Parental Leave in Australia: A Comprehensive Guide

Parental Leave in Australia: A Comprehensive Guide

Table of content

  1. What is parental leave ?
  2. Who is eligible for parental leave?
  3. What are parental leave entitlements?
  4. Paid Parental Leave
  5. Unpaid Parental Leave
  6. How does Workstem simplify leave management?

Parental leave is a crucial benefit for employees who are becoming new parents. In Australia, workers are entitled to paid parental leave if they have a newborn or adopt a child under 16, as long as they meet certain requirements.

As an employer, it is important to stay informed about the latest government regulations regarding parental leave and your obligations in supporting your employees.

Read on to find out all there is to know about parental leave.

What is parental leave ?

Parental leave, formerly known as maternity leave, refers to the right granted to individuals to take time off from work when they are having or adopting a child.

This leave applies to both biological and non-biological parents and serves the purpose of allowing them to bond with their new child and fulfil their caregiving responsibilities.

Parental leave can be taken in various situations, including:

  • when an individual gives birth
  • when their partner gives birth
  • when they adopt a child who is 16 years old or younger.

While most Awards and enterprise agreements offer parental leave, it is often unpaid.

However, some awards and agreements may provide provisions for paid parental leave.

Additionally, individuals may also be able to access the government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme and other types of leave related to having or adopting a child.

Who is eligible for parental leave?

Eligibility for parental leave depends on certain criteria outlined in the Fair Work Act 2009. Here is a summary of who is eligible for parental leave:

  • Employees who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months before the date or expected date of birth, adoption, or when the leave starts (if taken after another person cares for the child or takes parental leave).
  • Employees who have or will have responsibility for the care of a child.

For casual employees, the eligibility criteria for unpaid parental leave are as follows:

  • They must have been working for their employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months.
  • They must have a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis if it weren’t for the birth or adoption of a child.

Regarding having another child, employees who have already taken parental leave are not required to work for another 12 months before taking another period of parental leave with the same employer. However, if they have started working with a new employer, they will need to work with that employer for at least 12 months before being eligible for parental leave.

What are parental leave entitlements?

The parental leave entitlements include:

Paid parental leave

Up to 18 weeks of paid leave at the national minimum wage.

Unpaid Parental Leave

Up to 12 months of unpaid leave, extendable to 24 months with agreement.

Special Maternity Leave

Unpaid leave for pregnancy-related reasons, determined by a medical practitioner.

Safe Job and Safe Job Transfers

Transfer to a safe job or suitable arrangement if the current job poses risks.

Return to Work Guarantee

Entitlement to return to the previous or a similar position without discrimination.

Pre-Adoption Leave

Unpaid leave for attending adoption-related appointments and preparations.

All these entitlements are defined by the National Employment Standards (NES) and serve as the minimum requirements. Some employers may offer additional parental leave benefits beyond these minimum standards.

Paid Parental Leave

The Paid Parental Leave scheme changed from 1 July 2023. For a summary of the changes visit Changes to the Paid Parental Leave scheme.

What is paid parental leave?

Parental leave is a valued benefit for employees. The Paid Parental Leave scheme, introduced by the Australian Government in 2011, is fully funded by the government. Its purpose is to support working parents in spending quality time with their newborn or adopted child at home.

This Paid Parental Leave scheme is applicable to all employers, regardless of their size. As per the Fair Work Act, individuals are eligible for paid parental leave if they have been employed by their current employer for at least 12 months.

When can paid parental leave be taken?

According to the Paid Parental Leave scheme, pregnant employees can start their paid leave up to six weeks before their due date, which is typically around the 34th week of their pregnancy.

For employees who are adopting a child or are the partner of a person giving birth, their paid leave can commence on the day of the birth or adoption.

As stated in the Fair Work Act, eligibility for paid parental leave requires the employee to have been with their employer for at least 12 months.

How long is paid parental leave?

According to The Fair Work Commission, employees can claim Parental Leave Pay for two periods, one set and one flexible.

Set Parental Leave Pay

A fixed period of 12 weeks (60 payable days) that must be used within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child.
Flexible Parental Leave Pay

A flexible period of up to 30 payable days that must be taken within 24 months of the birth or adoption of a child. This period is usually negotiated with the employer and typically starts after the set Parental Leave Pay period ends.

Please note:

*Employees who receive Parental Leave Pay or are on paid parental leave funded by their employer, or a combination of both, may still be entitled to take additional unpaid parental leave.

**Permanent full-time or part-time employees are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave, and some employers may even grant an additional 12 months upon request.

Who is eligible for paid parental leave?

To be eligible for the Paid Parental Leave scheme, workers must meet certain criteria. These include:

  • Be the birth mother of a newborn child
  • Be the adoptive parent of a child
  • Be the primary carer of the child
  • Have an income under a certain threshold
  • Not be working or on leave while receiving the payment
  • Have worked a certain amount of time in the past 13 months as determined using a work test
  • Meet Australian residency requirements

*These criteria are used to determine eligibility for the Paid Parental Leave scheme.

In terms of payment, the Government usually provides the payments to the employer, who then includes them in the employee’s regular pay cycle. This allows for the usual tax withholding and any other regular payments or contributions. However, employees also have the option to be paid directly by the Government if they prefer.

How much is parental leave pay?

Parental Leave Pay provides eligible employees with financial support during their time away from work to care for their new baby or adopted child.

The current payment for Parental Leave Pay is based on the national minimum wage, which is $176.55 per day before tax or $882.75 per week for a 5-day workweek. This payment is available for up to 20 weeks, which equals 100 payable days.

*Source: How much you can get

Unpaid Parental Leave

Who is eligible for unpaid parental leave?

Employees who are eligible for unpaid parental leave include:

  • Full-time or part-time employees who have completed 12 months of service with their employer before the expected due date or placement of the child.
  • Casual workers who have been employed by their employer on a regular and systematic basis for a minimum of 12 months.
  • Casual workers who, if it wasn’t for the birth or adoption of their child, would have a reasonable expectation of continuing their employment on a regular and systematic basis.

When can employees apply for unpaid parental leave?

To request parental leave, employees must complete the 12-month qualifying period before they are eligible. An employee is entitled to parental leave when:

  • They have given birth
  • Their spouse or partner has given birth
  • They have adopted a child under 16 years of age

Pregnant employees can start their leave up to 6 weeks before their expected due date, while partners or individuals adopting a child can begin their leave on the day of the birth or adoption.

If a new parent requests an additional 52 weeks of unpaid leave, they must provide four weeks’ written notice for any leave longer than four weeks. The employer must respond within 21 days and provide a justification for their decision.

How does Workstem simplify leave management?

Streamline your leave request submission and approval process, reduce administrative burden, and cut costs with Workstem’s leave management feature. Our platform offers default leave types such as annual leave, parental leave, jury duty leave, and long service leave, and allows for additional special leaves as needed.

Stay up-to-date with auto-updates for public holidays and let Workstem handle the calculations for leave balances, entitlements, and leave accrual. Our seamless integration with payroll ensures accurate payment of leave entitlements and proper tax treatment.

Ready to experience the benefits of Workstem?

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