Paternity Leave in Australia: The Rights of Fathers

Paternity Leave

Gaining paternity leave entitlements in Australia are usually achieved via two avenues – private and public – although for fathers wishing to claim entitlements for their newborns, the process is a little less straightforward.

The private option is determined and allotted by one’s employer, in a payment agrement that is otherwise known as paid parental leave. There doesn’t exist any formal measures that ensure fathers are awarded leave specifically for the purpose of caring for a newborn – paternity leave – and thus fathers are largely at the whim of their employer, having to apply for an annual leave that is poised to coincide with their baby’s birth in replacement of a formal entitlement.

The lack of a formally declared leave initiative for fathers has caused many employment contracts to have a section dedicated to paternity leave included in the agreement. As a result, it is advised that fathers approach the relevant authorities on the matter; whether that be their boss or a human resources department, in order to gain information about entitlements for paid leave in their current position.

The public avenue involves the claiming and receiving of payments from the Australian Government, which comes mainly via the program known as the Parental Leave Pay Scheme. There are a number of elements that make up the Australian Government Paid Parental Leave Scheme, with the primary factor being the payments to primary carers of newborns and adopted children, for up to 18 weeks at the nation’s minimum wage award rate. There are a few things to note regarding this scheme, which include:

  • The payments are only available to those who substantially meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Employees who receive paid parental leave are still entitled to unpaid parental leave thereafter, and the payments do not infringe on or erase the availability of unpaid parental leave.
  • Payments are sent to employers, who then give them to the eligible employee.
  • Payments may be received concurrently with other entitlement initiatives e.g. annual leave and long service leave.
  • An employee can receive both the parental pay from the Australian Government and paid parental leave from an employer.
  • Automatic entitlement for other, additional parental leave initiatives is not provided.

Since the various parental pay initiatives were designed for maternity leave recipients, a father must meet his own set of criteria before some of these entitlements can be received. A father is only eligible for the Government provided Parental Leave Pay if he is the primary carer of the newborn, which is rendered null and void if the mother of the child is already receiving the Parental Leave Pay entitlements. A father, however, can finish out the remainder of the mother’s 18 week payment phase if the mother returns to work before the time is up. If a father is eligible for the Parental Leave Pay Scheme then he may receive the remaining payments in the 18 week plan, provided the father is the primary care giver of the child. Fathers can also receive upwards of 12 months unpaid parental leave just as mother’s do.

Fathers also have the opportunity to receive an entitlement initiative known as the Dad and Partners Pay if the relevant criteria is met. These payments are only available if the Father has taken unpaid leave or is unemployed at the time of the baby’s birth or adoption. After fathers and partners have taken the income and work test, this scheme grants the father a maximum of two weeks’ pay, which is based on the average national minimum wage.

It’s also important to note that many of the formally announced changes are yet to come to fruition, so it’s advised that you plan for your parental leave in accordance with what is applicable at the time of your leave’s start. If you need assistance with language translation, you can follow this link and an experienced professional will be available for a consultation.

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