Finishing paid work and stepping into parenthood is a huge adjustment to make. Your days (and nights!) are going to be looking very different. You’re probably equal parts excited and overwhelmed and trying to get your head around the enormity of what’s to come. Your thoughts turn to maternity leave. That big long holiday filled with love, cuddles, poop and sleeplessness. So what are you entitled to in terms of maternity leave in Australia?
Talking to your employer about taking any leave can be somewhat fraught. If you’re in a workplace that’s not particularly sensitive, this can be an anxiety inducing experience.
With that in mind, here is a straight-forward explanation of your rights when it comes to maternity leave. The information below comes from The Fair Work Ombudsman and The Australian Government’s Department of Human Services. This will explain your entitlements when it comes to maternity leave supported and sanctioned by the government.
It is recommended that you organise your leave at least 10 weeks before you intend to take it. Look carefully at your contract and know what you are entitled to. The information below should help you understand what you are entitled to.
Unpaid Maternity Leave
According to the FairWork Ombudsmen parental leave is leave that can be taken when:
- an employee gives birth
- an employee’s spouse or de facto partner gives birth
- an employee adopts a child under 16 years of age.
Employees are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave. They can also request an additional 12 months of leave.
To be eligible you must
- Have worked for that employer for at least the previous 12 months before the due date or date of adoption
- Have or will have responsibility for the care of a child
If you STAY with your same employer, you can take more maternity leave straight away (meaning that you don’t have to wait 12 months after returning to fall pregnant again). If you start with a NEW employer, though, you’ll have to wait for those 12 months to elapse.
Paid Maternity Leave – What Am I Entitled To?
There are 4 payments that we will discuss in this article. These are Parental Leave Pay, Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement, Dad or Partner Leave and Employer Funded Maternity Leave. You cannot receive Parental Leave Pay and Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn supplement for the same child.
You may be eligible for some of this leave in the case of a stillborn or infant death, contact Human Services Department for more details.
Option 1: Parental Leave Pay
To be eligible you must:
- be the birth mother of the newborn or the adopting parent of the child (occasionally this can be transferred to others if eligible)
- meet the work test
- meet residency requirements
- meet income requirements (individual adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less in the financial year either before the date of birth or adoption or the date you claim, whichever is first)
- NOT work while receiving the Parental Leave Pay
Work criteria. You must have worked at least
- 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child, AND
- 330 hours in that 10 month period, which is just over 1 day a week, with no more than an 8 week gap between 2 consecutive working days
*exception to work tests may be considered when a baby is premature or there are pregnancy complications and you would have met the criteria if it wasn’t for these complications.
How much is the Parental Leave Pay
Current payment is $695 a week before tax for a maximum of 18 weeks.
Option 2: Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement
This payment is made to people receiving Family Tax Benefit A.
To be eligible you must:
- Be caring for a baby or newly adopted child
- Be receiving more that $0 of Family Tax Benefit Part A
- Not be getting Parental Leave Pay for the same child
- Register or apply to register your child’s birth, unless they were born overseas.
How much is the Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement
The amount you receive will depend on your family’s income.
- The Newborn Upfront Payment if a lump payment of $540, is not taxable and is paid for each child coming into your care
- The Newborn Supplement depends on your family’s income and how many children you have. It is paid over 13 weeks to a MAXIUMUM of $1,618.89 for your first child.
*Multiple births or adopting more than 1 child at once and you may receive these payments per child. If you are also eligible for the Parental Leave Pay you may receive this for 1 child and the Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement for other children.
**Shared care. If you share the care of your child, both carers may be eligible for the Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement.
Option 3: Dad and Partner Leave
This is up to 2 weeks payment of $695 a week before tax.
To be eligible you must:
- Be the biological father OR
- Partner of the birth mother OR
- Adoptive parent OR
- Partner of adoptive parent OR
- Person caring for a child born in a surrogacy arrangement
- Provide care for a newborn or recently adopted child on each day during your Dad and Partner Pay period
- Meet the work test
- Meet residency requirements
- Meet income requirements (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, AND
- Be on unpaid leave or not working while receiving the payment
With multiple births you can only receive this payment once.
Option 4: Employer Funded Maternity Leave
This is determined by employment contracts or industrial agreements. This can be paid in addition to the above government funded payments.
Should I stagger my maternity leave?
One idea to elongate your leave is to attempt to stagger it. If you have accrued long service leave or holiday pay, for example, you may want to consider tacking it on to the end of your maternity leave from your employer. It is possible to stretch leave out for close to a year. You’ll be taking your work maternity leave and your Paid Parental Leave at different times so some shuffling could work in your favour.
You can request to stretch these payments and receive half as much money for twice as long. This can be negotiated when you process your paperwork through My Gov or through a visit to your local Centrelink branch.
Know what maternity leave payments you are entitled to in Australia?
Know your rights. Do your reading. Get what you are entitled to and, if you’re being treated poorly, speak to someone who can help. The support is there to make sure that you can enjoy the wonderful journey you’re about to embark upon. Good luck!