Partners in couples who have or adopt a child after 1 January will benefit from the Federal Government’s Dad and Partner Pay Initiative, which provides two weeks’ paid leave at the minimum wage, worth about $1200. The initiative, which is only available to individuals with incomes under $150,000, also extends to same-sex partners. To be eligible for this Federal Government entitlement, one must be on unpaid leave from work or not working – it is available to those who work full-time, part-time, casually, seasonally, on contract, or are self-employed.
An employee, or employee couple, can also legally request twelve months unpaid parental leave at the birth or adoption of a child. Employees may also, under certain circumstances, request flexible working arrangements when they have responsibility for the care of a child, a request that employers can refuse on reasonable business grounds. For further information, please refer to the National Employment Standard on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.
The Department of Human Services will pay the recipient after a child is born or adopted and the claim is finalised. Unlike the Federal Government’s Paid Parental (aka Maternity) Leave program, the employer will not be the paymaster and thus face an administrative burden in providing Dad and Partner Pay.
Employers however, can use the new Dad and Partner Pay initiative to their advantage. New dads are increasingly seeking to work flexibly in order to care for their children.
According to a recent Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) report, men in general ranked flexibility as one of the top five requirements in a job. Men under 35 with young children ranked flexibility as number three. The same report, however, found that men were often wary of asking for parental leave – the Dad and Partner Pay initiative is designed to address this. The Government argues that “taking more time off work helps you bond with your child and support your partner, or the child’s main carer, in their new caring role”.
There are also a range of voluntary options available to employers and employees to facilitate a more flexible workplace. Family-friendly working encompasses part-time working, compressed hours (four long days as opposed to five standard days), working from home, job sharing, annualised hours (longer weeks and shorter weeks over the year), shift-swapping, term-time working and variable start and finish times.
Flexibility can make economic sense. For example in the UK, British Telecom implemented flexible working policies, including home working, which saved it 500 million pounds per annum in property costs and reduced staff turnover to 3 percent (compared to the industry average of 18 percent).
Flexibility arrangements will differ from business to business. iHR Australia recommends engaging directly with your employees on an individual basis as part of the ongoing process of workforce engagement, productivity enhancement and staff retention.