Together with other unions, the IEU recognises that 2020 marks a decade since the legislation which introduced Australia’s national Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme – a significant achievement for the union movement and of great benefit to many IEU members, especially those with no paid parental leave from their employer (such as those in early childhood and ELICOS) and others who have not had a year with their current employer.
As part of the 18 weeks' payment under PPL, there is a provision for up to 10 days of ‘keeping in touch’ whereby a staff member on PPL can undertake some paid work without affecting their PPL payments or bringing the 18 weeks period to an end. As some members have recently contacted the Union about their employer’s uncertainty about this provision, it is important to clarify the benefits and operation of ‘keeping in touch.’
Under the Fair Work Act definition, a day of work is a keeping in touch day if the paid work is either:
- to stay connected with your workplace
- to help you transition back into work.
What does this mean?
A ‘keeping in touch’ day could include:
- taking part in planning meetings or other activities
- undertaking professional development or attending a conference
- reconnecting with the workplace or your role before returning to work.
For the purpose of ‘keeping in touch’, one hour or more of paid work activity counts as one day and this contributes towards the limit of 10 days.
A ‘keeping in touch’ day cannot be accessed within the first two weeks after the birth or adoption of a child. After this time, employees can request a keeping in touch day and there must be agreement, preferably in writing, between the employee and the employer before a 'keeping in touch' day is taken. An employer can’t request a keeping in touch day within the first six weeks after the birth or adoption.
While there is no requirement to advise the Australian Government (Services Australia) of taking a 'keeping in touch' day, it is recommended that such days are confirmed in writing on each occasion. It is important that employers are very clear that taking a 'keeping in touch' day does not signal a return to work and thus the end of the PPL period.
Work undertaken on a 'keeping in touch' day counts as service and must be paid at the appropriate rate. A 'keeping in touch' day may contribute to workplace entitlements, such as salary progression for teachers and the accrual of superannuation.
Under the National Employment Standards, accessing a 'keeping in touch' day does not affect the entitlement to 12 months unpaid parental leave. Taking keeping in touch days does not extend the 18 weeks' Paid Parental Leave period.
Members with any inquiries about parental leave, the national PPL scheme or 'keeping in touch' days, are welcome to contact the IEU for advice and support.