Announcing you're going to be a parent is one of the loveliest revelations you can ever make.
Many people wait until they're 12 weeks pregnant before they share their news – but after that it's often shouted from the rooftops. So where does your boss fit into all of that?
Is there a right or best time to tell your employer? And once you do tell them, what can you expect to happen in terms of the way you're treated at work? What are your leave entitlements once the baby is born?
Head of People and Culture at media company Bauer NZ, Leianda Lakin, suggests telling your employer as soon as you feel comfortable.
"I know a lot of people wait until they've had their 12-week scan before informing their manager about their pregnancy and maybe that's the time to do it. I think the earlier you tell your manager the better and the reason I would recommend that is so your employer can show you some support and it will also give them plenty of time to organise cover and plan for your parental leave absence.
"At Bauer we've had a lot of people who've had dreadful morning sickness in those early few months and they've suffered in silence and haven't said anything. I think they would have got a sympathetic ear if they'd reached out and said 'hey I'm going through this'.
"We've even had people faint in the office and we haven't known what was wrong. From a health and safety point of view, the earlier you can tell your manager the better – and that would, of course, be in confidence."
Blurting it out in the lunch room or as you pass your boss in the hallway is not going to be ideal. Set up a five-minute meeting, Lakin suggests, and have an open and honest chat.
And then, to apply for parental leave you need to write to your employer at least three months prior to the baby's expected due date.
Pregnant employees are entitled to take up to 10 days unpaid special leave to cover time spent at medical appointments, antenatal classes, etc - and this doesn't have to be taken as a full day's leave.
You may also be able to use your paid annual leave and sick leave entitlement, but check with your manager first.
Asking for some flexibility in working hours, or reduced hours, shouldn't be ruled out either.
Sometimes we can have firm views about what hours we want to work once we're back at work, as well as when we want to return after having the baby. But Lakin cautions people against making hasty decisions:
"You don't always know how you're going to feel. I've had people who were adamant they'd only need three months' leave and then as the day nears, circumstances are different...
"So I think people should think very carefully about how much parental leave they want to take before they apply. It's a life-changing experience you're going through.
"If you would like to request some flexibility or reduced hours on your return to work, I would recommend you make a written request to your manager as soon as possible. That gives the employer plenty of time to plan for that and explore options.
"The more time you can give your employer, the better.
"In our business, we consider all requests carefully and if we can accommodate them we will. In the past we have been able to give employees reduced hours, job sharing opportunities and gradual return to full time hours."
You may decide not to return to work at all – but whether you intend going back or not, you are required under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Act 2002 to give your employer at least 21 days' written notice before the date on which your parental leave ends, stating whether or not you will be returning to work at the end of your parental leave.
In April 2016 a number of changes were made to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act, making the parameters around eligibility more flexible. To qualify for paid parental leave:
• You need to have been employed for six months prior to the expected birth date of your baby, for an average of at least 10 hours per week. Your entitlement is to up to 26 weeks of leave – 18 weeks paid parental (a max of $538.55 per week) plus eight weeks extended unpaid leave.
• You need to have been employed for 12 months prior to the expected birth date of your baby, for an average of 10 hours per week. You're entitled to up to 52 weeks leave – 18 weeks paid parental plus 34 weeks extended, unpaid.
• Maternity or paternity leave is now called primary care leave. It has always been available to the mother or able to be transferred to her spouse but now it's also available to adoptive parents.
• The other big change is that Keeping in touch (KIT) days have been introduced, meaning that a new parent can be paid for up to 40 hours' work within the 18-week paid parental leave period (as long as it's not within the first 28 days after the baby is born).
The last thing you need to know is that you can expect to return to your former role or a substantially similar position, on the same terms and conditions.
If, during your parental leave absence, the business is restructuring or proposing to disestablish your position, your employer is duty-bound to consult with you about the proposed changes and give you the chance to give your input and feedback on the proposal before they make a final decision.
If, after consultation, your role was disestablished and redeployment to another role was not available, your employment may end by reason of redundancy. If redundancy compensation is provided for in your employment agreement, then you would be entitled to be paid this.
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