The Federal Government's paid parental leave scheme began on 1 January 2011, however you may still experience employment difficulties arising from your parental leave and there are a number of technical traps to watch out for. At Maurice Blackburn we can help you understand your rights and safeguard your entitlements, and help you through any difficulties arising from a parental leave claim.

FAQs - your questions answered

The scheme complements the employee's entitlement to unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards.  Eligible working parents can receive up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave. Parental leave pay is a fixed rate for all eligible parents - regardless of their income - and is calculated with reference to the national minimum wage. The current rate is $570 per week and has been indexed from mid-2012.

Parental leave payments are taxable income. Tax will be deducted and payments will be recorded on end of financial year employment statements. Employers are not required to make superannuation contributions on these payments.

The payments are available to any employee who:

  • has the primary care of a child born or adopted after 1 January 2011
  • is an Australian resident or citizen
  • meets the 'work test' immediately before the birth or adoption of the child
  • received a taxable income of $150,000 or less during the previous financial year (individual income, not family income), and
  • has taken leave from their workplace, or not engaged in paid work, from the birth of the baby or adoption of the child.

To be eligible for the payment, the primary carers must have:

  • worked for at least 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of the child
  • worked for at least 330 hours during that 10 month period, and
  • have had no more than an eight-week gap between consecutive working days, with at least one hour of work being performed.

The earliest a claim can be made is 97 days before the expected date of birth or adoption. The last date that a claim can be made is the day before the child's first birthday, or the first anniversary of the child's placement (in the case of adoption).

However, adopting employees need to remember that if a claim is made within 18 weeks of the child's first birthday or anniversary of placement, the claimant is only eligible to claim for the period up to the first anniversary. This means that an employee claiming in this period will not receive the full 18 weeks' benefit.

Information on how to make a claim for paid parental leave is available on the government's Human Services website.

Applications for paid parental leave are not made to employers directly, even when the employer will facilitate the payments.

The Family Assistance Office (FAO) assesses every claim for paid parental leave, even where the payments will be made through the person's employer. The FAO will also make a determination as to whether the paid parental leave must be administered by the person's employer, or through the FAO.

Yes. Paid Parental Leave can be received before, after or at the same time as other entitlements, including employer-provided paid parental leave.

The scheme provides for transfer of paid parental leave provisions to secondary and, in some cases, tertiary carers. In eligible cases, the primary carer may transfer the balance of their entitlement to a person who takes over the role of primary carer. However, the new primary carer cannot claim the 18 week entitlement again.

An employee who plans to return to work or otherwise ceases to be the primary carer, should look to utilise the transfer provisions if possible to maximise the benefit they can receive.

Paid parental leave is funded by the Federal Government. However, for many employees, it will be paid by their employer who, in turn, receives funding for the payments directly from the Government.

From 1 July 2011, the employer must provide the parental leave pay to employees who:

  • have worked for the employer for at least 12 months before the birth or adoption of the child
  • are Australian-based employees, and
  • are entitled to at least eight weeks of paid leave.

In other cases, the Family Assistance Office (FAO) will continue to provide the payment.

On return to work

The entitlement to paid parental leave ceases once an employee returns to work. A person returns to work if they perform one hour or more hours of paid work on a single day. This means that if an employee performs even a single hour of paid work, they cease to be eligible. If they are already receiving payments at the time they return to work, their entitlement to any remaining weeks' benefit ceases from the time they perform the work.

However, employees are entitled to 10 'keeping in touch' days while on leave. A keeping in touch day is a working day that allows an employee to keep in touch with their place of work or that facilitates their return to work after their leave. Training or planning days and conferences are examples of 'keeping in touch' activities. Ordinary work activities are not 'keeping in touch' days.

Utilising a “keeping in touch day” does not reduce or extend any entitlement under the National Employment Standards to take up to 12 months unpaid parental leave.

Employees should also be mindful that full-time child care may impact on their entitlement. The claimant must remain the child's primary carer. Care of the child cannot be allocated to another person or organisation for more than a reasonable period. The consideration of what is reasonable includes respite for the primary carer. However, a person is likely to cease being the primary carer if the child is in child care for a substantial amount of time. If they cease to be eligible, their entitlement to payments also ceases.

If you are a member of a union they may be able to assist you with more detailed information.

Information about the scheme is available on the government website: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/paid-parental-leave-scheme.