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.

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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 ...

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