New reforms to paid parental leave – “Dad leave”

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In November last year, the Federal Government introduced proposed legislation to amend both the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 and the Fair Work Act 2009. This first round of proposed reforms sought to, among other things, refine and clarify the provisions in both Acts related to 'keeping-in-touch days' for those taking parental leave, and clarify various unpaid parental leave arrangements under the Fair Work Act.

A new bill has since been submitted which incorporates the original proposal with additional proposed changes. The Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012 proposes a new payment under the Paid Parental Leave Act: a two-week paternity leave payment for eligible working fathers and partners, to apply from 1 January 2013 for children born or adopted after that date.

If passed, the legislation would mean significant changes to the landscape of paid parental leave, Andrew Tobin, head of HopgoodGanim’s industrial and employment law practice said.

The key points include:
 

  • From 1 January 2013, eligible working fathers and partners could qualify for two weeks’ paid paternity leave. Entitlement to this leave would be subject to the same qualifying criteria and conditions applicable to paid parental leave for primary carers.

  • New rules would be inserted into both the Paid Parental Leave Act and the Fair Work Act which relates to the ability of workers taking paid or unpaid parental leave to perform some paid work during the leave period without affecting the leave entitlement or period.

Background to the reforms  
 

  • The Paid Parental Leave Act came into effect on 1 January 2010 and introduced the paid parental leave scheme. The scheme now enables a worker parent to apply for up to 18 weeks’ government-funded paid parental leave at the national minimum wage (currently $15.51 per hour, or $589.30 per week for a full-time employee).

  • While the paid parental leave scheme remains administered and funded by the Family Assistance Office, since 1 July 2011 employers have been required to provide parental leave pay to eligible employees. It is the responsibility of the Family Assistance Office, however, to ensure that funds are made available to an employer in advance of the employer's obligation to provide paid parental leave.

Dad and partner Pay

The Dad and Partner Pay Bill would see eligible fathers and partners entitled to two weeks’ government-funded 'dad and partner pay', also paid at the rate of the national minimum wage.

Those eligible for the dad and partner pay include adoptive parents and same-sex partners who are caring for a child born or adopted from 1 January 2013. Eligible fathers and partners must care for the child ether primarily or jointly with the other parent, and must not be working or on other paid leave while receiving the payment.

This scheme will be open to fathers and partners who are employed on a full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract or self-employed basis. They will be required to meet the same work and residency requirements, as well as the income test, currently detailed in the Paid Parental Leave Act.

The entitlement will be additional to any corresponding employer-funded paid leave (although, as with voluntary employer-funded paid parental leave, employers will be able to offset the new entitlement against their voluntary schemes should they wish to do so).

 

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