On 27 November, some amendments to the Fair Work Act kicked into gear. Here’s the upshot on unpaid parental leave. 

A quick recap. The Fair Work Act provides that employees with at least 12 months’ continuous service are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ unpaid parental leave. Those employees have the right to request an additional 52 weeks’ unpaid leave. An employer can only refuse such a request on reasonable business grounds and must provide written reasons for the refusal. 

So, what’s changed? The answer: it’s time to talk. 

The amendments now provide that where an employee makes a request for an additional period of unpaid parental leave, the employer can’t refuse the request unless it has given the employee a reasonable opportunity to discuss the request. 

A “reasonable opportunity to discuss” isn’t defined but is taken to mean a face to face meeting, telephone call or video conference. Note that text or email won’t cut it. 

It’s a minor amendment, but a good time to remember that a breach of these provisions can see fines of up to $54,000 for a corporation and $10,800 for an individual involved in the breach.

All other rights and obligations around unpaid parental leave under the Act, including in respect of no safe job leave, notice requirements, returning to work and requests for part time work, remain unchanged.