If you're pregnant, you're likely thinking about how to make end meets after you have your baby.
Most parents want to spend as much time as they can at home with their brand new baby.
It's important to be informed about your rights and entitlements, so you can plan for what what's ahead.
So, what are you entitled to for paid parental leave in Australia?
In 2015, the Australian Government's Paid Parental Leave and Dad and Partner Pay currently provides eligible employees with:
- 18 weeks at the national minimum wage for the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child
- Two weeks at the national minimum wage for fathers and partners, including same-sex partners
The government-funded schemes provide eligible working parents with income when they take time off from work, to care for a newborn or recently adopted child.
Full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers may be eligible for the Paid Parental Scheme.
Who Can Receive Paid Parental Leave?
In order to claim Paid Parental Leave you must:
- Be claiming for a child born or adopted on or after 1 January 2011
- Be the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child
- Meet residence requirements
- Not work throughout the Paid Parental Leave period
- Have taken the Paid Parental Leave work test before the birth or adoption of the child (exceptions are made in some circumstances, such as premature birth)
- Have received an individual adjusted taxable income equal to $150,000 or less.
The primary carer is the person who most meets the child's physical needs. This is usually the birth mother of a newborn or the initial primary carer of an adopted child. You are considered to be the primary carer from birth, even if your child is in hospital.
You may also qualify for Paid Parental Leave if you experience stillbirth or infant death.
Your Paid Parental Leave can only be taken by one parent at a time. If you return to work before the end of the 18 week leave period, your partner may be eligible to take the remainder of the leave. Your partner would then become the primary carer and needs to meet eligibility requirements.
Who Is Eligible for Dad And Partner Pay?
To receive Dad and Partner Pay, a person must:
- Meet the scheme's work, income and residency tests
- Be caring for their child
- Be on unpaid leave or not working during their 2 week Dad and Partner Pay period
You need to be either the:
- Biological father of the child
- Partner of the birth mother
- Adopting parent
- Partner of the adopting parent
- Parent in a surrogacy arrangement
- Partner of a parent in a surrogacy arrangement
- Same-sex partner of the birth mother, the biological father, or the adopting parent.
You must also:
- Meet residence requirements
- Be able to provide care for a newborn or recently adopted child
- Have an individual adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less in the financial year either before the date of your claim or the date your Dad and Partner Pay period starts, whichever is earlier
- Meet the work test for Dad and Partner Pay
- Be on unpaid leave or not working during your Dad and Partner Pay period
Dad and Partner leave cannot be transferred to the primary carer.
Claiming Parental Leave Pay
Paid Parental Leave can be claimed up to three months before your baby’s due date or the adoption of your child. It is best to discuss your Paid Parental Leave with your employer as early as possible, to ensure your claim is a smooth process.
Usually your employer will pay your Parental Leave Pay directly to you, and then claim the money back from the Government. In some cases, you will receive your payments directly from the Government as your employer will be unable to pay you directly.
You can submit a claim up to 52 weeks after your child’s birth or adoption but to receive the maximum 18 weeks you need to ensure your claim is submitted within 34 weeks of the birth or adoption of your child.
For more information about claiming Paid Parental Leave go to the Department of Human Services website.
My Employer Already Has a Maternity Leave Scheme
If your employer’s parental leave scheme is already in your employment agreement you can still claim the Paid Parental Leave. You may take them both at the same time or one after the other. If you've been with your employer for over 12 months, you should be entitled to take 12 months of unpaid leave, with the option to take a further 12 months unpaid leave after. Discuss your options with your manager or human resources department.
Why Is There a Need For Paid Parental Leave?
The number of women participating in the Australian workforce has dramatically increased over the past few decades. Studies show that compared to other industrialised countries, the Australian women’s workforce decreases by a greater amount during peak child-bearing years.
According to the Productivity Commission inquiry into Paid Parental Leave: Support for Parents with Newborn Children: “There is compelling evidence of child and maternal health and development benefits from a period of absence from work for the primary caregiver of around six months.”
The Paid Parental Leave scheme was estimated to allow parents to exclusively care of their child for the first six months of life, without undue financial strain. This can improve the child’s overall development; enhance support for breastfeeding, which has health benefits for both mother and child; and provide sufficient time for the mother to recover from childbirth.
EOWA adds other benefits of paid maternity leave:
- It increases the number of employees who return to work after maternity leave
- It helps reduce recruitment and training costs which can occur if there is a need to hire new employees
- It helps to improve staff morale and productivity
The early formative years of the child’s life are crucial to his/her development later in life, and the quality of family life is impacted by the quality of the parents’ work life. The objective of Paid Parental Leave is to achieve “greater gender equity and balance between paid work and family life.”
Through the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, the Australian government is encouraging increased workforce participation for women before they have children and in between pregnancies. In addition, the government wishes to change community attitudes by sending a strong message that having a child and taking leave from work upon the birth or adoption of the child is a normal part of work and family life.
For many years, Australia and the United States were the only Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries that did not have a national system for paid maternity leave. With paid parental leave, the Australian government recognises that there is increased financial strain placed on families after the birth of a child, whether the mother is working or not.
A Government survey in 2011 found that over half of all new mothers had access to employer-provided paid maternity leave. It is estimated that about 85% of working women are eligible for the current Government Paid Parental Leave scheme.
What If I Am Denied Paid Maternity Leave?
Being denied paid maternity leave is discrimination.
There have been cases of employers terminating contracts of pregnant employers a week before they qualify for paid parental leave. Small business owners seem more particularly concerned with the cost of parental leave, or are unwilling to accommodate the period of leave.
If you feel you have been dismissed unfairly, contact the Fair Work Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission. Both have websites that you can access for more information about your rights and how to make a complaint.
More Information On Paid Parental Leave? You can find more information on the Paid Parental Leave Scheme here.