Maternity Leave Entitlements

If you're currently working during your pregnancy, it's important to think about what you're going to when you have your baby. There's lots of factors that influence the decision of when, or if, you return to work, but understanding your entitlements is the place to begin.

If you are an employee, having a baby means that you have certain entitlements related to leave.

Parental leave
In Australia, men and women are able to take time off work, without having to resign, to care for their child during the first year of its life. Parental leave is available to all employees in Australia, including employees who aren't covered by industrial awards or agreements.

Parental leave entitlements
Federal workplace relations legislation entitles parents to a total of 52 weeks unpaid leave on a shared basis to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. This entitlement supplements, not overrides, entitlements under other federal, state and territory legislation and awards.

The federal legislation is intended to supplement any existing entitlements so that employees are required to use any parental leave entitlements that exist under relevant agreements, awards or state laws before accessing the Act's entitlements.

Except for one week at the time of birth, each partner must take parental leave at different times. Both parents' combined leave cannot be more than 52 weeks.

In most circumstances, an employee who takes parental leave is entitled to return to the position he or she held before the leave was taken. Parental leave will not break an employee's continuity of service. Access to unpaid leave of the same kind is available to parents who adopt a child.

Anyone taking parental leave has certain entitlements. These may vary slightly across Australia but generally the employee is entitled to:

    * Return to the position held before the leave was taken; or for women who may have transferred to a different or part-time job because of their pregnancy, return to their earlier job
    * Take other leave (for example, annual leave) in combination with parental leave, but this will reduce the parental leave available so that the period away from work for both parents is not more that 52 weeks
    * Extend parental leave once within the 52 week period, provided notice is given to their employer. Any other extension within or after the 52 week period is at their employer's discretion

    * These entitlements may vary across state jurisdictions.
    * In addition to parental leave, the Parental Leave Test Case provides access to part-time work, with the agreement of the employer, up to a maximum of two years from the birth of the child. It also provides for maternity leave of up to six weeks before the birth of the child.

Eligibility criteria for parental leave
To apply for parental leave, the employee must:

    * Have completed at least 12 months continuous service with their employer by the expected date of birth
    * Provide notice of the expected date of birth at least ten weeks before that date (where possible)
    * Advise their employer of their intention to take leave. Mothers must give four weeks notice, and fathers must give ten weeks notice
    * Sign a statutory declaration detailing their spouse's leave arrangements, stating that they will be the child's primary care-giver and that they will not do other work inconsistent with their employment.

Maternity allowance (Baby Bonus)
The Federal Government pays Maternity Allowance in recognition of the extra costs incurred at the time of the birth of a new baby, for example, the cost of items such as cots and prams, or costs associated with the mother being unable to participate in the paid workforce around the time of the birth. Maternity Allowance may be paid for each child in a multiple birth, stillbirths, adoptions and babies who die shortly after birth.

Maternity Allowance is paid as a non-taxable lump sum of $5000 per child. For multiple births, such as twins, you would be paid $10,000. This is amount currently payable for the taxation year 2008 to 2009 and it's important to contact Centrelink for any changes to this payment.

The claim for Maternity Allowance must be lodged with Centrelink within 26 weeks of the baby's birth.

Maternity immunisation allowance
This is $200 and may be paid for children born on or after 1 January 1998. It is paid after the child reaches 18 months and either has been fully immunised or has a valid exemption for a conscientious objection or medical contraindications.

Maternity Immunisation Allowance is available either where Maternity Allowance has been paid for the child, or where Family Allowance is being paid for the child at the time Maternity Immunisation Allowance is being claimed (that is, between 18 months and two years of age).

A claim for Maternity Immunisation Allowance must be lodged before the child turns two years of age.

For more information about Maternity Allowance or Maternity Immunisation Allowance, contact Centrelink on 13 13 05.



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