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Defence Force not eligible for paid parental leave

A loophole in New Zealand's paid parental leave system has left the Defence Force scrambling to make sure its personnel are not denied leave payments.

Defence is having to pay out its own parental leave after it was discovered members of the armed forces were not eligible to receive payments under the law.

Parental leave is normally paid by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MOBIE) through the Inland Revenue Department, but a problem emerged recently when some personnel had their applications declined by the ministry.

It was discovered the Paid Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act only referred to paid parental leave for "employees", but NZDF spokeswoman Ally Clelland said members of the armed forces "were not technically employees" but "service personnel".

Civilian employees were not affected.

The loophole was unintended and government agencies had resolved the issue so Defence Force personnel would continue to be able to access paid parental leave as they have done for the last ten years.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said he was pleased government agencies had responded quickly.

"The intention has always been, and always will be, for NZDF staff to be entitled to paid parental leave just like other employees.

"I am advised that no one will miss out or face a loss of payment despite this anomaly being discovered."

"The only difference is new Defence Force applicants for paid parental leave will have their payment processed through a Defence Force scheme."

Under New Zealand law, paid parental leave is available to female employees who give birth to a child, or to either parent where a couple has assumed the care of a child under six they intend to jointly adopt.

The Defence Force said the problem was picked up before anyone went on leave.

But a source, who did not wish to be named, said a number of women in the navy had been directly affected, and more were due to take leave in the coming month.

"For navy, there are at least three but that's just people I know of, and not sure for the other services. They discovered this about three weeks ago and still haven't done anything to help the ones directly affected right now.

"I know the legal department is working on it, but seems rather slow, especially for the ladies directly concerned."

As of November 21, 66 women and five men in the Defence Force were on parental leave.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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