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Parental Leave – A Guide for Employers

2020 marks the 10-year anniversary since the Rudd Labor government introduced the Paid Parental Leave scheme, changing the landscape of the Australian workplace and the lives of families all over the country.

At Liquid HR, we often get questions about the details of Parental Leave – who can take it? How long it is for? What is the difference between paid and unpaid parental leave?

Below is a simple breakdown of the scheme to make it easier for you and your business to implement.

Parental leave is an entitlement offered to all Australian employees that:

have worked for their employer for at least 12 months:

-before the date or expected date of birth if the employee is pregnant
-before the date of the adoption, or
-when the leave starts (if the leave is taken after another person cares for the child or takes parental leave)

have or will have responsibility for the care of a child

Unpaid Parental Leave

By law, employees can access 12 months of unpaid parental leave for the birth or adoption on a child and can request an additional 12 months of leave pending the employer’s approval.

To take parental leave your employee must:

– inform you of their intention to take parental leave by giving you at least 10 weeks written notice (unless it is not possible to do so
– Specify the intended start and end dates of their leave (an employee may start their leave up to 6 weeks prior to the birth of the child)
– Provide you evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person of the expected date of birth (e.g. a medical certificate) or the expected date of placement of a child under the age of 16.

If the employee meets the eligibility criteria and the above communication requirements are met, you as the employer must approve the period of unpaid leave.

Return to work guarantee

An employee on Parental Leave is entitled to return to their role immediately following the return from their leave. They are entitled to:

– Return to their pre-leave position; or
– If that position no longer exists, an available position for which they are qualified and suited, which is nearest to their status and pay to their pre-leave position.

For this reason, if you are intending to hire a replacement to perform the role while your employee is on leave, you must ensure that you notify your new hire that their appointment to the role is temporary.

12-month extension

If the employee chooses to request an extension of a further 12 months of leave (up to 24 in total), the request must be in writing and provided to the employer at least four (4) weeks before the end of the employee’s initial period of parental leave.

To refuse the request, you must respond in writing within 21 days, stating the grounds upon which you refuse. The NES stipulates that the employer must have ‘reasonable business grounds’ to refuse the request such as (but not limited to):

– The effect on the workplace (e.g. finances, efficiency, productivity, customer service)
– The inability to manage the workload amongst existing staff
– The inability to recruit for a replacement employee into the role

Before refusing a request just remember that this is an employee entitlement and as such, it is best to take a measured approach prior to making a decision. Liquid HR can guide you in how to best make and communicate this decision.

Flexible working arrangements

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides employees returning from Parental Leave with the legal right to request flexible working arrangements. This may include a change to part time work or job sharing, flexibility around start and finish times, or condensed hours worked over fewer days.

The request must be made in writing outlining the change the employee seeks and the reasons for the change.

As an employer, you have the right to refuse on ‘reasonable business grounds’ but you must consider all reasonable accommodations prior. As mentioned above, this is an area that Liquid HR can assist you and your business.

Paid Parental Leave

In addition to unpaid Parental Leave, employees may also have the entitlement to the Paid Parental Leave Scheme. This is a government-funded scheme which guarantees the employee a maximum of 18 weeks of paid leave at the National Minimum Wage.

Paid Parental Leave is applied for by the employee through the Department of Human Services who have their own eligibility criteria. Should the employee qualify, Human Services will contact you to explain your role in the process which generally results in the funds being provided to you to pay to your employee.

Dad and partner pay

The father or partner of the mother who will give birth to the child (or be the primary caregiver of an adopted child) may also access two (2) weeks of government-funded paid leave.

The dad/partner taking leave must do so within the first year of the child’s life and apply through their employer for unpaid leave.

Similarly to the Paid Parental Leave scheme, the Department of Human Services will contact you regarding providing payment to your employee should they meet the eligibility criteria.

For more information on the topic, please contact us on 1300 887 458 and speak with one of our HR Consultants. If you are interested in learning more about our HR services, including HR Outsourcing, HR Consulting, HR Advisory Services, contact us at enquiries@liquidhr.com.au.