The Paid Parental Leave Amendment (COVID-19 Work Test) Bill 2021 (the Bill) proposes amendments to the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (the PPL Act) toallow time in receipt of the COVID-19 Disaster Payment to count as work for the purpose of the Paid Parental Leave scheme. The Paid Parental Leave scheme includes both Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay.
Parental Leave Pay provides eligible working parents with up to 18 weeks of payment at the National Minimum Wage (currently $772.60 per week) when they take leave from work to care for a newborn or recently adopted child. Dad and Partner Pay provides eligible working fathers or partners with up to two weeks pay at the rate of the national minimum wage.
Parental Leave Pay claimants must meet a work test. Usually this means they must have worked for both:
- ten of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of their child and
- a minimum of 330 hours, around one day a week, in that ten-month period.
Ten months is counted as 295 days and 13 months as 392 days.
The same work test applies to Dad and Partner Pay.
In 2020, in response to COVID-19 restrictions that prevented people from working, the Government amended the PPL Act to allow Paid Parental Leave scheme claimants to count time they or their employer were receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy as work. JobKeeper ended on 28 March 2021.
On 3 June 2021, the Government introduced a new payment for people whose income is affected by state and territory government COVID-19 lockdowns—the COVID-19 Disaster Payment.
Time in receipt of a COVID-19 Disaster Payment to count as work
The Bill amends the PPL Act so that time spent in receipt of a COVID-19 Disaster Payment counts as work for the purpose of the Paid Parental Leave scheme’s work test. It also allows the Minister for Families and Social Services to change the Paid Parental Leave Rules (a legislative instrument) to allow time spent in receipt of any future payments defined as a ‘COVID-19 Australian Government payment’ to count as work.
Explanatory memorandum explains the Bill’s provisions
The Bill is relatively short containing only one Schedule and ten items. The Explanatory Memorandum explains the operation of the Bill’s provisions in detail.
Issues—end of the extended work test
Another measure introduced in 2020 which was designed to prevent workers being excluded from Parental Leave Pay or Dad and Partner Pay as a result of COVID-19 restrictions was the extended work test.
The extended work test applied to claimants who
- did not meet the standard work test because their employment hours reduced, or they stopped work, due to COVID-19 and
- their child’s birth or adoption was between 22 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.
It allowed claimants to meet the ten months of work and 330 hours test over a period of 20 months (600 days) rather than the usual 13 months (392 days).
This measure has not been extended to cover births or adoptions beyond 31 March 2021. This may affect the eligibility of claimants whose child was born or adopted after this date but whose ability to work has been affected by state and territory government lockdowns. For example, those who lost employment prior to the Winter 2021 lockdowns would not be eligible for the COVID-19 Disaster Payment (as their income was not affected by the lockdown), but they may also be unable to look for or undertake new employment due to the lockdown restrictions.