News & Events

Managing uncertainty: Update on proposed changes to paid parental leave

Submitted By Firm: Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Contact(s): John Tuck


By Nick Le Mare (Partner), Georgina North (Senior Associate), Melody Martin (Associate) & Professor Anthony Forsyth (Consultant)

Date Published: 8/17/2015

Article Type:

Share This:

On Mother’s Day (8 May 2015), Federal Treasurer The Hon Joe Hockey MP announced that ‘double dipping’ parents would no longer be able to access the government-funded paid parental leave (PPL) scheme if they would receive the same or a greater benefit from an employer-funded PPL scheme.

Since this announcement was confirmed in the Federal Budget on 12 May 2015,[1] there has been a great deal of uncertainty about what employers should do to prepare for the changes.

Some clarification has been provided with the introduction into Parliament of the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill 2015 (Fairer PPL Bill) on 25 June.


The Fairer PPL Bill would amend the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (Cth) to effect the change in access to the government-funded PPL scheme outlined above from 1 July 2016. Specifically:

  • an employee seeking to access the government scheme will be required to inform the Department of Human Services (DHS) of any PPL entitlement they will receive from their employer;
  • the employee’s government PPL entitlement will be reduced proportionately by the amount of the employer-provided PPL;
  • if the employer-provided PPL is equal to or more than the employee’s entitlement under the government scheme (i.e. 18 weeks’ pay at the national minimum wage), then the employee will not be entitled to any government-funded PPL.

The Explanatory Memorandum for the Fairer PPL Bill states that this proposed change will ensure that government funds are “more fairly targeted to parents who do not also have sufficient access to employer-provided parental leave or similar payments”.

The Fairer PPL Bill also proposes to relieve employers of the “red-tape burden and compliance costs” of administering government-funded PPL payments to their employees.[2] This responsibility will be transferred to DHS from 1 April 2016, unless an employer elects to continue managing these PPL payments and the relevant employee also agrees.


The Fairer PPL Bill has been referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, with submissions closed on 30 July and a report due by 15 September 2015.

So the big question is: with Labour and the Greens opposed to the Fairer PPL Bill, will it be passed by the Senate?

Of the cross-bench Senators, two are understood to be opposed to the changes, two are in favour, and the remaining four are still considering their position.[3]

The Minister for Social Services has said that negotiations will take place over the terms of the Fairer PPL Bill, but has not indicated what form they might take or where concessions could be made.

In this politically uncertain environment, it is unlikely that the Bill will pass the Senate in its current form.


The proposed changes are not intended to have any direct impact on employer PPL schemes. However, employers with such schemes in place are unlikely to support a government PPL scheme which has the arbitrary effect of making them (generous employers) pay for their employees’ PPL, while the government covers the cost of PPL for less generous employers.

In fact the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicated, in response to the Budget PPL announcement in May that employers may look at:

  • withdrawing their own PPL schemes (so employees can access the government scheme); or
  • “rejigging” employees’ remuneration packages to provide other benefits (e.g. return to work bonuses) in lieu of PPL payments.[4]

Despite the uncertainty over the Fairer PPL Bill’s fate, employers should start considering how the proposed changes may impact their existing arrangements. Given the importance of employer PPL schemes as a recruitment and retention incentive, any reduction of this benefit will need to be managed carefully.

 Considerable planning will also be required, as employers generally cannot make immediate changes to their own PPL schemes:

  • Any changes to employment contracts will require the consent of the relevant employee.
  • Variations to enterprise agreements are very difficult to make as they require both the agreement of employees and the approval of the Fair Work Commission. Employers should therefore wait until current agreements expire before proposing changes to agreement PPL provisions. Employers who are currently re-negotiating expired agreements may want to consider varying their proposed PPL clause to include benefits for parents other than PPL (see further below). Unions are likely to be on board with whatever will benefit their members to the greatest extent.
  • Policies and procedures are usually more flexible, but changes may still cause difficulties and employers should consult with their employees before doing so.

Employers might also want to consider changes they could make which would offset any reduction in employee entitlements if the Fairer PPL Bill changes do pass into law. Alternative benefits to PPL might include the employer paying for child care (or increased levels of child care), or providing parents with a bonus (or staggered bonuses) on their return to work.

Employees who are considering having children in the next few years are likely to have thought about what the changes will mean for them and what they would like to happen. Employers will benefit from canvassing these opinions and ideas and then considering how the ideas could be accommodated. Consulting with employees now will help to make future change quicker and easier to implement.

[1] See here.

[2] The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Social Services, Second Reading Speech on the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill 2015, House of Representatives, 25 June 2015.

[3] Judith Ireland, “Blow to Abbott’s paid parental leave cuts, as PUP senator calls changes ‘not acceptable’”, WA Today, 8 June 2015.

[4] Joanna Mather and Misa Han, “Budget 2015: Employers will dump parental leave, business leaders say”, Australian Financial Review, 11 May 2015.


Find a Member

View or print a complete ELA member list »

Client Successes

Altra Industrial Motion Inc.

Altra Industrial Motion Inc. has multiple locations in the U.S., as well as Central America, Europe, and Asia. The Employment Law Alliance has proved to be a great asset in assisting us in dealing with employment issues and matters in such diverse venues as Mexico, Australia, and Spain. We have obtained excellent results using the ELA network for matters ranging from a multi-state review of employment policies to assisting with individual employment issues in a variety of foreign jurisdictions.

In one instance, we were faced with an employment dispute with a former associate in Mexico that had the potential for substantial economic exposure. The matter had been pending for over a year, and we were not confident in the employment advice we had been receiving. I obtained a referral to the ELA counsel in Mexico, who was able to obtain a favorable resolution of the dispute in only a few days. Based on our experiences with the ELA, we would not hesitate to use its many resources for future employment law needs.

American University in Bulgaria

In my career I have been a practicing attorney, counsel to the Governor of Maine, and CEO of a major public utility. I have worked with many lawyers in many settings. When the American University in Bulgaria needed help with employment litigation in federal court in Syracuse, New York, we turned to Pierce Atwood, the ELA member we knew and trusted in Maine, for a referral. We were extremely pleased with the responsiveness and high quality of service we received from Bond Schoeneck & King, the ELA's firm in upstate New York. I would not hesitate to recommend the ELA to any employer.

David T. Flanagan
Member of Board of Trustees 

Arcata Associates

I really enjoyed the Conducting an Effective Internal Investigation in the United States webinar.  We are in the midst of a rather delicate employee relations issue in California right now and the discussion helped me tremendously.  It also reinforced things that you tend to forget if you don't do these investigations frequently.  So, many, many thanks to the Employment Law Alliance for putting that webinar together.  It was extremely beneficial.

Lynn Clayton
Vice President, Human Resources

Barrett Business Services, Inc.

I recently participated in the ELA-sponsored webinar on the Employee Free Choice Act.  I was most impressed with that presentation.  It was extremely helpful and very worthwhile.  I have also been utilizing the ELA's online Global Employer Handbook.  This compliance tool is absolutely terrific. 

I am familiar with several other products that purport to provide up-to- date employment law information and I believe that this resource is superior to other similar compliance manuals.  I am delighted that the ELA provides this free to its members' clients.

Boyd Coffee Company

Employment Law Alliance (ELA) has provided Boyd Coffee Company with a highly valued connection to resources, important information and learning. With complex operations and employees working in approximately 20 states, we are continually striving to keep abreast of specific state laws, many of which vary from state to state. We have participated in the ELA web seminars and have found the content very useful. We appreciate the ease, cost effectiveness and quality of the content and presenters offered by these web seminars.  The Global Employer Handbook has provided our company with a very helpful overview of legal issues in the various states in which we operate, and the network of attorneys has helped us manage issues that have arisen in states other than where our Roastery and corporate headquarters are located in Portland, Oregon.

Capgemini Outsourcing Services GmbH

As an international operating outsourcing and consulting supplier Capgemini has used firms of the Employment Law Alliance in Central Europe. We were always highly satisfied with the quality of employment law advice and the responsiveness. I can really recommend the ELA lawyers.

Hirschfeld Kraemer

Stephen HirschfeldAs an employment lawyer based in San Francisco, I work closely with high tech clients with operations around the globe. Last year, one of my clients needed to implement a workforce reduction in a dozen countries simultaneously. And they gave me 48 hours to accomplish this. I don't know how I could have pulled this off without the resources of the ELA. I don't know of any single law firm that could have made this happen. My client received all of the help they needed in a timely fashion and on a cost effective basis.

Stephen J. Hirschfeld

Hollywood Entertainment Corporation

As the Vice President for Litigation & Associate General Counsel for my company, I need to ensure that we have a team of top-notch employment lawyers in place in every jurisdiction where we do business. And I want to be confident that those lawyers know our business so they don't have to reinvent the wheel when a new legal matter arises. With more than 3400 stores and 35,000 employees operating in all 50 U.S. states and across Canada, we rely on the ELA to partner with us to help accomplish our objectives. I have been delighted with the consistent high quality of the work performed by ELA lawyers. I encourage other in-house counsel to use their services, as well.

Ingram Micro

Ingram Micro is the world's largest technology distributor, providing sales, marketing, and logistics services for the IT industry around the globe. With over 13,000 employees working throughout the U.S. and in 35 international countries, we need employment lawyers who we can count on to ensure global legal compliance. Our experience with many multi-state and multi-national law firms is that their employment law services are not always a high priority for them, and many do not have experts in many of their offices. The ELA has assembled an excellent team of highly skilled employment lawyers, wherever and whenever I need them, and they have proven to be an invaluable resource to our company.

Konami Gaming

Our company, Konami Gaming, Inc., is growing rapidly in a very diverse and highly regulated industry. We are aggressively entering new markets outside the domestic U.S., including Canada and South America. I have had the recent opportunity to utilize the services provided by the ELA. The legal advice was both responsive and professional. Most of all, the entire process was seamless since our Nevada attorney coordinated the services and legal advice requested. I look forward to working with the ELA in the future, as it serves as a great resource to the legal community.

Jennifer Martinez
Vice President, Human Resources

Nikkiso Cryo, Inc.

Until recently, I was unaware of the ELA's existence. We have subsidiaries and affiliates throughout the United States, as well as in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. When a recent legal issue arose in Texas, our long-time Nevada counsel, who is a member of the ELA, suggested that this matter be handled by his ELA colleague in Dallas. We are very pleased with the quality and timeliness of services provided by that firm, and we are excited to now have the ELA as an important asset to help us address employment law issues worldwide.

Palm, Inc.

The ELA network has been immensely important to our company in helping us address an array of human resources challenges around the world. I strongly encourage H.R. executives who have employees located in many different jurisdictions to utilize the ELA's unparalleled expertise and geographic coverage.

Stacy Murphy
Former Senior Director of Human Resources

Rich Products

As the General Counsel for a company with 6,500 employees operating across the U.S. and in eight countries, it is critical that I have top quality lawyers on the ground where we do business. The ELA is an indispensable resource. It has taken the guesswork out of finding the best employment counsel wherever we have a problem.

Jill K. Bond
Senior Vice President/General Counsel, Shared Services and Benefits

Ricoh Americas Corporation

We have direct sales and service offices all over the U.S., but have not necessarily had the need in the past for assistance with legal work in every state where we have a business presence. From time to time, we suddenly find ourselves facing a legal issue in a state where we have no outside counsel relationship. It has been a real benefit to know that the ELA has assembled such an impressive team of experts throughout the U.S. and overseas.

A few years ago, we faced a very tough discrimination lawsuit in Mississippi. We had never had to retain a lawyer there before. I was absolutely delighted with the Mississippi ELA firm. We received an excellent result. They will no doubt handle all of our employment law matters in Mississippi in the future. I have also obtained the assistance of several other ELA firms around the U.S. and have received the same outstanding service. The ELA is a tremendous resource for our company.

Roberts-Gordon LLC

Our affiliated companies have used the Employment Law Alliance in connection with numerous acquisitions, and have always been extremely pleased with our ability to obtain the highest quality legal advice on due diligence issues from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We have found the Employment Law Alliance firms to be not only first rate with respect to their legal advice but also responsive and timely in assisting us with federal and state law issues critical to our due diligence efforts. We consider the Employment Law Alliance to be an important part of our team.

Rockwell Collins, Inc.

We have partnered with many ELA firms on the development and execution of case management strategies with very positive results. We have been very pleased with the legal advice and counsel provided by the law firms we have utilized who are affiliated with the Employment Law Alliance. The ELA firms we have worked with are customer focused, responsive, and thorough in their approach to handling labor and employment law matters.

Elizabeth Daly
Assistant General Counsel


Sanmina-SCI has facilities strategically located in key regions throughout the world. Our customers expect that we will provide them with the highest quality and most sophisticated services in the marketplace. We have that same expectation for the lawyers with whom we do business. With operations in 17 countries, we need to be certain that we have a team of lawyers working together to address our employment law needs worldwide. The ELA has delivered exactly what it promised-- seamless and consistent high quality services delivered in each locale around the globe. It has quickly become a key asset for our human resources department.


We own, manage, and franchise hotels throughout the U.S. and in more than 90 countries. With more than 145,000 employees worldwide, ensuring that we comply with the complex web of local labor and employment laws in every one of these jurisdictions is a daunting task. The Employment Law Alliance has served as an important resource for us and we have benefited greatly from its expertise and long reach. When a legal dispute or issue has arisen in some far-flung place, Employment Law Alliance lawyers have always provided responsive, practical, and cost-effective assistance.

Wilmington Trust Corporation

Wilmington Trust has used the ELA to locate firms in California, Washington State, Georgia, and Europe. Our experience with the ELA lawyers with whom we have worked has always been one of complete satisfaction and prompt, practical advice.

Michael A. DiGregorio
General Counsel