What Extended Parental Leave Means For You

Parenthood is a transformative journey that’s filled with both joys and challenges. As society continues to evolve, so does our understanding of the importance of parental involvement during the early stages of a child’s life. A growing number of individuals and organisations are embracing the concept of extended parental leave, a game-changing policy that offers parents the opportunity to spend more quality time with their newborns and establish strong familial bonds. Extended parental leave goes beyond the traditional model of a few weeks or months, allowing parents to take extended time away from work to care for their children. This approach not only benefits families but for employers, it contributes to a healthier and more inclusive workforce. Take a look at these helpful tips on the many ways it’s beneficial and how to tailor it to your needs. 

What is extended parental leave?

Extended parental leave is additional time beyond the standard duration of parental leave that’s granted to new parents in Australia. This additional leave must be agreed on by an employee with their employer. It provides parents with an extended period away from work to care for and bond with their newborn or newly adopted child. It also provides parents with additional time to prepare for their return to work. 

The impact of extended parental leave for children and parents

Extended parental leave recognises the crucial role that parents play in their child’s growth and development during their early years. Research has shown that parental involvement has a positive impact on a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional well-being. By providing parents with an extended period of leave, this policy enables them to establish a strong foundation of love, care, and support, fostering healthy attachment and nurturing their child’s overall development.

Extended parental leave also promotes a balanced division of parental responsibilities, challenging traditional expectations and societal norms. Historically, there has been a culture of women shouldering the majority of the caring responsibilities. Parents who are spouses or in a de facto relationship can take parental leave at the same time. This can be up to 12 months, or 24 months in total in the case of extended parental leave. Leave can be for a continuous unbroken period or broken. By encouraging both parents to actively participate in caring responsibilities through extended leave, the policy fosters a more equitable distribution of parenting time.

The benefits of extended parental leave

Extending parental leave beyond the first 12 months of your initial leave can be the solution you need. It will give you extra time to connect with your child, establish a routine and plan for your return to work or secure childcare. 

Family connection

Extended parental leave offers numerous benefits to individuals, regardless of their stage in the parenting journey. For new parents, it provides an invaluable opportunity to bond with their child during the crucial early months. It allows for uninterrupted time to adapt to the demands of parenthood, establish routines, and create a strong foundation for their family.

Work-life balance

For working professionals, extended parental leave can be a lifeline amidst the often overwhelming juggling act of work and family. It provides a much-needed break from professional responsibilities, allowing parents to fully immerse themselves in the joys and challenges of raising a child. By taking this time to recharge and focus on their family, parents often return to work with renewed energy, increased job satisfaction, and improved overall well-being.

Company benefits

Additionally, extended parental leave has a positive impact on employers and organisations. Forward-thinking companies that embrace these policies are more likely to attract and retain top talent. By fostering a family-friendly culture, they create an inclusive work environment that values the personal lives and well-being of their employees. This, in turn, leads to higher employee morale, increased loyalty, and enhanced productivity.

Eligibility for extended parental leave

Anyone eligible for parental leave can access extended parental leave. To be eligible for parental leave, you must have worked for a business for a minimum of 12 months. You must also be the primary caregiver of a child. Eligibility is the same for casual, permanent part-time and full-time employees. 

Duration of extended parental leave

Unpaid parental leave can be extended for up to 12 months in addition to the initial 12 months of parental leave that eligible employees are entitled to. For a pregnant partner, the initial 12 months of leave can start up to 6 weeks before the expected date of birth or earlier if the employer agrees. For non-pregnant partners, parental leave can start from the expected date of birth. When adopting, the leave can be taken from the day on which care begins for a child. You need to give at least 4 weeks’ notice in writing before the end of your initial planned parental leave to extend it.

Challenges and considerations

While extended parental leave offers significant benefits, leave being unpaid also presents challenges and considerations for both parents. From a financial standpoint, taking extended leave may require careful budgeting and planning to ensure financial stability during the absence from work. 

Career progression throughout extended parental leave is another important consideration. Extended leave may result in potential challenges when re-entering the workforce. It’s important to consider staying connected to professional networks, engaging in relevant industry developments during the leave period and seeking opportunities for skills development or retraining. 

Financial considerations during extended parental leave

Depending on the policies of your employer, you may get some income during parental leave. With the Government’s Parental Leave Pay scheme, families can access payment for up to 100 days, or 20 weeks, while they care for a newborn or newly adopted child. During extended parental leave you should consider your expenses and available savings. You may need to adjust your household budget to account for a reduced income during this time. Identify areas where you can cut expenses or make temporary changes to accommodate less cash flow. Consider if you can use savings to cover unexpected expenses and supplement your reduced income. Planning an emergency fund as a financial safety net is also a good idea. 

How to plan for extended parental leave

Although the minimum notice period for extended parental leave is 4 weeks from the end date of your initial leave, notice should ideally be given earlier. This will allow adequate planning for both you and your employer. In your notice include the reason that you’re seeking the extension of parental leave and the new date you will return to work. This additional leave needs to be approved and agreed on by your employer. It’s important to establish a mutual understanding of how best to meet the needs of you and your employer. 

Your employer has 21 days to provide you with a written response to let you know whether your extension is approved. Although your employer doesn’t have to approve your request, they can only refuse it on reasonable business grounds. They must include the reasons for any refusal in their written response.

Planning your return to work – childcare options

When you do decide to return to work after taking parental leave, it’s a good idea to check the childcare options in your area. This will help you determine the level of care that you’ll need for your child in the future and how much care you can access as many centres have waiting lists. If you’re thinking about signing your child up for childcare, it might be a good idea to join the waiting list. It’s best to start this process before you think you might need care. 

Embracing extended parental leave for a balanced family life

Extended parental leave is a game-changer for parents. This provides them with the necessary time and support to bond with their children. Also, navigate the challenges of early parenthood and plan their return to work. Extended parental leave holds significant value for expectant parents preparing for their first child, for working professionals who want a better work-life balance and for employers striving to create a family-friendly workplace. It empowers parents to actively participate in their child’s upbringing, ensuring a more balanced and equitable distribution of parental responsibilities.

Prepare for your return to work with Child’s Play

At Child’s Play Early Learning Centre, we understand the challenges parents face when it comes to balancing work and family responsibilities.  Our experienced team is committed to delivering high-quality care and education. Ensuring your child’s well-being and development are our top priorities. Child’s Play is here to support your family when you decide to embark on your professional journey.