As at 1 July 2018 the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 will be amended by the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill 2017.
The two main changes are:
- an increase from 18 to 22 weeks paid primary carer leave from 1 July 2018, and a further increase to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020. Primary carer leave may commence up to six weeks before the baby’s due date, or on the date the employee becomes the permanent primary carer of a child up to the age of six; and
- an extension to the “Keeping in Touch Days” from 40 to 52 hours from 1 July 2018, and to 64 hours from 1 July 2020.
Eligible employees on parental leave are currently entitled to their statutory weekly pay, up to a maximum of $538.55 gross (before any deductions) per week.
Employees wanting to take parental leave are required to give notice to their employer three months in advance of the requested leave period. Notice should be in writing, and needs to contain, amongst other things: what type of leave they wish to take; for how long; and when the leave period will start. Employers may request further information pertaining to the notice within seven days of receipt of it. Employers need to reply within 21 days of receiving the initial letter or additional information. The reply should confirm: whether the requested leave period is approved; whether the role will be kept open; and what the employee’s main legal rights and obligations are.
Employers are reminded, with the exception of roles that are defined as key positions or where a redundancy situation occurs, that they are required to keep eligible employee’s roles open from the commencement of parental leave until the end. This means keeping roles open to match the extended leave periods of employees.
If an employee has been working for an employer for at least six months but less than 12, they will be eligible for six months extended leave. Those employees who have worked for 12 months or more, are entitled to an extended leave period of one year. Extended leave may be taken after primary carer leave or partner’s leave is completed, or any other time agreed to by the employer. An employee who meets the 12 month criteria for extended leave must conclude the extended leave on the date the child turns one, if the child is born to an employee or partner; or on the 12 month anniversary of the employee or their partner becoming the primary carer of the child. An employee who is eligible for six months extended leave shall conclude the leave when the child turns six months, or six months after they or their partner became primary carer.
In addition to any parental leave taken, pregnant employees are also entitled to 10 days special leave during the course of their pregnancy. This unpaid leave is designed to enable the employee to attend pregnancy related appointments that fall in work hours.
We recommend that employers approach our employment specialists if they consider their employee is in a key position, as this definition is very narrow and has a high threshold for the employer to establish. The same approach should also be made if the employer is contemplating making an employee on parental leave redundant.
Employers may wish to create policies and employment provisions relating to parental leave as a tool to outline what resources are available, and to manage expectations. Such documents will not, however, be enforceable unless the provisions are better or the same than those provided at law, and contain a number of specific provisions.
Published: 26 April 2018