Partners' Access to Parental leave

Milestone for working parents as dads and partners can now ask for time off when baby arrives

Fathers can now ask for time off work when their new baby is born without having to justify the request or fear its rejection, thanks to new laws that ensure they have the right to access paid parental leave.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions had campaigned for paid parental leave for both parents for more than 30 years.

“Finally, from today, all expectant parents can ask for time off work to care for their new baby, which is a major shift forward in the pursuit to recognise both parents have caring responsibilities and that they want to be involved in their newborn’s first days,” Ms Kearney said.

“Unions welcome the Government’s expansion of its paid parental leave as we know all parents want to spend time with their children when they are born and there is no reason why work should prevent them from doing so.”

Thanks to the Dad and Partner Pay leave scheme, which passed through Parliament earlier this year, eligible dads will have access to two weeks’ government-funded Dad and Partner Pay at the rate of the national minimum wage.

The scheme kicks in from January 1, but from 1 October 2012 prospective dads and all partners can apply for the leave for the first time.

Ms Kearney said unions were pleased with the introduction of the scheme but would continue to lobby for paid parental leave to be paid at workers’ ordinary rates, and were already talking to employers about ‘topping up’ the minimum wage amount for their employees as part of workplace agreement negotiations.

She said the new laws would allow fathers and partners, including adopting parents and parents in same-sex couples, to freely seek access to leave.

“Many dads and partners do get to share in the joyous time when their new baby arrives already, but there are also many who either do not feel comfortable asking for time off when their partner gives birth, or simply have their request rejected,” she said.

“This is wrong and unions are pleased that these new laws mean all employers will now have to move into the modern era and will help ensure workplaces reflect the reality of modern working families”

Ms Kearney said the financial support would be especially important for the growing number of workers in insecure work, particularly those in casual or contract work, who usually had to forfeit all leave entitlements.

“With 40% of the workforce in insecure work, until now a large number of partners would not get any leave pay at all if they wanted to spend time with their new family,” she said.

“This new leave entitlement will be especially welcome news to these men and partners.