How men can negotiate flexible work arrangements

We’ve come a long way in terms of combating workplace discrimination against pregnant women, and ensuring their rights to take leave after having a child. Many businesses have adapted to the changing norms of mothers juggling family and work commitments, not just by offering maternity leave but also embracing ideas like flexible office hours, working from home, part-time jobs and job share arrangements.

Unfortunately, many fathers feel unable to ask for extended parental leave and flexible work arrangements, even though they deserve the opportunity to spend time with their children and share the parenting workload.

Only one in 50 Australian men take parental leave when their child is born, one of the lowest rates in the Western world, according to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In our country, it’s still considered more socially acceptable for mothers than fathers to strike a balance between their family and work commitments, which means more of the parenting burden falls on mothers. That needs to change.

New fathers shouldn’t be afraid to step forward and ask for parental leave and flexible working conditions, as the law is on your side.

Know your entitlements

It’s important to know what your entitlements are. While many Australian employers have maternity and paternity leave agreements in place, the Federal Government also introduced a Paid Parental Leave Scheme in 2011, along with Dad and Partner Pay in 2013.

Either parent – with a taxable income of $150,000 or less – is entitled to 18 weeks of government-funded parental leave at minimum wage after a child is born or adopted. This leave is typically taken by the mother, but can be taken by the father if he is the child’s ‘primary caregiver’.

New fathers with a taxable income of $150,000 or less are also entitled to up to two weeks of government-funded Dad and Partner Pay at the minimum wage – regardless of the mothers’ leave entitlements.

Beyond this, all employees in Australia are eligible for unpaid parental leave if they have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer. Afterwards, they’re entitled to return to their job or, if that position no longer exists, a position for which they’re qualified and is nearest in status and pay to their pre-parental-leave position. They’re also entitled to request flexible working arrangements after returning from leave.

Things become more complicated if both parents wish to take parental leave, especially if they work for the same employer, so it’s important to do your research.

Do your research

Expectant fathers – before you sit down to discuss these issues with your employer, do some homework. Find out what you’re entitled to under law. Also find out what policies your employer has in place regarding parental leave for both genders, both as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ caregivers.

Be upfront in these discussions and get in early. Don’t leave it until the last minute because, like any kind of leave, employers need time to accommodate your requests and make arrangements.

Don’t be shy about having these conversations. The law provides protections, and it’s important that all parents have the chance to be involved in the raising of their children.

TOPIC: Employment law

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Giri Sivaraman

Maurice Blackburn Brisbane
Giri Sivaraman is a Principal at Maurice Blackburn. He is the head of the firm’s Queensland Employment law department based in Brisbane, which is listed by the highly respected Doyle's Guide to the Australian Legal Profession as one of two top tier law firms for employees in Queensland. He is part of the National employment law practice recognised by the respected Doyle’s Guide as the only first tier legal practice for employees in Australia. Giri is recognised as a preeminent lawyer for employees in Queensland by Doyle's Guide and he is a member of the Law Society of Queensland employment law subcommittee. He is also a LSQ accredited specialist in workplace relations and a Law Society of NSW accredited specialist in employment and industrial law. Giri has 15 years’ experience providing a full range of legal services to executive and employment law clients including CEOs of ASX 200 listed companies, the CEO of a prominent NGO, the CEO of a large software developer, executives in the financial and banking sectors, medical professionals, senior public servants, senior marketing executives and incorporated associations. Giri sees clients throughout Queensland and provides advice and legal representation in all areas of employment law including workplace bullying, employment contracts, redundancy, restraint of trade, discrimination, sexual harassment, adverse action, and unfair dismissal. He is also experienced in representing employees including very senior executives who are the subject of workplace investigations and disciplinary processes. Giri has negotiated a number of significant out of court settlements, and notes that the vast majority of his cases are successfully settled without going to court. He is conscious of the discretion required when dealing with people’s livelihood and reputation, noting that legal action is not often something a client will want splashed across the front page of the major newspapers. His significant cases include: headed the pro bono scheme for underpaid 7-Eleven workers run by Maurice Blackburn bringing one of the first successful adverse action cases under the new Fair Work Act representing an aircraft engineer who had his work rights breached representing Aid/Watch in the High Court, successfully challenging the Australian Taxation Office’s decision to deny it charitable status. This case significantly altered Australian tax law and enabled many charities to retain their charitable status successfully resolved breach of contract claim for CEO of multinational software company winning a discrimination case on behalf of a Senior police officer dismissed for discriminatory reasons defending and assisting the CEO of an ASX 200 company in response to serious allegations of harassment, and appeared before the Commonwealth Government Parliamentary Inquiry into corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act. Giri’s influence as a thought leader in employment law in Australia is also well recognised. He addressed the Commonwealth House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment on the need for new anti-bullying laws, and was delighted to see those laws enacted in 2014. He was also invited to make submissions to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Bullying at NSW WorkCover, and is a regular contributor to public debate on employment issues. He also helped provide the seed which grew to establish Unions 4 Refugees in Queensland. Memberships and awards Preeminent Employment Lawyer in Queensland - Doyle's Guide 2017 and 2018 Leading Employment Lawyer in Queensland and Australia - Doyle's Guide 2016 Recommended Employment Lawyer - Doyle's Guide 2014 & 2015 Deputy Chair of the Law Society of Queensland employment law subcommittee Queensland Law Society member Multicultural Development Australia Ltd board member NSW Law Society member  ...

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