Preparing to go on Parental Leave

Published on: Apr 28 2017

Preparing to go on maternity leave can be overwhelming.  If you find yourself in this situation; congratulations, sit back and read this guide:

 

  • Government Paid Parental Leave (PPL)

You may be aware that the government have proposed changes to the PPL Pay however legislation has not passed yet.  The government, and of course the SDA, will let you know if or when changes to the legislation occur and what that means for you.

You are currently entitled to up to 18 weeks' leave paid at the national minimum wage to help you care for your newborn or recently adopted child.  The minimum payment rate is $672.60 per week before tax. The payment is taxable and can be paid by your employer or Centrelink directly to you.  If you receive PPL payments through your employer, they must keep a record of this and provide you with pay slips.

  

Am I eligible for Government PPL?

You must meet certain criteria, which are as follows:

* Be the birth mother of the baby,

* Be the adopting parent of the child, or

* Another person caring for the child under exceptional circumstances

 

You also need to meet the following requirements:

  • The work test for PPL which is based on the 13 months before your child is born or comes into your care
  • Residency requirements
  • Have received an individual adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less in the financial year either before the date of birth or adoption of the child, or the date you claim, and 
  • Be on leave or not working from when you become the child's primary carer until the end of your government PPL period

 You can lodge your claim for PPL exactly 96 days before your baby is due. 

Receiving PPL from the Government does not change your parental leave entitlements from your employer. If you receive paid parental leave you, are still entitled to unpaid parental leave as well.

There is also Dad and Partner Pay (including same-sex partners). This provides up to 2 weeks government funded pay to dads or partners caring for a newborn or a recently adopted child.  If you're eligible for PPL as well as Dad and Partner Pay for the same child, the total you receive from both payments cannot be more than 18 weeks pay in total.  Similar criteria (as above) apply when lodging a claim for Dad and Partner Pay. 

It is worth noting that PPL is a taxable payment and may affect any existing payments or entitlements such as, child support, HECS liabilities, public housing rent, and Medicare Levy Surcharge, amongst others.

Finally, whilst on government PPL you may keep in touch with your workplace without losing your PPL Pay.  You may participate in a paid work activity for 1 hour or more on a day for the sole purpose of keeping in touch with your workplace. You can access up to 10 ‘Keeping in Touch’ days from when you become the primary care giver until the end of your PPL period. These 10 days cannot be accessed within the first 2 weeks after your baby is born.

A word of warning... if you resume regular work activities other than keeping in touch or you access more than 10 ‘Keeping in Touch’ days, you will be considered to have returned to work. You are then expected to contact Centrelink to pay back any money that you are deemed not eligible for or face legal action. 

 

  • Employers' Parental Leave

Employers can provide for paid or unpaid parental leave in your enterprise agreement or employment contract. The amount of leave and pay entitlements depends on the relevant enterprise agreement or contract. 

However if you started work with a new employer you will need to work with that employer for at least 12 months or more before you can access employers' parental leave.

Contact the SDA on 4961 4694 to find out exactly what you are entitled to.

Please note - you are obliged to tell your employer in writing of your intent to take paid or unpaid parental leave at least 10 weeks before the expected date of birth or adoption date of your child.  You will need to specify the intended start and end dates of the leave. At least 4 weeks before the intended start date, reconfirm the start and end dates with your employer and notify them of any possible changes.

 

  • Unpaid Parental Leave

If you have worked for your employer continuously for 12 months or more, you are entitled to up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act 2009. This includes casual employees who have been employed by their employer on a regular and systematic basis for a period of at least 12 months.

 

You can also request a further 12 months period of leave from your employer therefore accessing 24 months in total.  Your request must be in writing and given to your employer at least 4 weeks before the end of your initial period of parental leave. Your employer must respond in writing within 21 days, stating whether they grant or refuse your request.

The rules around taking unpaid parental leave stipulate that if one person is taking the leave; it must be taken in a single continuous period, leave can start up to 6 weeks before the expected birth or placement of the child, or earlier if the employer and employee agree and lastly, leave may start at any time within a 12 month period after the birth or placement of the child. 

The rules are slightly different if two people are sharing unpaid parental leave; you are entitled to no more than 24 months in total, if the employee that takes leave first is not pregnant then leave must start from the date of birth or placement of the child, both employees may take leave at the same time for a maximum period of 8 weeks, leave must be taken within 12 months of the birth or placement of the child and any concurrent leave may be taken in separate periods.

 If you are pregnant and want to work the six weeks before birth you may be asked by your employer to provide a medical certificate containing the following:

  • a statement saying whether you are fit for work
  • if you are fit for work, a statement of whether it is inadvisable for you to continue in your current position

Your employer may require you to take a period of unpaid parental leave as soon as possible if you:

  • fail to provide the requested medical certificate within seven days of the request or,
  • provide a certificate that says you are unfit for work

If you are unfit for work, you may be eligible for unpaid special maternity leave.

As a pregnant employee, you have an entitlement to be transferred to an 'appropriate safe job'.  This entitlement only applies if you have provided evidence, e.g. a medical certificate that would satisfy a reasonable person that you are fit for work, but that it is inadvisable for you to continue in your current position during a period because of illness, pregnancy related risks or hazards associated with that position.

If the requirement is met and there is an appropriate safe job available, you must be transferred to that job for the risk period, with no other change to your terms and conditions of employment. You will be paid at your full rate of pay for the position you were in before the transfer.

If there is no appropriate safe job available, and you are entitled to unpaid parental leave then you are entitled to take paid ‘no safe job leave’ for the risk period, and be paid at their base rate of pay for ordinary hours of work during the risk period.

If there is no appropriate safe job available, and you are not entitled to unpaid parental leave then you are entitled to take unpaid ‘no safe job leave’ for the risk period.

 

  • Consultation and the Return to Work Guarantee

All employees on unpaid parental leave are entitled to be kept informed of decisions by their employer that will have a significant effect on the status, pay or location of their pre-parental leave position. The employer must take all reasonable steps to give the employee information about any such decisions and an opportunity to discuss them.

 An employee is guaranteed to return to work immediately following a period of unpaid parental leave, entitling them to the following:

  •  their pre-parental leave position, or,
  • if that position no longer exists, an available position for which they are qualified and suited, which is nearest in status and pay to their pre-parental leave position

 

Contact the SDA on 4961 4694 before you go on parental leave to check your rights and entitlements. 

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