Paid Parental Leave Australia
Isn’t it awesome that it’s no longer called maternity leave?
In Australia, we are fortunate to have reasonably good laws around parental leave, although this has only been a relatively recent development.
The primary carer of a new baby, including when one is adopted, has certain entitlements around leave. They are allowed to take unpaid leave from their employment without their job being affected. They are also entitled to paid parental leave from the government.
There are obviously some conditions and restrictions around all of this; we will go into a bit more detail below.
Government Paid Parental Leave
The current parental leave pay from the Australian government is available to the primary carer of a newborn or newly adopted child, provided they meet the following conditions:
· Meet resident rules
· Individually earned less than $150,000 in the last financial year
· Be on leave or not working whilst receiving Parental Leave Pay
· Have done enough work in the 13 months before to meet the work test
This is available to the birth mother of a newborn child, the adoptive parent of a child, or another person caring for a child under exceptional circumstances. The partner of the child’s birth mother or adoptive parent is also able to take this payment if that person transfers their Parental Leave Pay and care of the child over.
So, it doesn’t have to be the mother who stays home and receives the entitlement; she may go back to work and the family can still receive the payment while her partner stays home.
It is also available under some conditions to the birth mother who no longer has the care of the child due to adoption or surrogacy, and to an adoptive parent. This can include when you’ve had a child placed in your care through a formal foster arrangement with a view to adopting the child.
Additionally, if you’re not eligible for Parental Leave Pay, you may still be eligible for Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement. In the case of stillbirth or the death of a child, you may be able to get either Parental Leave Pay or Stillborn Baby Payment.
The pay is equivalent to a full-time minimum wage for up to 18 weeks.
As well as this payment, your partner may also be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay for up to 2 weeks. This allows both of you to be home together and look after each other with pay entitlements for two weeks.
The Work Test
The conditions of the work test are kind of broad, so it might be best to check these out in detail to see if you are eligible.
However, in a nutshell, if you worked at least one day a week for ten of the 13 months prior to your baby’s birth you may be entitled to the government parental pay. This includes full-time people as well as part-time, casual and contract, and also can include self-employed people, even if they generate no income.
Leave with your employer
In Australia, you are able to take leave from an ongoing role to look after your baby without it affecting your job. In most cases, your job should be held for you to return to as you left it.
Legally, you are entitled to take up to 12 months plus you can request another 12 months, unpaid, but still have your job held for you when you get back.
Your employer isn’t required to give you paid parental leave, although many (awesome) employers will.
If you have a contract with your employer for paid parental leave, you may still be entitled to the government parental leave pay outlined above as well.
Conditions of unpaid leave
Again, there are conditions around this. You need to have been with that employer for 12 months and worked relatively constantly throughout that period.
The leave can be taken if you are the primary carer, so whether you are the father or the mother, and also applies for adoption as well as birth parents.
For more specifics around what you are entitled to, see the Fair Work Ombudsman website here.
Returning to Work
Under the Fair Work Act, employees who have responsibility for the care of a child and are returning to work after taking leave in relation to the birth of the child may request to work part-time to assist the employee to care for the child.
You must make your request for flexibility in writing and your employer must respond to the request in writing within 21 days. A request can be refused by your employer on ‘reasonable business grounds’ which may include (but is not limited to) considerations such as that:
The proposed arrangements would be too costly
There is no capacity to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate the proposed arrangements
It would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees or recruit new employees to accommodate the proposed arrangements
The proposed arrangements would be likely to result in a significant loss in efficiency or productivity
The proposed arrangements would be likely to have a significant negative impact on customer service.
‘Reasonable business grounds’ will vary from business to business and take into account the size of the organisation.
So legally, you can ask for a flexible arrangement, and unless they have excellent grounds for not doing so, your employer needs to offer you one.
But technically, your employer does not have to give adjusted hours or conditions, if their business won’t be able to support it. Or alternatively, they may offer you a flexible arrangement which doesn’t really work for you.
Possible flexible work arrangements include:
· Returning to your same job, but with fewer hours (and hopefully a reduced role!)
· A shared job arrangement with another part-timer
· Some ability to work from home or after hours
· Returning to a different role with the same employer, that is better suited to part-time hours than your previous one.
Remember, this is general information. For specifics, you should check out the relevant websites or speak to Centrelink.