On 1 January 2011, Australia's first national paid parental
leave scheme (funded by the Federal Government) will commence. Paid
parental leave will be available to eligible employees in addition
to unpaid leave from their employers (which is presently available
to most employees under the "National Employment
Standards"), as well as any additional paid parental leave
offered by employers.
In recent times there have been many changes to the law
regarding parental leave, both paid and unpaid, and in some
respects this area of law is quite complex.
This Guide is intended to provide a general overview of the law
regarding the minimum standards for parental leave (and related
matters), essentially for the private sector workforce. Employers
are encouraged to be aware of their obligations to their employees,
both to ensure compliance with the law and avoid costly disputes
and legal proceedings.
I acknowledge and thank Claire Bateman and Michelle Wright,
lawyers with Carroll & O'Dea, for their contributions in
preparing this Guide. I hope that you find this guide helpful, and
my team and I would be happy to assist you if required.
Peter Punch Partner
Employment & Industrial Relations Group Carroll &
Whilst the introduction of Government funded paid parental leave
across Australia is a major development, the entitlement to unpaid
parental leave is not new. Since 1979 most employees in Australia
have had access to some form of leave after the birth of a baby,
although the focus has always been on the mother and her
traditional role within the 'normal' family unit.
The Government has now recognised that there is no such thing as
a 'normal' family unit. Accordingly, care arrangements for
a newly born or adopted child may vary greatly. A range of possible
arrangements could exist, such as: the mother may return to work
after childbirth whilst the father is the primary carer for the
child; a child could be cared for by one partner of a samesex
couple; or the child may be cared for by an adoptive parent. The
provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) dealing with
parental leave reflect such changes in modern society.
The "National Employment Standards" contained in the
Fair Work Act commenced on 1 January 2010, and form the
basis of most employees' entitlements to unpaid parental leave.
This legislation provides a father with many of the same leave
rights as a mother, and adoptive parents with largely the same
leave rights as biological parents.
From 1 January 2011, many employees across Australia will also
be entitled to seek paid parental leave from the Federal
Government, in addition to unpaid parental leave and any such leave
paid by their employer. The new paid parental leave scheme
significantly enhances the parental leave entitlements of
[NB: Public Sector employees often have different entitlements,
but that subject is not within the scope of this Guide.]
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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