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Parental Leave Laws to Change

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By Chad Issa, Lawyer, Mason Sier Turnbull Lawyers

On 27 June 2012, Federal Parliament passed the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012 (‘Bill’) to amend, amongst other pieces of legislation, the Fair Work Act 2009 (‘Act’).

The upcoming changes to the parental leave provisions of the Act will allow employees on unpaid maternity leave to, in some circumstances, maintain contact with their workplace.

Keeping in Touch Days

The changes to the Act will allow workers on unpaid parental leave to perform certain types of paid work, in order to keep in touch with their employer. The changes align with the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (‘PPLA’), which already provides keeping in touch days for workers eligible to be covered by the PPLA. The new laws ensure workers on unpaid parental leave can access up to 10 keeping in touch days without affecting their leave entitlements or extending their unpaid leave period.

Workers on unpaid parental leave can perform work on a ‘keeping in touch day’ if:

  • the purpose of the work is to facilitate a return to work by keeping the employee in touch with their employer; and
  • the worker and employer both consent to the arrangement.

Under the new laws, a worker cannot suggest or request that they work a keeping in touch day within the 14 day period after the child’s birth or placement (in the case of children that have been adopted). Employers must allow 42 days after the birth or placement before requesting a keeping in touch day. The intention is to ensure primary carers can care and bond with newly born and placed children, during their time off work.

Employers must pay workers for keeping in touch days under the relevant employment contract or industrial instrument.

Preparing for Unplanned Events

New provisions in the Act will deal with unplanned events in relation to parental leave. Before employing someone to replace a worker taking unpaid parental leave, employers must notify the replacement employee, amongst other things, that:

  • their employment is temporary; and
  • the worker on leave may return to work earlier than expected in certain circumstances, including in the event of a stillbirth or infant death.

The amendments to the Act, will allow employees to take unpaid parental leave early where there is a stillbirth or infant death.

Employers should update their parental leave policies now. This will ensure a smooth transition, benefiting businesses and staff.

For further advice on how these changes might affect you, or to update your parental leave policies, please contact the Workplace Relations team at Mason Sier Turnbull Lawyers on (03) 8540 0200.