Are you pregnant and wondering what an earth to do about your career?
- The Australian Government Paid Parental Scheme provides a maximum of 18 weeks pay at the National Minimum Wage. This applies to eligible primary carers of newborn or adopted children. The payments are made by the Government to the employer, who then pays it you (unless you are self-employed). Payments can be paid before, after, or at the same time as existing entitlements such as annual leave, long service leave and employer-funded paid parental leave.
- Separately, The Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard provides for a maximum of 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave.
- Parental leave provisions apply to full-time, part-time and casual* employees. To be eligible for parental leave, you must have been employed for a minimum of 12 months continuous service prior to your due date.
- If medical evidence is provided stating that you are fit to work but unable to continue in your current job, you are entitled to be transferred to a safe job.
- When returning to work, your are entitled to return to the post you held prior to going on leave or to a new position if you have been promoted or have accepted a new job.
- If your former role no longer exists and you are able to work in another role, you are entitled to that other job. If there is more than one other role, you are entitled to the one that is most similar to your previous role in terms of pay and status.
- Additionally, the Fair Work Act 2009 established a right for carers/parents with kids under school age, or with disabled kids, with 12 months’ ongoing employment, or long-term casuals, to ask employers for flexible working arrangements. Employers must ‘seriously consider’ a request for flexible working arrangements but may refuse on reasonable business grounds. The ‘right to request’ is initiated through a request letter and guidance on how to write this is provided here.
The ‘right to request’ has come under some recent scrutiny as a result of the Prime Ministers announcement last month to extend it to a broader group of employees. While the Fair Act Review was generally positive about the proportions of requests being accepted by employers in Australia, at least two key criticisms can be made about the scheme. First, if a request for flexible working is refused, Australian employees have no right to an appeal, unlike employees in the UK, for example. Second, there is no requirement for the employer to meet with the employee to discuss the request. As such, if an employer isn’t supportive of flexible working in the first instance, there is little that an employee can do to persuade them otherwise.
*Conditions apply depending on the quantum and regularity of the casual employment.
(IMPORTANT: Things change, so you must double check these basics with the Fair Work Ombudsman: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/parental-leave/pages/default.aspx and http://www.fairwork.gov.au/BestPracticeGuides/01a-The-right-to-request.pdf, call 131394)