Parental leave is covered by the National Employment Standards and can also be covered by an Enterprise Agreement.
Because Paid Parental Leave can be covered by the company or Centrelink one of the first things you need to consider is whether the company itself has a paid parental leave policy or whether you simply use Centrelink to facilitate paid parental leave payments.
There is no requirement for an employer to offer paid parental leave to its employees but there is an obligation to offer unpaid parental leave in certain situations.
Firstly you need to determine the employee’s eligibility for unpaid paid parental leave through the system.
This is up to 52 weeks for each child and the option of extending this for an additional 52 weeks if requested. Here’s some advice:
An employee who has been working on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months (casual or not) has the right to take unpaid parental leave.
To be eligible for unpaid parental leave an employee needs to advise you when they will commence their leave and how long they wish to take.
This is to be done 10 weeks before the leave is due to start and the employer should acknowledge this letter within 21 days.
4 weeks prior to the intended start date the employee should reconfirm their intentions in writing advising of start and end date and if there have been any changes to their previous letter.
Again this should be acknowledged by the company. Confirmation of the date of confinement can be requested.
One thing that should happen on the employee’s final day is to ensure that they complete a handover of their responsibilities and return any keys or company property for the duration they are on leave.
You may also like to check with the employee (perhaps a HR person or the Operations Manager can do this) on how much or little communication they would like to have during their time away.
Some employees may like to receive the monthly newsletter perhaps or be invited to the staff awards and Christmas party, others may like to take the time off completely from the business and enjoy time with their family.
There is also a requirement to consult with an employee significant changes arise during their period of leave.
Remember an employee does not accrue annual and personal leave whilst on unpaid leave.
Four weeks prior to the intended return date the employee should contact you and let you know of their intention to return.
A request for additional leave can be done at this stage as well.
If they wish to return on a part-time basis or wish to request flexible working arrangements this can be added to their letter as well.
An open conversation should happen between the employee and employer to discuss the possibility of returning to the role on a part-time basis or having flexible work arrangements.
A business can only refuse a request to work flexible hours or a part-time basis on reasonable business grounds.
At this stage when the employee advises that they will be returning to work you should communicate their return date with their manager and team so you can have everything ready for them on their first day.
Remember that when someone comes back to work after 6 or 12 months off it may take a while for them to ease back into the job.
Everyone is different, however, and some people may be really wanting to come back, whereas others may be returning simply for financial reasons.
Also, you may need to consider that many people’s priorities will have shifted after the birth of their child.
Some additional accommodation may need to be made also for a mother who is still breastfeeding. Access to be able to express milk in a private area and store it is may also be required.
The most important thing to remember when you’ve got someone who is expecting is that every pregnancy is different and every employee is different.
Treat people with compassion and open communication.
For more information visit Department of Human Services