The Australian government recently updated the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (“PPL Act”) to give employee parents greater flexibility in how they utilize their paid parental leave entitlements (see our previously published article on the topic here). The new legislation is intended to complement and align with the changes that were introduced to the PPL Act and aims to encourage parents to share caring responsibilities and to facilitate their ongoing engagement in the workforce in the early stages of their children’s lives.
Unpaid parental leave (“UPL”) is part of the National Employment Standards (“NES”) and is available to all employees in Australia under the following conditions:
- Employees are entitled to take UPL if they have completed a minimum of 12 months of continuous service with their employer.
- Each parent can take a separate period of up to 12 months of UPL. The period of time that a couple can take UPL, at the same time, is limited to a total of eight weeks.
- If only one parent is taking UPL, that parent can take up to 24 months of leave if approved by their employer.
- The UPL should not start later than the birth of the child.
- The UPL can be taken as a single, continuous period (continuous UPL), or as a single, continuous period and a flexible period (flexible UPL) of up to 30 days.
- The 30 days of flexible UPL can be accessed at any time in the 24 months following the birth of the child and can be taken in a single or separate periods of one day or longer.
The legislation introduces the following, main changes:
- Employees are now allowed to commence UPL at any time in the 24 months following the birth of the child (currently not later than the birth of the child).
- To allow parents to reintegrate more easily into the workforce, the flexible UPL increases from 30 days, over a 24-month period, to 100 days, over a 24-month period. Days of leave can be taken before or after a continuous UPL and continue to be available in single day or multiple day increments as needed.
- Pregnant employees are now able to take a portion of their flexible UPL beginning 6 weeks prior to the expected date of birth. This portion will be deducted from the employee’s overall entitlement to flexible UPL.
Restrictions on employee couples eased
- Each parent are now allowed to take up to 12 months of UPL and to request an extension of up to 12 months, regardless of whether the other parent is taking UPL or not. Each parent is entitled for up to a total of 24 months on their own.
- Both parents are now able to take UPL at the same time with no restriction. This change aligns with changes introduced to the paid parental leave earlier this year.
Employers need to review and revise their HR and leave policies and procedures, employment contracts, etc. to bring them into compliance with the new rules.
The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Bill 2023