02 Feb Parental Leave – Employer Rights and Responsibilities
Managing parental leave can be challenging for employers and potentially create an unexpected burden on businesses. Managing the leave, covering ongoing operations and managing employee expectations are all up for consideration when an employee applies for parental leave. In this article, we look at some of those challenges and how they can be overcome.
For instance, a common and difficult scenario for employers is the incidence of the ‘employee couple’, where both parents of the child wish to access parental leave.
Whilst both members of the ‘employee couple’ do not need to be employed by the same employer, an ‘employee couple’ has the potential to access up to 24 months of parental leave between them. Employers are advised to check and understand the rules around an ‘employee couple’ taking leave either separately or concurrently and ensure that the appropriate notice and evidence is provided.
Cases of employees failing to give notice of parental leave also sometimes occurs. Employees must provide at least ten weeks’ notice of their intention to take parental leave (unless it is impossible, such as premature birth, for example). Suppose your employee fails to provide the legislated notice and give evidence of their child’s anticipated date of birth or adoption. In that case, there could be grounds not to approve their application. Employers must inform employees of their rights and responsibilities regarding parental leave.
Did you know that employees also have the right to alter their approved parental leave dates, the right to request to return to work early, and the right to return to work automatically in the event leave is no longer required? Care is needed when employing another person to fill a vacancy arising from parental leave. The employer should inform the person upfront they are employed temporarily to cover parental leave and the dates of the employment period could be subject to change. Failing to provide a temporary employee with an appropriate fixed-term employment contract could result in high costs to the business if two wages for the same job role need to be paid.
Finally, managing expectations around returning to work on reduced hours occurs regularly in most businesses. Where an employee takes a period of unpaid parental leave, they are usually expected to resume their pre-parental leave position working the same hours as per their contract of employment. The best way to manage employee expectations for this scenario and all scenarios is to have a parental leave policy in place outlining all parties’ rights and responsibilities.
In the majority of cases, an employee taking parental leave is cause for celebration all around, but in some cases, it can be a complex issue to manage. Contact Business 360 for a Parental Leave Fact Sheet or assistance to develop a Parental Leave Policy for your business on email@example.com or 1300 287 360.