Paid Parental Leave – what’s new from July 2011
If you are eligible for the Paid Parental Leave scheme, make sure that you talk with your employer about your leave intentions, so that you have a smooth transition from work to receiving the Government’s Parental Leave Pay.
Start the conversation early
To communicate your needs and expectations, your discussion may need to cover:
• What leave is available
• When to start your leave and when to return to work
• How you expect to manage your return to work
• What your post-leave role might involve
Unpaid parental leave entitlements
The National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act 2009 provide minimum workplace entitlements, including up to 12 months unpaid parental leave associated with the birth or adoption of a child for employees who have been with their employer for at least 12 months.
• This leave must be taken in a single continuous period.
• Employees may take other kinds of paid leave at the same time as unpaid parental leave, such as annual or long service leave, as well as employer-provided paid parental leave.
• A request for unpaid parental leave must be made in writing to your employer at least ten weeks before the intended start of the leave, specifying the intended start and end dates.
The minimum entitlements in the National Employment Standards may be supplemented by award, agreement or workplace contract entitlements.
The Paid Parental Leave scheme does not provide an entitlement to leave. However, you can combine Parental Leave Pay with employer-provided leave entitlements such as annual leave, long service leave and existing employer-provided paid or unpaid parental leave schemes.
Right to request flexible working arrangements
The National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act 2009 includes the right for eligible employees to request flexible working arrangements, such as part-time work or flexible working hours, until their child reaches school age. Eligible employees with disabled children under 18 years can also request flexible working arrangements.
Employers will only be able to refuse the request on reasonable business grounds.
‘Keeping in touch’ with your workplace
If you return to work before the end of your Paid Parental Leave period, your Parental Leave Pay will stop. Under the Paid Parental Leave scheme you have the option, if you and your employer agree, to Keep in Touch with your workplace without losing your entitlement to Parental Leave Pay. Activities could include, but would not be limited to such things as attending a planning meeting or a training course.
• You can participate in workplace activities for up to 10 Keeping in Touch days from the time you become the primary carer of your child until the end of your Paid Parental Leave period, although this cannot occur within the first two weeks of the birth of your child.
• You must be paid your usual wages or salary in addition to your Parental Leave Pay for the time you attend work.
• Keeping in Touch days do not extend your Paid Parental Leave period.
The Australian Government is planning to introduce amendments in Parliament to the Fair Work Act 2009, to ensure that accessing a Keeping in Touch day does not affect an entitlement to the minimum standard of 12 months unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards.
Until this amendment has been passed in Parliament, employees who are eligible for the Paid Parental Leave scheme and who are accessing unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards, are advised not to access a Keeping in Touch day if they are unsure how this will affect their entitlement to unpaid parental leave.
If you are self-employed, you will be able to keep an eye on your business without being regarded as having returned to work. You will be able to oversee the business’ operations, and perform the occasional administrative task.
Returning to work
Before your leave ends, you should arrange to meet your employer to discuss your return to work arrangements, such as your role, hours, and flexible working arrangements.
Where to go for more information
You can lodge your claim for the Paid Parental Leave scheme up to three months before the expected date of birth or adoption of your child. For more information about the Paid Parental Leave scheme including eligibility and how to claim, visit www.familyassist.gov.au or call 13 6150.
For more information about workplace entitlements, the National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination or workplace best practice go to www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Info line on 13 1394.