Call free on
1300 575 394
Get a quote

Can you extend unpaid parental leave?

This question was recently sent to our Workplace Advice Line.
Return to previous page
Can you extend unpaid parental leave?

Can you extend unpaid parental leave?

18 September 2020

Is there a limit to the number of times you can extend unpaid parental leave?

This question was recently sent to our Workplace Advice Line.
 
Q We have an employee who is absent on unpaid parental leave. Initially he took three months off, but this was extended to 12 months. He is due back to work at the end of October.

The employee has now requested an additional 12 months off, making a total of 24 months' leave. He says he is entitled to up to 24 months' unpaid parental leave under the legislation. We don't want to agree to a further extension as it will be disruptive for our business.

While accepting there is a cap on the total amount of unpaid parental leave, does he have a right to demand an extension?
 
A The Fair Work Act (sections75-77) provides that only one extension of unpaid parental leave is permitted. This extension isn’t able to be refused by an employer. This type of extension should be what is referred to as the “right to extend once”. Further extensions may be made by agreement between an employer and an employee, up to a maximum period of unpaid parental leave totalling 24 months.

An employee may extend the period of unpaid parental leave by giving his/her employer written notice of the extension at least four weeks before the end of the original leave period. The notice must specify the end date for the leave. The employee must have an available period of unpaid parental leave of 12 months, less any concurrent leave, special maternity leave, paid no safe job leave, or extended unpaid leave.

The employer is not obliged to agree to a second or subsequent extension of the leave, although the employer’s decision should be based on reasonable business grounds. The Fair Work Act does not provide a general definition of ‘reasonable business grounds’, although there is a specific definition in the context of ‘requests for flexible working arrangements’ under the National Employment Standards.

In that context, reasonable business grounds include that:

  • the new work arrangements requested by the employee would be too costly for the employer
  • there is no capacity to change the work arrangements of other employees to accommodate the new work arrangements requested by the employee
  • it would be impractical to change the work arrangements of other employees, or recruit new employees, to accommodate the new work arrangements requested by the employee
  • the new work arrangements requested by the employee would be likely to result in significant loss of efficiency or productivity, and
  • the new work arrangements requested by the employee would be likely to have a significant negative impact on customer service.


Reducing leave

If the employer agrees, an employee whose period of unpaid parental leave has started may reduce the period of unpaid leave he/she takes.

The bottom line: Under the National Employment Standards, an employee has the right to only one extension of unpaid parental leave, with any subsequent request for an extension subject to the agreement of the employer.
 

Workplace Advice Line

Got a question about HR management or employment law? Call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 575 394.

Sign up to get the latest news and updates

Like what you’re hearing?

With plans available from just $58 per week, now is an excellent time to join Workplace Assured.

PROTECTION
REASSURANCE
GUIDANCE