Maternity Leave: How It Works
Paid maternity leave and parental leave is a government initiative that provides payments to parents who have just had a new baby or have newly adopted a child. This is beneficial to parents as it can ease some of the financial pressure, especially while parents are not working.
August 2020 – 6 minute read
Key takeaways from this article:
- How long is maternity leave In Australia?
- Am I eligible for maternity leave?
- How do I apply for maternity leave?
- Paid leave from your employer
- Dad & partner leave pay
- Transferring to a safe job
If you have any other questions about this exciting new life stage, check out the Having a Baby section of our website.
How long is maternity leave in Australia
In Australia, parental leave can give you up to 18 weeks of paid leave. This consists of $753.90 a week before tax, which is in line with the national minimum wage weekly rate.
From 1 July, 2020, eligible employees can split their Parental Leave Pay. You can learn more about this new arrangement here.
Partners may also be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay, which is up to two weeks paid parental leave at the same rate. This means your family may be eligible for up to 20 weeks paid leave. As an employee, you are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave and you can request an additional 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave from your job.
What are my parental leave entitlements?
According to Fair Work Australia’s National Employment Standards, general parental leave entitlements include:
- Maternity leave
- Paternity and partner leave
- Adoption leave
- Special maternity leave
- A safe job and no safe job leave
- A right to return to old job
Am I eligible for maternity leave?
All employees in Australia can get parental leave. If you work part-time, casual, on a contract or are self-employed you may be eligible for parental leave pay and can check online at the Federal Government’s Work Requirements page.
You can take parental leave:
- If you give birth. (If you have a newborn, you must lodge their birth with their state or territories’ birth registry.)
- Your spouse or de facto partner gives birth.
- You are adopting a child under 16 years of age.
To be eligible for the parental leave pay you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months before the birth or adoption date and received an adjusted individual taxable income of $150,000 or less. You must not be working during the period you receive paid parental leave.
For those on JobKeeper payments, paid parental leave is available after JobKeeper payments end, as long as you haven’t worked from the birth or adoption.
To apply, you also need to meet the following criteria:
- A work test, which establishes the work requirements you need to meet. (See Australian Government support services Meeting the work test)
- An income test: adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less.
- Certain residency rules (You may want to read more about these here, including information for newly arrived migrants.)
- Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. (You can find further explanation here.)
- Be the primary carer of your newborn or adopted child.
For more information, please refer to Fair Work Ombudsman on maternity and parental leave.
How do I apply for maternity leave?
To apply for maternity leave or parental leave pay, you need to do it within 34 weeks of the birth and before the child turns one year old or adoption. It is recommended to do this before the birth or adoption date however, payments won’t start until after this date. When applying you will need to make a claim and provide all supporting documents including proof of birth or adoption within four weeks of the child coming into care.
There are four steps involved in applying for maternity leave:
- Discuss with your employer – Talk to your employer at least three months before the birth or adoption date. Decide when you’ll take your leave from work and that you want to claim parental leave pay.
- Make sure your myGov account is ready – For the simplest way to claim, you need to have both a myGov online account as well as a Centrelink online account. If you don’t have either accounts or they are not linked, you will need to make sure to do this in preparation for your claim. (If going online is not possible there are printable forms you can complete or visit a your nearest Centrelink or Medicare location or call Families line on 136 150.
- Prepare Documents – Ensure that you have the relevant documents prepared, as you will need them to make your claim. They include various numbers such as Tax File Number. You’ll also need to provide various identification documents, details of work and income, along with other documents. See what information you need to provide, here.
- Apply & Claim online – Go into the Centrelink section on myGov online. Under “Make a Claim”, click “Apply for Family Assistance (including Paid Parental Leave)”. You will then need to answer the questions on the screen and upload your supporting documents before you submit your claim.
Following submission, a receipt with a link to track it online through Centrelink will be issued to you. You can track it on myGov. You will also be notified once your claim has been approved.
Paid leave from your employer
Depending on your workplace, your employer may also provide paid parental leave on top of that from the Government. In some cases, employers may top up the Government’s payments for a certain period of your Parental Leave Pay. It is worth discussing this with your employer to find out what your company’s policy is.
Dad & partner leave pay
Working dads and partners may be eligible for up to two weeks of paid leave at minimum wage ($753.90 a week before tax). This is paid directly to the employee in one block. Some employers may even complement this payment with additional pay equivalent to your normal wage.
To be eligible for dad & partner leave pay you must be either:
- The child’s biological father
- The partner of the birth mother
- The adoptive parent
- The partner of an adoptive parent
- The carer of a child born of a surrogacy arrangement
Dads or partners must be on leave or not working to be eligible for partner leave pay. They are also required to be caring for the child every day while they take their Dad & Partner Pay. Like maternity leave, dads and partners must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months prior to the birth or adoption date and received an adjusted individual taxable income of $150,000 or less.
Transferring to a safe job
While pregnant, employees have the right to transfer to a safe job if a medical professional deems their current job unsafe while pregnant.
The safe job may have the same hours as an employee’s current role or different hours that have been agreed upon by the employer and employee. If there are no safe jobs available, an employee may be entitled to ‘no safe job leave’.
Returning to work
An employee that has been on parental leave is entitled to return to the same role as they held prior to their leave. If that position no longer exists, they are entitled to one of similar pay and status.
Maternity leave FAQs
In accordance with the ‘Keeping in touch days’ initiative, parents on unpaid parental leave may go to work for a total of 10 days over a 12-month period.
You are not able to do any work while on paid parental leave or else the paid parental leave will cease.
You may take your parental leave up to six weeks before the baby’s due date, provided you give your employer 10 weeks of notice. If your employer agrees, you may start your parental leave earlier than six weeks before the due date.
If you are self-employed, you are entitled to paid parental leave under the exact same conditions as externally employed parents.
Paid leave: The primary caregiver is eligible for up to 18 weeks, while the partner of the primary caregiver is eligible for up to two weeks.
Unpaid leave: Parents in a de facto relationship or a marriage are able to take unpaid parental leave at the same time for up to eight weeks.
Alternatively, each parent can take different periods of unpaid parental leave (up to 12 months each).
Paid parental leave is considered taxable income. Under normal circumstances, you will receive $656 per week after tax. Your employer may take different amounts of tax depending on your personal circumstances.
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Things you should know
This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. The taxation position described is a general statement and should only be used as a guide. It does not constitute tax advice and is based on current tax laws and their interpretation.
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