uncertain times, employees who are on parental leave may face financial difficulty and want to return to work earlier than planned.
In response, employers need to act in good faith and be as flexible as possible, to make sure that an employee’s early return benefits both parties. While an employee is on parental leave and may be receiving parental leave payments, it is important to specify whether the employee’s return to work is temporary or permanent.
Returning to work temporarily
Keeping in touch
If the employer agrees, an employee can go back to paid work on occasional days, for example, to attend a team day or change announcement while they are on parental leave. These are called 'keeping in touch' days, to help employees stay connected with their employer. However, an employee:
can only do a total of 64 hours or less of paid work during their parental leave payment period, and
cannot work within the first 28 days after their child is born.
If these two conditions are not met, the employee is considered back at work permanently and will lose their parental leave payments. Any payments received after they’ve been considered back at work are treated as an overpayment, which needs to be paid back to Inland Revenue.
Temporary return to work during COVID-19
During COVID-19, there have been temporary changes made to the parental leave law, which allows some workers to go back to work temporarily without losing their remaining entitlement to parental leave, and its associated payments and protections.
To be eligible for this temporary return to work, the employee must be a 'COVID-19 response worker' – this means that for reasons related to the COVID-19 outbreak, there is unusually high demand for workers in their role, or their skills, experience or qualifications mean that nobody else can fill their role. Eligible employees can return to work for up to 12 weeks, and then go back on parental leave.
Returning to work permanently
Generally, employees on parental leave can only go back to work early if employers agree. In some cases, an employee may be able to return early without their employer’s agreement if:
they or their spouse or partner are no longer the primary carer of the child, or
the child is miscarried, stillborn or dies.
Regardless, the employee would need to write to their employer at least 21 days before the date they want to return to work.
Courtesy: Employment NZ