Extra Parental Leave Anyone? (Part 1)

Posted on 28 September 2011

There have been very significant changes to the Parental Leave provisions in our workplace laws over the last few years. Further the emergence of new Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme has significant impacts upon employers and employees alike. We detail many of the important changes below.

1. What were the old parental leave entitlements?

Prior to 1 January 2010 employees (other than a casual employee) that had completed 12 months continuous services were entitled to 12 months unpaid parental leave. This period included any paid leave (e.g. annual leave or long service leave) the employee took during the parental leave period.

2. Current parental leave entitlements

On 1 January 2010 parental leave provisions changed. The period of parental leave an employee (other than a casual employee) can take is still 12 months. However, in addition an employee can request an extension of the parental leave by a further period of up to 12 months. The employer can refuse this request on reasonable business grounds and must inform the employee of the grounds for the refusal.

3. When will an employee receive the extra 12 months?

The employee must give the employer a written request at least 4 weeks before the end of the initial parental leave period. The employer must respond to this request in writing within 21 days of receiving the request and inform the employee if the request is refused or granted. If the request is refused then the employer must detail the reasonable business grounds on which the request is denied in the written response to the employee.

Reasonable business grounds include:

  • The effect on the workplace and the business of approving the request, including the financial impact and the impact on efficiency, productivity and customer service.
  • The inability to organise work among existing staff.
  • The inability to recruit a replacement employee.

Before outright refusing extended leave requests employers should consider offering part-time work, flexible hours or light duties. This will ensure that the needs of the employee/s are catered for and ensure minimisation of further business disruption
4. What are Safe Jobs? How do they affect leave entitlements?

Leading up to parental leave, if a pregnant employee that is eligible for parental leave is not fit and capable of performing her normal work responsibilities and duties as required by her role because of her pregnancy she may request to be transferred to a “safe job”. A ‘safe job’ is an alternative job suitable to their current state. In this capacity, the employee can continue working without the need to take some form of leave.

The request can come from the employee or can be a direction of the employer. If the request comes from the employee they will be required to provide reasonable evidence such as a medical certificate. Whilst in the safe job the employee must be paid at the full rate of pay for the position she was in before the transfer.

If, however an employer cannot provide a safe job during pregnancy, then the employee will be entitled to go on “paid no safe job leave” and receive their base rate of pay. Such leave must not reduce the employees other leave entitlements such as annual leave or sick leave. This leave ends when the pregnancy ends.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 'Extra Parental Leave Anyone?' If you have an enquiry about your employment situation, please contact us.