Co-written by Bethany Kickert
- In our contemporary society, many companies have introduced new avenues for paid leave entitlements, including fertility leave, parental leave and vaccination leave.
- These new or extended leave types are the product of an expanding emphasis on workplace flexibility and employee relations.
- There are many upcoming ‘trends’ in leave policies internationally, which may soon expand to Australia.
Many new types of leave are evolving in a time of extraordinary emphasis on workforce flexibility. Workplaces are moving towards unique and contemporary leave types to match the culture of the business and the dynamic society we live in.
For example, ANZ launched its “loyalty leave” policy in March 2019, which increases paid annual leave to five weeks for staff who have had more than three years’ consecutive service. Shortly after, Deloitte Australia announced its existing parental leave scheme, which offers 18 weeks’ paid parental leave to all new parents regardless of gender, available over a three-year period.
Along with gender-neutral parental leave, many other trends have appeared and are continuing to expand regarding employee’s leave entitlements, including fertility leave and vaccination leave.
New Fertility Leave
Some corporate firms have recently introduced a new fertility leave policy. This includes a policy that offers its Australian staff access to five days of paid leave per annum to undergo fertility treatment. Two days of paid leave will also be available for staff to support a partner who is undergoing fertility treatment.
The policy comes ahead of International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which took place on Friday 15 October this year. The policy aims to provide staff with the rest and recovery they will likely need during a highly emotional and challenging time.
The Australian Government oversees the payment of Parental Leave Pay. As of 1 July 2020, eligible employees can now split their Parental Leave Pay (PLP) into two periods. This allows for greater flexibility and acknowledges that there are different ways in which people can become parents.
Employees are able to claim PLP for 1 set period and 1 flexible period. The first period of PLP is available for up to 12 continuous weeks, within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child. The second period of PLP is flexible and available for up to 30 days, usually starting after the first period ends and finishing within 24 months of a child’s birth or adoption.
Employees are able to take parental leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months before the date or expected date of birth if the employee is pregnant, before the date of the adoption, or when the leave starts have or will have responsibility for the care of a child.
For casual employees to be eligible for unpaid parental leave, they need to have been working for their employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months, or a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child.
Some corporate businesses have recently unveiled a 26-week parental leave policy in July 2021, which have been made available to all staff, regardless of gender identity.
Despite the Government’s PLP scheme and its move towards more flexible leave arrangements, many private entities are introducing even greater leave entitlements. These not only entice employees to join their workforce but also provide a more flexible and promising work culture that has been of particular importance in the corporate world over the last few years.
In accordance with the Fair Work Ombudsman, employees cannot take sick leave to get their COVID vaccination. However, this has not stopped employers from considering other flexible options for their employees who may need to book their vaccination during work times.
Where an employer requires an employee to be vaccinated against coronavirus, some employers have elected to cover the employee’s travel costs and give the employee time off work without loss of pay. This has also been used as an incentive to encourage the employees to receive the vaccination.
Even where an employer doesn’t require their employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus, they can still discuss work adjustments, leave arrangements or incentives with their employees to support them getting vaccinated. These arrangements could include requesting and taking leave, adjusting start or finish times, allowing the employee to work from home, or providing paid time off for their employees to get vaccinated.
Other Extraordinary Leave Trends
International companies, such as Virgin and Netflix, have introduced unlimited paid annual leave. Similarly, Australian innovation consulting firm Inventium also introduced a similar unlimited annual leave, labelling it as “rebalance leave.” Although this sounds too good to be true, the policy allows staff to take as much paid time off as needed, usually following an overwhelming working period. It also serves in recognition of the fact that staff often go through stages of working beyond the standard 38-hour week so deserve to take that extra leave when needed.
Other large companies are offering unlimited sick leave, which ensures employees have more than the two weeks that the employment standards usually afford. This also deters employees from taking sick leave just because they have it in the ‘bank’ to use. It also promotes taking personal leave for mental health recovery as opposed to taking time off purely for physical health issues.
Some companies such as Brewdog, a craft beer company, a Scandinavian company Musti Group, and U.K. tech company BitSol have introduced “pawternity” leave. This provides paid leave for employees who have recently acquired a cat or dog, or to care for ill or injured pets. Brewdog, for example, is offering a week of paid leave to settle in your new fur baby and welcome them home.
Some big Australian firms and companies also offer staff one “floating” public holiday per year, which allows employees to switch out an Australian public holiday for another day during the year to celebrate a religious or cultural holiday such as Chinese New Year or Diwali to accommodate cultural diversity in the workplace.
The Future of Leave
The future of employee leave entitlements is undoubtedly becoming more flexible and far-reaching than ever anticipated. It is predicted that these trends will continue to expand exponentially to emphasise employee and employer relations, gender-neutrality and cultural accommodation.
It is important that these extraordinary leave entitlements are provided for in businesses’ internal policies and Employee agreements. If you need assistance with the drafting and implementation of leave policies or employment contracts, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team to discuss the best way forward for your business.
ABOUT BRIANNA ELLUL:
Brianna is a Lawyer who has recently graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of International Studies with Distinction. Her major was International Relations and her minor was the Spanish language. While studying for her double degree, Brianna has worked in administrative, receptionist and customer service roles, which are reflected in her attention to detail, communication skills and organisational abilities.
This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.