Paid parental leave

Paid parental leave complements an employee's existing entitlement to unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards. Eligible working parents can receive up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave. The Federal Government's paid parental leave scheme began on 1 January 2011, however you may experience difficulties making a claim and you should watch out for a number of technical traps. At Maurice Blackburn we can help you understand your rights, safeguard your entitlements, and help you through any difficulties arising from a parental leave claim.

Are you eligible for paid parental leave?

Maurice Blackburn can ensure you’re paid parental leave entitlements. Paid parental leave is available to any employee who received a taxable income of $150,000 or less during the previous financial year and 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, and;
  • has taken leave from their workplace, or not engaged in paid work, from the birth of the baby or adoption of the child.

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.

If you are unsure about your eligibility for paid parental leave talk to Maurice Blackburn today.

When does your paid parental leave entitlement cease?

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.

Maurice Blackburn can help you understand the complexities of the paid parental leave scheme and ensure you receive all your entitlements. Talk to one of our employment law experts about your parental leave concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Federal Government paid parental leave scheme provide?

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.

Who is eligible?

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.

What is the paid parental leave work test?

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.

When should I make a claim?

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.

How do I make a paid parental leave claim?

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.

Can the Government-funded leave be combined with other types of leave?

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

Is paid parental leave transferable to secondary or tertiary carers?

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.

Who pays for paid parental leave?

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.

When does the entitlement cease?

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.

What about childcare arrangements?

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.

Where can I get more information?

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.

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