Employment and Migration Blog

Parental Leave and Sunset Clauses

Posted by Anna Ford on 29 Jul 2013

As mentioned in our previous blog ‘Returning to work post baby’ employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements upon their return to work, including working part-time. However, it is important for both the employee and the employer to realise that these employment conditions are not permanent.  One way you can make that clear is to incorporate a “sunset clause” in the agreement that is negotiated.  

By “sunset clause” I mean an end date to the arrangement. So for example, in the case of flexible work arrangements, the end date will typically be when the child reaches school age. Accordingly, the expectation set from the beginning of the arrangement is that the employee will resume full duties, as per the terms of his/her original employment contract, as soon as the child starts school.

Have you considered the implications of staff returning from parental leave? 

An employee has the right when they return to work to seek flexible work arrangements. This could include varied office hours, working from home or even part-time work.

It is important for both sides to consider the potential changes that may have occurred in the business, as well as the changes to the employee’s personal circumstances, since the employee commenced parental leave. For example, is the workload such that the business can accommodate him/her back part time? Can the additional work be distributed elsewhere to accommodate the part time arrangement? Is the employee physically and emotional ready to leave the baby full time?

So what should you do as an employer?   

Ensure you open lines of communication with your employee at least a month before they are due to return to the workplace and discuss with them under what circumstances they are planning to return to work. It is important you seek legal advice before you do this so that you understand your obligations as an employer. If approached in the right way, an outcome can be reached that works for both of you!

The experienced lawyers in the Coleman Greig Employment Law Team can help you with these negotiations and provide appropriate advice. Simply call us on 02 9895 9296 – we’re here to help.