Family Friendly Arrangements in the Fair Work Amendment Bill

Posted on 18 April 2013

In our previous blog on the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 (the Bill) we discussed how the new legislation had been introduced into Parliament with the intention of curbing workplace bullying. In today's blog, we explore the Bill further and review the new laws specifically constructed to try and help parents balance family and work commitments as well as provide pregnant employees with safer working conditions.

Concurrent unpaid leave
At present concurrent leave can only be taken by an employee at the time of the birth or placement of a child. The Government's proposed changes attempt to provide greater flexibility for parents in responding to the caring needs of their new child and better align with Dad and Partner Pay, which can be accessed at any time during the first 12 months after the birth of a child.

The new laws relating to concurrent unpaid parental leave will extend the period of entitlement from three (3) weeks to (8) eight weeks. In addition, the new eight (8) week period of concurrent leave will be able to be taken in separate blocks, of no less than two weeks, at any time during the first 12 months after the birth of the child.

Safety and wellbeing of pregnant employees
At present, special maternity leave is provided for circumstances such as a woman suffering a pregnancy related illness. The Government's new amendments ensure that an employee is not penalised when they are forced to take special maternity leave as a result of circumstances outside of their control. These new provisions will allow the employee to retain their full entitlement to unpaid parental leave in circumstances where they are forced to take special maternity.

Currently, there is an express right in the Fair Work Act for a pregnant employee to transfer to a safe job where they can provide evidence that they cannot continue in their usual role due to an illness or risk arising from their pregnancy.

However, this right only exists in circumstances where the employee has served 12 months’ service. The Government's proposed changes are designed to ensure that employees who have served less than 12 months’ service at the time of birth will have the right to transfer to a safe job. In addition, where no safe job is available, the employee will be eligible for unpaid no safe job leave.

Additional leave entitlements
The amendments made by the Bill will also provide a right to request flexible working arrangements to:

  • all employees with responsibilities for caring for others;
  • an employee who is a parent, or has responsibility for the care, of a child of school age;
  • employees who have a disability;
  • employees aged 55 years and over;
  • employees who are experiencing family violence;
  • employees providing personal care, support and assistance to a member of their immediate family, or a member of their household, who requires care or support because the individual is experiencing family violence; and
  • an employee returning from parental leave having the explicit right to request part-time work.

Consultation on Work Rosters
The new laws will place an obligation on employers to provide employees with information about changes to their roster or hours of work and consult with employees on the impact any changes will have, including on the employees’ family and caring responsibilities. Employers must then consider any views the employees have about how the change will impact them before implementing any changes. The proposed changes are designed to ensure that when decisions on rostering and working conditions are made, they involve a consideration of the needs of both employers and employees.

Impact on employers
The Bill, if passed, enacts a number of specific entitlements and protections for employees that businesses and employers need to be aware of, and comply with, in order to ensure they are acting within the law in relation to leave, safety of pregnant employees at work and consultation with employees with regard to roster changes. These proposed changes will, if passed, create another complex layer of legal obligations in conducting their business. Careful consideration of the laws and how they may impact upon the operation of business should be had. Where possible and relevant businesses should consider the implementation of appropriate workplace policies and procedures to help them comply with the proposed new obligations.

Should you need to obtain any further information on the proposed amendments to Fair Work Act 2009 or any aspect of our complex workplace laws please contact us