Amendments made to the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (Cth) effective from 1 January 2020 may have practical implications for some employers. The amended parental leave payment work test (New Work Test) now provides a wider protection for working women employed in industries where it is not safe for them to continue working while pregnant, and no alternative safe job can be provided.
The Paid Parental Leave scheme provides eligible working parents with 18 weeks of paid leave at the national minimum wage rate upon the birth of their child. There are a number of requirements that the working parents must meet to be eligible to receive the payment. One such requirement is the Work Test.
Before the recent amendments, the Work Test required the person to have worked for at least 10 months of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of their child and worked at least 330 hours in that 10 month period with no more than an eight week gap between two working days (Old Work Test).
The difficulty with the Old Work Test was that it had implications for women who had to take unpaid leave prior to the birth or adoption of their child in circumstances where there was no access to a safe job or paid ‘no safe job’ leave under the National Employment Standards. The implications were that if such circumstances arose, the period of unpaid leave was not considered qualifying work for satisfying the Work Test requirement.
The New Work Test for women employed in positions where it is not safe for them to continue to work during pregnancy was introduced by the Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Work Test) Bill 2019 (Cth). The New Work Test for women in these positions moves the 13 month period to the time period before the pregnant woman had to cease work due to the hazards connected with employment and subsequent risk to her pregnancy. The New Work Test also extends the gap between two working days in the 10 month period for eligible persons to 12 weeks between the two working days.
There is no indication of what may be considered a ‘hazard connected with employment’ or evidentiary requirements that the hazard poses a risk to pregnancy. However, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham provided examples of positions where women would benefit from the New Work Test including casual teachers, construction workers, miners and jockeys.
Julia Eastoe is a Lawyer at Justitia Lawyers. To view her profile click here.