Maternity leave Australia: Paid parental leave entitlements

Your guide to paid leave

April 11 2019

What are the maternity leave entitlements in Australia?
All employees in Australia are entitled to some unpaid parental leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months before the expected date of the baby’s birth or adoption. Eligible parents who are the primary carer of a newborn or adopted child can access up to 18 weeks’ paid leave from the government. You may also receive employer-paid parental leave.

If you’re trying to fall pregnant, make sure you know your rights so you can plan your return to work. It may help to read the Fair Work Checklist. You can also access a Leave Calculator to find out how much annual and sick/carer’s leave you’ve accumulated.

What unpaid maternity leave am I entitled to?
If you have been with your employer for at least 12 months before your baby’s birth or adoption, you’re entitled to 12 months of unpaid leave. You can also request an additional 12 months of leave.

If you’re taking leave to care for an adopted child you are entitled to two days of unpaid pre-adoption leave, but this can’t be used if your employer tells you to take another type of leave, such as annual leave.

If you’re a casual employee, you’re still entitled to 12 months of unpaid leave if you have been working for your employer on a regular basis for at least 12 months and have a reasonable expectation of continuing work with them.

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What paid maternity leave am I entitled to?
Eligible parents can access 18 weeks of Parental Leave Pay, paid at the national minimum wage, following the birth or adoption of their baby.

This parenting payment doesn’t affect any paid parental leave you may receive from your employer. If you’re eligible for both, you can be paid both. The amount of Parental Leave Pay is currently $719.35 a week before tax.

To be eligible for Parental Leave Pay you must be the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child, have worked 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption and have worked a minimum of 330 hours in that period (a little over one day a week). You can work casually, as a contractor or be self-employed.

Your eligibility is also means tested. You must have received an individual adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less in the financial year before the birth or adoption.

Your Parental Leave Pay will usually be paid through your employer so they can allow for any other payments and contributions you regularly make. In some circumstances, such as if you’re between jobs, self-employed or you or your partner receive income support from Centrelink, you may be paid directly by the government.

You can claim up to 52 weeks after the birth or adoption but to get the full 18 weeks of pay you must claim within 34 weeks.

You should begin talking to your employer at least 10 weeks before the date you intend to start your leave. You also need to work out your maternity leave entitlement with your employer as this is based on the length of time you have been employed by them and any policies on maternity pay they may have.

If you return to work before the payment ends you will no longer be eligible to receive it but you can access 10 Keeping in Touch days while you’re receiving Parental Leave Pay. Your employer has to pay you for your time.

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Can I get maternity leave pay if I'm self-employed?
If you’re self-employed you can still access Parental Leave Pay if you meet all the other criteria but it will be paid directly by the government.
You can also access the 10 Keeping in Touch days and perform basic occasional tasks to ensure your business remains operational.

What about dad and partner pay?
Eligible dads and partners, including same-sex partners, can access two weeks’ parental leave, paid at the national minimum wage. This is paid directly to the employee.

To be eligible to apply for Dad and Partner Pay you must be providing care for a newborn or recently adopted child, meet an income test, have worked the same minimum number of months and hours as the person accessing the Parental Leave Pay, and be on unpaid leave or not working while receiving the payment.

How long is maternity leave?
You’re entitled to 12 months’ unpaid leave and can ask for an additional 12 months, so you could take up to two years’ unpaid maternity leave.

The legislation is the same across all states and territories so your leave entitlements will be the same throughout Australia.