Maternity leave, now commonly known as parental leave, is available after a person gives birth, for the partner of a person who gives birth, or for a person who adopts a child under the age of 16. The change in the title of this leave encourages the diversity of modern parenting. It acknowledges the role of the father in the parent-child relationship, but also honours same sex parents of both genders.
It is also a way the employment system encourages more open minded parenting practices in workplaces. Changing language is a subconscious way to encourage employers to be more inclusive of parent friendly practices and protocols, not mother-specific versions. The flow on effect is that it becomes easier for males to then obtain time off to access medical support for their baby; embark upon a flexible working arrangement journey; be present for the initial part of the baby’s life – a key period of development – and provide support; and balance what is a major lifestyle change for all involved.
Specific information on maternity and parental leave is on the Fair Work Ombudsman website, but, in this case, it is better to check your individual Award or Enterprise Agreement as it may have additional leave included. Remember, you can never go below the Award but your employer can go above.
The Australian government has information on this but, it is better to break it down by relationship status. No, not single mother versus a mother in a relationship with someone of the opposite or same sex. You silly billy! This, as always, goes back to our most vulnerable group in the workforce:
- Casual employees
These employees still have access to the same leave entitlements as any other work group but the financial compensation comes from the government. As you can imagine, there are tests to pass. Find out more here, with a clear explanation provided by this not for profit, pro-parent organisation.
It doesn’t matter if you’re single, de facto, married or still trying to decide your official relationship status, your role at work should not change. If it does, you may have a case of good old workplace discrimination. You can find the relevant bodies on our legal page, but before you head over there, these case studies can demonstrate the ways in which a changing job role is not discrimination.
Case Study A: The Walking Stick vs The Big Beat
Aged care is a volatile industry; mostly female workers, on low pay. People assume the elderly are frail and, it is true. A person with dementia experiences changes in colour perception and once they reach a particular stage, cannot perceive certain colours. What you see as a dark colour carpet, they see as an abyss in the ground. An aged care worker trying to escort the resident using a cane (walking stick), overworked and time poor, needs to support the resident from their room to have breakfast. The resident sees an aged care worker trying to walk them off the edge of a cliff and kill them.
The walking stick turns, unleashed on the worker, becoming a weapon. The worker, has no way to protect herself and one who is pregnant is especially at risk. An assault, at the wrong angle, she could lose the baby. Many aged care facilities have dementia-specific wards or wings and employers have put in place a refusal to permit pregnant employees access to work in those areas.
Despite compassion for the resident’s changed health status, the employer will be negligent if they expose a pregnant worker to harm. We would argue there needs to be two workers per resident who demonstrates any challenging behaviours, without the addition of a baby. That on the other hand, goes to funding from the federal government and a focus on profit over decent staffing numbers by the aged care industry.
Case Study B: The Violence Inherent In The System
Any role with exposure to risk of harm because of violence inherent in the role will have some form of role modification for a pregnant employee. These fields are obvious and we don’t need to point them out but the key following points need to be applied:
1️⃣ The employer must provide a safe, alternative role;
2️⃣ The employee returns to their substantive position when their parental leave ends and they’re transitioned back into the workplace;
3️⃣ They cannot be treated differently because they are pregnant.
4️⃣ They cannot be treated differently or penalised for matters such as attending medical appointments or tests associated with the pregnancy.
- Permanent employees
One of the most challenging parts of being a full time permanent employee is deciding how to return, once your parental leave has ended. Many public sector departments have clear policies on this. Workers with a child under a certain age, generally pre-kindergarten / school attendance (approximately at the age of five), can easily apply for flexible working arrangements.
One example is referred to as a TIRA and is formally known as a Temporary Individual Roster Arrangement. These are submitted annually and are highly automated. Individual managers being difficult is where the glitches often come to play and make it difficult for the new parent to plan their family life around their work role.
Maternity & Parental Leave.NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS