NZ Human Rights Commission - Accessible HTML Document

Your rights as a pregnant worker

What is pregnancy discrimination? Do I get paid leave from work?

The law

Pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination under the Human Rights Act. It may be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or a job applicant because she is pregnant or because it is assumed she may become pregnant in the future.

Discrimination can occur when:

Employers are NOT allowed to ask potential employees if they are pregnant, or if they plan to have a family or get pregnant in the future.

“I had been working full-time for a restaurant/bar for over a year when I became pregnant. After being off sick for a few days, I checked the roster and saw I had only one eight-hour shift per week. They told me I was now working part-time, without giving me any warning. They said it was because my pregnancy was making me ill and it wasn’t ‘a good look’ having a pregnant woman behind the bar.”

You may have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy if you are:

Preferential treatment

The Human Rights Act says it is lawful to treat you more favourably because you are pregnant. For example, you may be offered flexible working hours or a designated car park during some of your pregnancy.

Parental leave

If you are expecting or adopting a baby and your employment meets the eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to paid and job-protected parental leave. Spouses and partners are also eligible for parental leave.

Paid parental leave

If you have worked for the same employer for six months or more and meet the eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to up to 14 weeks’ paid parental leave. You are entitled to your weekly earnings up to a set maximum rate.

Extended unpaid leave

If you have worked for the same employer for 12 months or more and meet the continuous work eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to up to 52 weeks’ unpaid leave.

What is unpaid leave?

Unpaid leave means your job must be held open for you until you return to work, or an equivalent position provided. Not holding a job open for an employee during parental leave may be unlawful pregnancy discrimination.

Exceptions to this are when the employer is unable to keep the job open because it is a key position in the organisation.

Special leave

You may be entitled to take up to 10 days special leave without pay for reasons related to your pregnancy.

For more information about parental leave, contact the Department of Labour: free phone 0800 20 90 20 or visit

“My boss asked if I would accept an upcoming promotion. We discussed the new role and set some performance goals. Later in the year I became pregnant and a colleague was appointed to the position. When I asked why, I was told it was because I was pregnant and would probably be leaving anyway.”

What you can do about discrimination

If you think you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy:

Disclaimer: While we have tried to make this iformation as accurate as possible, it should not be regarded as legal advice.

Human Rights Commission October 2010