New Paid Parental Leave Kicks In January 1st
Its been a long time coming and a hard won battle but Australias new paid parental leave laws will come into effect on January 1st 2011.
Parents will now get 18 weeks paid parental leave, based on the minimum wage of $570 a week. Either parent can take the leave, or split it. So its become a financially viable option for fathers to take leave.
To be eligible, the birth or adoption must have taken place on or after January 1st. The parent applying must have worked for at least 10 months of the last 13 months before the birth, and completed a minimum of 330 hours in that period. This means part-time and casual workers can apply. Parents who earn more than $150K annually dont qualify.
The rules under the Fair Work Act stay the same, so a parent can still ask their employer for 24 months unpaid leave, while also applying for 18 weeks paid parental leave. (The 18 weeks fall within the 24 month period).
Plus, if an employer already has a paid maternity leave scheme in place, theyre still required to honour it. The parent can apply for the government scheme as well.
The paid parental leave scheme is based on the expert recommendations of the Productivity Commission. The Government has consulted widely with business and taken a number of steps to make their role in the scheme easy. Employers will pass on Government-funded parental leave pay to their long-term employees through the employees usual pay cycle and will receive the funds from the Government in advance.
The scheme has had some critics though, who say the Government has not gone far enough. The parent taking the leave, for instance, doesnt accrue superannuation during that time. And many believe 18 weeks is not long enough.
Sweden was the first country to introduce paid parental leave. Their scheme now includes 16 months paid parental leave, funded by the government and the employer, including super, with two months specifically for fathers. If fathers dont take it, they lose two months worth of government subsidies. In other words, theres a real financial incentive for both parents to share the leave. In Portugal, its actually compulsory for fathers to take 5 days paternity leave.
Some argue that Australias scheme should also include a specific paternity leave component.
Clearly social changes like these take time. Gender stereotypes dont change overnight and many will remain opposed to the idea of mum working while dad stays home with baby. But at least the legislation gives families the option, and puts Australia in step with the rest of the world.
One thing seems clear; if youre due to give birth anytime now, it might be an idea to start sending subliminal messages to your baby to hold off for just another 3 days…