Minister proposes changes to paid parental leave

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In recent weeks, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse released the Employment Standards Legislation Bill, which included proposed modifications to the national paid parental leave (PPL) system.

The changes are scheduled to come into effect on April 1 2016 – here’s how PPL will be affected.

Extended eligibility

Two new definitions will be introduced to expand eligibility for PPL:
  • The new definition of an “eligible employee” in regards to PPL will extend to individuals with “non-standard” working arrangements
  • The new definition of “primary carer” and “primary carer leave” will replace the definition of maternity leave. This new definition will extend entitlements to anyone who assumes primary responsibility for the care of a child under the age of six, and does not necessitate the formal adoption of a child for an individual to qualify for the leave.
Changes to threshold tests

The Bill includes a proposal to modify the threshold tests employees are required to meet for other parental leave entitlements.

Currently, employees are eligible for parental leave if they have been with the same employer for an average of at least 10 hours a week in the six or 12 months immediately before the baby’s expected due date, or the date they assume responsibility for the child.

Under the new bill, extended leave of 26 weeks will be available to employees who meet the six month criteria, where previously they would not be entitled to any extended leave.

“Keeping-in-touch days”

The bill proposes allowing employees to work and receive pay for up to 40 hours a week during a period of PPL, without being treated as having returned to work.

If agreed upon by both the employer and the employee, a “keeping-in-touch day” will be available for use, as long as 28 days have passed since the birth of the child.

Consequently, employees will be able to attend training sessions or assist with projects during their period of leave.

Negotiated carer leave

Workers who have a child but are not the primary care giver will be entitled to request a period of leave, which employers will be obligated to consider but are not required to consent to.

Increased penalties

The bill proposes increasing the penalty for misleading – or attempting to mislead – officials in relation to PPL, with the sanctions rising from $5,000 to $15,000.
 
Related articles:

Bill could see parental leave rise to 26 weeks
New Zealand falling behind in global Paid Parental Leave schemes
Adoption and parental leave: what are your obligations?

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