Maternity Leave in Australia – Know Your Rights

Posted July 30, 2019, by Jenny Sakr

So you’re having a baby… Congratulations!! But before we can get to talking baby names and gender reveals, let’s discuss your maternity leave rights and how to navigate maternity leave and your career.

In Australia, the Federal Government mainly decides maternity and paternity leave entitlements, however, you should also get up to scratch with the policies of your State Government and employer.

Am I Eligible for Maternity Leave?

The Federal Government states that an employee is entitled to 52 weeks of unpaid maternity or parental leave when that employee:

  • Gives birth
  • Partner gives birth
  • Adopts a child under 16 years of age

To be eligible for the leave, expecting parents must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 12 months (either full-time, part-time or in some exceptions, casual basis) before the expected date of the baby’s birth/adoption.

What About Paternal Leave?

 This is known as Dad and Partner Pay which offers eligible working fathers two weeks of paid leave at the national minimum wage of $740.60* 

When Should I Tell My Employer I’m Having a Baby?

There’s no hard and fast rule about when you need to tell your employer you’re pregnant. It’s all about when the time feels right to you; however, many choose to wait until the end of their first trimester. If you are feeling morning sickness or your job is either highly stressful or laborious, then you’d probably want to have a sit-down conversation sooner rather than later.

Legally you need to give your employer atleast 10 weeks notice that you intend on taking maternity leave. Atleast four weeks prior to your planned last day you need to provide a letter to your employer outlining your maternity leave start date.

When Should I Start Maternity Leave?

Deciding when to start your maternity leave can be tricky. If you start too early and run over your due date that that could be six or eight weeks of time just waiting around for baby, on the other hand, start your leave too late and you could have very little downtime before bub arrives. As most workplaces hold your role for 12 months from your leave date, it could be a difficult decision to make as the sooner you leave; the sooner you need to come back.

There is no right or wrong answer. Everyone’s pregnancy is different and a lot of it comes down to how you feel. Have you been sleeping well? Is your commute tiresome? Are you uncomfortable sitting or standing for long periods? Are you feeling stressed at work? These are important considerations and can impact how long you continue working.

How Much Parental Leave Does the Government Pay?

As of June 2019, the paid parental leave amount is $740.60 per week (pre-tax) for 18 weeks. If your employer offers paid maternity leave then you are still eligible for the government payment.

Parental Leave Pay can be paid to you by your employer or directly from the government.

Usually, your employer will receive the amount from the government and then pay it to you in your usual pay cycle. This allows them to withhold your usual amount of tax and allow for any other payments or contributions that you regularly make (super, salary sacrifice etc).

Note: The scheme provides you with 18 weeks of Parental Leave Pay but does not give you any entitlement to leave, that’s something you need to discuss with your employer.  

How Much Parental Leave Do Employers Pay?

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, “employers can provide for paid parental leave in registered agreements, employment contracts and workplace policies. The amount of leave and pay entitlements depends on the relevant registered agreement, contract or policy. Employer-funded paid parental leave doesn’t affect an employee’s eligibility for the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme. An employee can be paid both.”

How Do I Claim Parental Leave?

Soon to be parents need to ensure they follow the right steps to claim their parental leave.

You may apply for a maximum of 18 weeks of parental leave pay within 34 weeks of your child being born or adopted. All claims must be made before your baby turns one, so if you apply once your child is 36 weeks the most you will get is 16 weeks of payments, if your child is 42 weeks then you will get 10 weeks of payments etc.

Note: while it’s best to start your application before your child is born or adopted, you will not be paid before their birth/adoption.

You can simply create or log into your myGov account to set up your claim, just be sure to have all your supporting documents ready to go to help answer some of the questions.

Know Your Entitlements

Having a new baby is a mixed bag of excitement, nerves, overwhelm and a whole lot more, so when it comes to working and preparing for baby, it’s important to take your time, know your rights and do your research. Speak to your HR team, review your contract and company policies and check Government sites to ensure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.

Jenny Sakr
Jenny Sakr

Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.

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