With the number of stay-at-home-dads on the rise, employers need to be aware of parental leave and other associated entitlements available to dads and partners.

Dads have historically accessed their annual leave or long service leave entitlements when taking time off to help care for and spend time with their newborn baby or newly adopted child. However, employers might not be aware that dads may also have a right to access both unpaid and paid parental leave and receive the same protections their female colleagues are entitled to in this respect.

Unpaid parental leave

As part of the National Employment Standards (NES), under Part 2-2, Division 5 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the ‘FW Act’), employees who work for an Australian employer may be entitled to a maximum 24 months of unpaid parental leave.

Unpaid parental leave entitlement

Eligible employee couples are entitled to 12 months unpaid parental leave each, which can equate to a maximum 24 months shared unpaid parental leave between them. Provided that each partner must take their proportion of the leave in one consecutive block with the second employee commencing their leave period immediately following the end of the first employee’s leave period. An exception to this rule is the entitlement to take concurrent leave, provided that it is for a maximum of 8 weeks. The concurrent leave is also an exception to the requirement that unpaid parental leave be taken in a single continuous period.

If only one of the employees in the employee couple chooses to take unpaid parental leave, they are entitled to an initial 12 months unpaid parental leave, and then by agreement with their employer they may take up to a further 12 months unpaid parental leave. This option is available to either parent.

Any parent who accesses the entitlement to unpaid parental leave has the right to return to the same position previously held by them prior to commencing the parental leave. Additionally, there is a right on return to work from parental leave to request flexible working arrangements, including a right to request part-time work to assist the employee care for the child.

 Paid parental leave

Paid Parental Leave and Dad & Partner Pay is fully funded by the Federal Government and administered through the Department of Human Services.

Paid parental leave entitlement

Eligible employees, which include the birth mother of a newborn child or the adoptive parent of a child, can access up to 18 weeks’ pay at the Federal minimum wage, which is currently $719.20 per week (from 1 July 2018), whilst on unpaid or paid leave or not working. Dads may also be able to access the paid parental leave entitlement as long as they are the primary care giver of the newborn or newly adopted child. The birth mother or adoptive parent can apply to transfer part or all of their entitlement to the dad if he meets the eligibly criteria (this is the same criteria as the birth mother or adoptive parent).

Dad and Partner Pay entitlement

In addition to the parental leave pay, eligible employees, which include the dad of a child, partner of a child’s birth mother or an adoptive parent of a child, can access 2 weeks’ pay at the Federal minimum wage whilst on unpaid leave or not working.

The entitlement to paid parental leave means that an employee couple (e.g. mum and dad) can received up to a total of 20 weeks paid leave, 18 weeks paid parental leave plus 2 weeks dad and partner pay. However, if a dad is eligible for both the paid parental leave and dad and partner pay for the same child, the maximum entitlement is 18 weeks’ pay.

Flexible working arrangements

A parent, or person who has responsibility for the care of a child who is of school age or younger has the right to request flexible working arrangements under Part 2-2, Division 4 of the FW Act. A flexible working arrangement does not have to mean spending more money – many of the ideas involve minor adjustments operationally to allow for part time or job share arrangements, a condensed working week or fortnight, flexibility in start and finish times or looking at new work methods such as working from home, for example.

This means dads that are eligible can request flexible working arrangements and employers are only able to refuse on reasonable business grounds. It is always recommended that where an employer is not able to accommodate the request for flexible working arrangements in its current form, the employer and employee explore other options for flexibility and offer any alternatives or compromises that may be mutually agreeable.

As attitudes change and an increasing number of male employees are opting to access these entitlements, employers need to ensure they are aware of their statutory obligations to avoid discrimination. Promoting a family friendly workplace can bring its own benefits by increasing employee retention, productivity and engagement and can give employers an edge over other competing businesses.

Like to know more? CCI’s Guide to Understanding Parental Leave and Associated Entitlements contains a range of information about parental leave entitlements and contains a pro-forma parental leave policy and templates including a letter confirming return to work, extension of parental leave, request for flexible working arrangements and a pro-forma contract for a temporary parental leave cover employee. For more information contact CCI’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email advice@cciwa.com

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