Recent changes to employee leave entitlements make it timely for business to revisit their leave policies to ensure they are compliant.

The Federal Parliament recently passed amendments to the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (Cth), that mean fathers and same-sex partners can now claim two weeks of paid paternity leave. The new payment from the Federal Government will start from 1 January 2013.

The Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012 (Bill) extends the Federal Government's paid parental leave scheme by introducing a new payment, called 'dad and partner pay', for eligible working fathers and partners. The pay will be available to eligible fathers and partners who are caring for a child born or adopted from 1 January 2013. Those eligible will be able to receive two weeks of pay at the rate of the national minimum wage - currently $606 per week.

The pay will be available during the first 12 months after the birth or adoption of the child. Eligible fathers and partners must be caring for the child (either through primary care or joint care) and must not be on paid leave or at work during the period that they receive dad and partner pay. To be eligible the father or partner must satisfy the certain rules including a work test (calculated in accordance with the Bill), an income test (adjustable taxable income of less than $150,000) and an Australian residency test.

The Bill also changes the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) by introducing a 'keeping in touch day' that enables mothers on unpaid parental leave to perform paid work for short periods in order to assist with the employee's return to work. These ‘keeping in touch days’ are capped at 10 days and require the consent of both the employee and employer. The days must not be within 14 days of the date of birth or placement of the child. They also must not extend the period of the employee's unpaid parental leave.