Australia’s Maternity Leave Laws
Maternity leave is a time for new mothers to recover from childbirth and bond with their babies. In Australia, the government provides paid maternity leave to help families during this important time.
The Australian government provides paid maternity leave through the National Employment Standards (NES). The NES is a set of 11 minimum employment rights that apply to all employees in Australia, including paid maternity leave.
This article will provide an overview of the paid maternity leave entitlements under the NES.
Unpaid Parental Leave
Parents are entitled to unpaid parental leave if:
- an employee gives birth
- an employee’s spouse or de facto partner* gives birth
- an employee adopts a child under 16 years
*An employee’s ‘de facto partner’ is someone who lives with the employee in a relationship as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. The employee’s partner can be of the same sex or different sex to the employee, and either a current or former de facto partner of the employee.
Parents who experience a stillbirth or the death of an infant during the first 24 months of life can also take unpaid parental leave.
Who is Eligible for Unpaid Parental Leave?
All employees in Australia are eligible for unpaid parental leave if they have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer.
- all full-time employees
- part-time employees
- casual employees (they need to have a reasonable expectation of this regular work continuing after leave)
How Long is the Unpaid Parental Leave?
If you’re eligible you can take:
- 12 months of unpaid parental leave
- an additional 12 months of leave
Mothers and fathers can take up to 12 months of leave to care for their child, with an option to agree with their employer to take up to another 12 months. Parental leave can be split between both parents, as long as the total amount of leave taken isn’t more than 24 months. For example, both parents take 12 months each, or the mother takes 18 months and the father 6 months. If only 1 person is taking leave, they can take up to 24 months if their employer agrees.
Plan your leave
An employee needs to give their employer at least 10 weeks’ notice of their intention to take parental leave and provide evidence if it is required (specify the intended start and end dates of the leave). You must also confirm the dates of your leave 4 weeks before the leave starts.
Check if You Are Eligible for Any Australian Government Payments
Check if you can get payments. You can submit your pre-birth claim up to 3 months before your baby is due.
- Parental Leave Pay
- Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement
- Dad and Partner Pay
- Family Tax Benefit (FTB)
- Parenting Payment
Employees who are taking parental leave to care for an adopted child are also entitled to 2 days of unpaid pre-adoption leave to attend relevant interviews or examinations. This leave can’t be used if an employer tells an employee to take a different type of leave instead, such as annual leave.
Paid Parental Leave
Some employees are also entitled to Parental Leave Pay.
Employees can get Parental Leave Pay (PLP) from the Australian Government and paid parental leave from their employer.
Employees who get Parental Leave Pay and employer-funded paid parental leave are still entitled to unpaid parental leave.
How Much is Parental Leave Pay?
Parental Leave Pay is currently $772.55 per week before tax (based on the weekly rate of the national minimum wage). You can get it for up to 18 weeks.
Are You Eligible for Parental Leave Pay?
To get Parental Leave Pay, you need to be the primary carer of your newborn or adopted child, and one of the following:
- the birth mother of a newborn child
- the adoptive parent of a child
- another person caring for a child under exceptional circumstances
You must also meet:
- an income test (earn under a certain limit – an adjusted taxable income of $151,350 or less in the 2020-21 financial year)
- a work test (you need to have worked for both 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child and a minimum of 330 hours, around one day a week, in those 10 months)
- residency rules (you must be living in Australia and have one of the following: Australian citizenship, a permanent visa, a Special Category visa, or a certain temporary visa)
If you’re not eligible for Parental Leave Pay, you may still get both:
- Newborn Upfront Payment
- Newborn Supplement
Employer-funded Paid Parental Leave
Employers can provide paid parental leave in enterprise or other registered agreements, employment contracts, and workplace policies. The amount of leave and pay entitlements depends on the relevant agreement, contract or policy.
Disclaimer: Please note that every country has its own rules and regulations and you should check with the legal counsel in your country what the rules are.
To learn more about laws in various countries, check out our Leave Laws page.
Paid maternity leave is an important entitlement for new mothers in Australia. The NES provides paid maternity leave to help families during this important time. For more information on the NES, please visit the Fair Work website.
For a solution to leave tracking, try our leave management software. It’s a simple and effective way to manage employee leave.