How does the law support you to balance work and whānau?

Work-life balance. For some it’s the holy grail to strive for, for others an unattainable myth. One thing’s undeniable: there’s more to life than work. From time with family, to participation in community activities, voluntary work, personal development, leisure and recreation.

For carers and parents, who have a double juggle, it’s even more important that work is one part of a balanced life, rather than something that crowds out the other things that matter.

Global Women encourages our partner organisations and all employers to be inclusive, supporting their diverse employees through flexible working practices. Aside from benefits offered by individual employers, there are a number of ways that the law supports you to balance work and whānau.

The right to request flexible working

In New Zealand, all employees can ask at any time to change their hours of work (over a day, a week or year), days of work, and place of work. Employment New Zealand provides a useful guide on how to do this here.


The right to parental leave

When looking at parental leave and parental leave payments, it makes sense to talk about the two issues separately:

  • Taking parental leave from your job (which is about your rights in relation to your current employer)
    • Parents can use primary carer leave plus extended leave to a combined total of up to 52 weeks. E.g. 18 weeks’ primary carer leave, plus 34 weeks’ extended leave.
    • If you are taking more than four weeks’ parental leave, your employer must keep your job open for you unless your job is defined as a key position or there is a redundancy situation.


  • Getting parental leave payments (which are from the government). To qualify for payments you must have worked as an employee – whether for one employer or several different employers – for an average of 10 hours a week in any 26 of the last 52 weeks
    • Paid primary-carer leave will increase from 18 to 22 weeks effective 1 July 2018, with an increase to 26 weeks from July 1, 2020.


For up to date information about employees’ eligibility for parental leave, visit Employment New Zealand.