Can you refuse to extend unpaid parental leave?

In today’s working environment, more and more people have to put their children into childcare to return to their jobs. However, what happens when a parent wishes to extend their unpaid parental leave? Here are the steps that you must follow when considering the extension of unpaid parental leave.

Under the National Employment Standards (NES), eligible employees are entitled to 12 months unpaid parental leave, and can request to have this leave extended by up to 12 months. They must provide a written request to their employer if they wish to extend their parental leave. An employer then has up to 21 days to respond to this request.

The Fair Work Act has now imposed a new obligation for employers when considering the extension of parental leave. This obligation is that employers cannot refuse an employee’s request unless they have given the employee “reasonable opportunity to discuss their request”.

This means that once an employee has submitted a request to extend their leave, the employer must give them the opportunity to discuss their request before making a decision whether to grant the leave or not. This allows for better understanding and negotiation to take place between both parties, resulting in a fair decision being made. This may sound like a lot of extra work, however it allows for a stronger, more considerate working relationship with employees.

For further information on parental leave and your obligations as an employer, contact us on (08) 9316 9896.

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