As an employer, you have many obligations when it comes to looking after your staff. Sooner rather than later, one of your employees is going to come to you and tell you that she is pregnant. Once you have enjoyed celebrating this news with your valued staff member, you need to start thinking about your plans. What obligations do you have here specifically, when it comes to a pregnant employee?
When you enter into a contract of employment with someone, they are automatically entitled to one year of unpaid parental leave, so long as they have been continuously employed with you for at least a year. They may also request an extension of this period, when it has elapsed. The parental leave can start any time up to 6 weeks before the child is born and the employee has to give you notice in advance detailing the start and end dates of their absence.
The Australian government also has a "paid parental leave" scheme. This is typically calculated at the national minimum wage and anyone who is the primary carer of a newborn child is entitled to 18 weeks under this program. The government will pay these funds on behalf of the employee, once they have applied to them directly. You will not be expected to pay the employee until you have received said funds from the government. Also, this period of leave has to be taken in one block and can be taken in conjunction with the unpaid leave.
Furthermore, you have to guarantee the employee that they can return at the end of the parental leave period, under the same terms and conditions and in the same position as they had before leaving. You'll also need to keep them up-to-date with any major changes that may have been made while they were away, in relation to their place of work, pay or status.
You may also receive a request from the employee that they have flexible working arrangements after the child is born. You don't have to accept this request, however, but must tell the employee if this is the case and give them the reason for doing so promptly.
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If you do reject any employee's request for flexible working arrangements, you have to be careful to provide the right basis for doing so. It's not unheard of for employees to allege indirect discrimination in such a case. For this reason, it's a good idea for you to consult with a commercial lawyer, to ensure that you avoid any future issues.
For more information or assistance, consult with a local commercial lawyer.