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The Father’s Day Guide to parenting rights and legal protections

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Workplace discrimination is a common experience for fathers seeking flexibility and lawyers are urging employers to celebrate Fathers’ Day this year by proactively promoting their family-friendly policies.

As little as two per cent of Australian men said they had taken parental leave, according to a 2016 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development[1].

Recent surveys have also found that employers were 50 per cent more likely to reject a male worker’s request for reduced hours[2] and more than a quarter of fathers and parents experienced discrimination related to parental leave and return to work[3].

Slater and Gordon Employment Lawyer Aron Neilson said parents and employers should remember that legislation was in place to support hands-on fathers and carers.

“The dynamic of Australian families has changed considerably over the years and, for the most part, our laws are reflecting the equal role parents play in their child’s life,” Mr Neilson said.  

“18 weeks paid parental leave based on the national minimum wage is available for whichever parent chooses to be the primary caregiver, with two weeks for the other parent.

“Federal and state anti-discrimination laws also apply to fathers in the same way as mothers, while the Fair Work Act also protects against discrimination on the basis of family or carer responsibilities.

“There is actually a wide range of rights and protections available to parents, including fathers, so we’ve created a guide to help both employees and employers navigate the legal system.”

Can an employer refuse a father’s request for flexible working arrangements?

Mr Neilson said parents and carers have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements and these requests can only be refused on certain grounds.

“A person can apply for flexible working arrangements if they have been working for their employer for at least 12 months and they are responsible for children who are school aged or younger,” Mr Neilson said.

“These requests must be seriously considered by employers and can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

“I would urge employers to not only take requests for flexibility seriously, but also take further steps to actively promote family-friendly policies to help reduce the stigma that clearly exists for fathers seeking shared parenting roles.”

What entitlements can fathers use if they need to care for a sick child?

Mr Neilson said paid and unpaid carer’s leave was available to all Australian workers who need to care for a sick child, including fathers.

“Every Australian worker can take up to ten days of personal/carer’s leave per year, which covers their own sickness, as well as caring responsibilities for sick children,” Mr Neilson said.

“Additionally, when an employee has exhausted their paid leave, they are entitled to two days of unpaid carer’s leave on each separate occasion a member of their household needs care or support due to illness, injury or an emergency.”


[1] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Background brief on fathers’ leave and its use, March 2016, pp10-11: https://www.oecd.org/els/family/Backgrounder-fathers-use-of-leave.pdf 

[2] Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australia is a nation of workers carers, new study finds, 27 August 2017, https://www.actu.org.au/media/1033414/actu-release-170827-actu-work-and-care-survey-results.pdf 

[3] Australian Human Rights Commission, Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review – Report, 2014, pp 15-21 http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SWP_Report_2014.pdf