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More to parental leave than just the PPLS

Employers should use the paid parental leave scheme as a prompt to review their other parental leave entitlements and obligations.

Most employers don’t like to think too much about parental leave. It’s one of those ‘issues’ that managers put on the backburner until the stalk is circling. So with the introduction of the paid parental leave scheme forcing the issue onto the agenda, it’s a good time to review not just the new provisions, but also the existing leave entitlements that will impact the business when the happy announcement is made.

Here’s the low down on existing leave entitlements for parental leave that should be considered to ensure your business continues to run smoothly and employees clearly understand their entitlements.

The lead up
Employers operating in a hands-on or physically-demanding work environment must consider the impact on pregnant employees. For example, pregnant employees who are fit to work, but for whom their current position is not appropriate must be given a ‘safe job’ for the duration of their pregnancy. If there is no appropriate safe job available, the employee is entitled to paid leave at their base rate of pay, which should not reduce other leave entitlements.

Pregnant employees who are not fit for work because of pregnancy related illness are entitled to unpaid special maternity leave. Employees must provide a medical certificate and provide enough notice as is ‘practicable’ before taking leave. Special maternity leave before birth reduces the employee’s overall unpaid parental leave entitlement.

The aftermath
As part of the government’s paid parental leave scheme, 10 paid, voluntary ‘keeping in touch’ days have been allowed to facilitate a smooth transition between leave and work for both the company and employee. It also allows employees to maintain professional skills and client relationships. However, employers should be conscious that any employee who exceeds those 10 days will lose the paid parental leave benefit. To avoid this outcome, employees and their managers should plan together how the keeping in touch days will be spent.

Finally, eligible employees are entitled to take a year of unpaid parental leave, with the option to extend by a further 12 months. The extension can only be refused by employers on ‘reasonable business grounds’. There is no definition of reasonable business grounds under the legislation, but it is advisable that employers exhaust all other avenues before refusing the leave, including part-time work or flexible hours.

Now is as good a time as any to evaluate current parental leave polices and additional company offerings. The new PPL government provisions need to be given due consideration, but it’s important that employers keep on top of the other parental leave obligations and entitlements, and communicate this with staff. Having everyone on the same page will make it a lot easier to prevent business disruption and additional stress for both the company and the employee.

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Lisa Berton

Lisa Berton

Lisa advises on all aspects of employment and workplace law to financial institutions, multi national corporations, companies, professional services and insolvency administrators. Lisa is also an experienced commercial litigator. Lisa is highly regarded by both clients and industry peers for her HR expertise in both contentious and non-contentious matters.

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