Under New Zealand law, an employer is required to allow an employee to take leave if they are a part of the armed forces in certain circumstances. This includes when a person undertakes:

  • Full time or part time voluntary training or service in the armed forces; and/or
  • Active operational service in the armed forces if they are called up or volunteer in a ‘situation of national interest’, war or emergency.

Employers must hold an employee’s job open and protect their entitlements, but do not have to pay employees for any period while that person is on leave. The employment is treated as continuous while the employee is on ‘leave without pay’ for training or service. There are limited circumstances where an employer can end the employment relationship while the employee is away from the work place.

An employer cannot discriminate against the employee and/or end the employee’s employment because they take, have taken, are entitled, or may become entitled to take volunteer’s leave or the person is or has been a member of the reserve forces or territorials. 

Where an employee intends to take volunteer’s leave for training or service, he or she must notify the employer more than 14 days in advance. If an employee fails to provide the required amount of notice, his or her employment does not have the special protections of volunteer’s leave. It is important to note that the notice requirements differ in ‘situations of national interest’, war or emergency.

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