Littler Global Guide - Australia - Q4 2020

Browse through brief employment and labor law updates from around the globe. Contact a Littler attorney for more information or view our global locations.

View all Q4 2020 Global Guide Quarterly updates   Download full Q4 2020 Global Guide Quarterly

Paid Parental Leave Qualifying Work Period Temporarily Extended

New Legislation Enacted

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler United States

The Australian government is introducing an alternative Paid Parental Leave work test period for a limited time. Usually, parents are required to have worked 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of their child to qualify for the leave. However, the government is extending the qualification work period to 10 months out of the 20 months prior to births and adoptions that occur between March 22, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Employers should take note of the temporary change, which will apply to any employee taking a period of unpaid parental leave who is eligible for the government’s paid parental leave entitlements.

Changes to Australia’s Parental Leave

New Legislation Enacted

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler United States

Australia’s National Employment Standards (NES) were updated in November 2020 to improve unpaid parental leave for parents, including for parents of stillborn babies, infant deaths and premature births. The key changes are two-fold: First, eligible employees can now take up to 30 days of flexible unpaid parental leave in the two years following birth or adoption. Leave can be taken as a single continuous period of one or more days; or separate periods of one or more days each. Note that these 30 days are to come out of the employee’s entitlement to 12 months of unpaid parental leave.

Second, employees who have experienced the trauma of stillbirths, infant deaths and premature births will also now have access to improved unpaid parental leave entitlements. The entitlements are available to full time, part time and casual employees. Employers should review their parental leave policies to ensure they align with these changes.

Full Federal Court Decision on Entitlement to Leave During Lawful Stand Down

Precedential Decision by Judiciary or Regulatory Agency

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler United States

Due to the pandemic, many employers have had to resort to employee stand downs (furloughs), raising questions as to how courts would interpret the stand down rules during this time. In December 2020, in a ruling, the full federal court clarified that employees can take annual leave, but there is no entitlement to paid personal/carers or compassionate leave during a lawful stand down period. Further, the court held that the stand down provisions provide "authority to an employer to be relieved of the requirement to make payments to employees during a period when the employees cannot usefully be employed."

The decision provides some good news for employers who are struggling to meet their payroll and other financial obligations at this time and confirms that while employees are able to access their annual leave entitlements during a period of lawful stand down, it is up to the employer to determine whether it would like to approve employee use of personal or compassionate leave during the stand down period.

New Eligibility Criteria for Employers and Employees Under the Victorian Portable Long Service Scheme

New Regulation or Official Guidance

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler United States

Effective October 1, 2020, more employees working in the community service sector will need to be registered with the Victorian Portable Long Service Authority (Authority). The Long Service Benefits Portability Regulations 2020 (Vic) (New Regulations) expand (and clarify) which community services sector employers need to register for benefits under the Scheme.

Under the former regulations (which were in effect from November 20, 2019, to September 30, 2020), employers were obliged to register workers (and contribute the 1.65% levy) for employees whose predominant activity is the personal delivery of community services. Under the new regulations, the predominant activity test no longer applies, meaning that an employee’s eligibility for the Portable Long Service Leave Scheme (Scheme) is determined by Award coverage. An employer in the “community services sector” with at least one eligible employee must register itself with the Authority and register each employee who is performing “community service work.” Additional requirements apply.

Proposed Changes to Casual Employment in Australia

Proposed Bill or Initiative

Author: Naomi Seddon, Shareholder – Littler United States

In late 2020, the Australian Government proposed the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Job and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 (the Bill) which, if passed, will introduce various changes to casual employment, including an alteration of the definition of casual employees. The Bill aims to provide certainty by defining casual employment more clearly and proposes that where an offer of employment is made on the basis that the employer makes no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work, the relationship may be one of true casual employment.

Relevant factors as to whether a firm advanced commitment to work will exist include the ability to accept or reject work, whether the employee will work only as and when required and whether a casual loading is paid. This will be assessed when entering into the agreement. The proposed changes also provide that employers will be able to offset any claim for annual leave, personal leave and redundancy pay against the casual loading that has been paid to a casual worker. We will provide further updates as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.