Maternity and Paternity Leave and Pay - Australian Unions
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Maternity and Paternity Leave and Pay

 

Maternity and paternity leave give you the right to take time off work if you are having or adopting a child.

You can take maternity or paternity leave when:

  • You give birth
  • Your partner gives birth
  • You adopt a child aged 16 or less

Most awards and enterprise agreements offer maternity and paternity leave. This leave is often unpaid, however some awards and agreements also offer paid maternity and paternity leave.

You 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.

Maternity leave became standard in 1971 after a long union campaign. The union movement also helped to secure maternity and paternity leave for casuals in 2001. Our movement continues to campaign to protect and extend the rights of employees who are having or adopting a child.

 

Unpaid maternity and paternity leave

If you are a permanent full-time or part-time employee, you are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave. If you need more leave than this, you can ask your employer to grant you up to another 12 months.

To take parental leave you must:

  • Have been working for your employer for at least 12 months
  • Be the primary care-giver

This applies to casual employees as well as full-timers and part-timers.

You are entitled to 12 months leave measured from the expected date of your child’s birth. If you are adopting, these 12 months are counted from when you will begin to start caring for your child.

If you are planning to have another child, you do not need to wait another 12 months before taking leave again. 

If you are planning to adopt a child, you can also take up to two weeks of unpaid pre-adoption leave. This is often needed in order to attend interviews, examinations and other appointments.

You must give your employer at least ten weeks notice before taking maternity or paternity leave. You must give notice in writing and indicate how much leave you intend to take including start and end dates. You should be able to adjust the date you return to work later on however.

It is illegal for your employer to dismiss you or discriminate against you for taking maternity or paternity leave. If you feel that you are being treated unfairly, your union will be able to help.

If you are a casual employee, you also have the right to take unpaid maternity or paternity leave so long as:

  • You have been working for the same employer on a regular basis for at least 12 months
  • You would have continued to work for your employer if you had not adopted or had a child

 

Paid parental leave

The Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme provides up to 18 weeks of paid leave if you are having or adopting a child. If you are eligible for this payment, you will be paid the minimum wage while you are on the scheme, not your usual salary.

To be eligible you must:

  • Be the primary carer of a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Have earned less than $150,000 in the last financial year
  • Not be intending to do any paid work while you are receiving the Paid Parental Leave payment
  • Be able to meet the criteria of a number of income, employment and residency tests

To find out whether you are eligible, visit the Services Australia website.

If you are eligible for the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, you still have the right to take up to 12 months of unpaid leave from your work. There is nothing to stop you accessing both at the same time.

Many enterprise bargaining agreements also provide paid parental leave in addition to the Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

 

Partner Pay

The Federal Government also offers up to two weeks of leave paid to partners of those who are having or adopting children. This is sometimes known as ‘Dad Pay’, but it is not just Dads who can access it.

Like the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, Partner Pay is also paid at the minimum wage.

To qualify for partner pay you must:

  • Have caring responsibilities for a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Have earned less than $150,000 in the last financial year
  • Not be working or taking paid leave during your Partner Pay period
  • Be able to meet the criteria of a number of income, employment and residency tests

To find out whether you are eligible, visit the Services Australia website.

 

Special Maternity Leave

If you experience an unexpected complication with your pregnancy or get a pregnancy-related illness, you can access Special Maternity Leave.

You must be within 28 weeks of your expected birth date to access Special Maternity Leave. This leave is unpaid, but you can take as much as you need until you are ready to return to work.

Taking special maternity leave does not affect how much maternity leave you can take – it is a seperate type of leave.

 

Working while pregnant and safe jobs

If it is not safe for you to do your job while you are pregnant then you have the right to move to a job that is safe.

If you move to a safe job you are entitled to the same rate of pay, hours and other entitlements that you had at your old job.

This applies to full-time, part-time and casual employees.

 If you are unsure whether or not your job is safe to do while you are pregnant, please contact your union for assistance.

 

No Safe Job Leave

If it is not safe for you to do your job while you are pregnant then you have the right to move to a job that is safe.

If there is no safe job available, you can take No Safe Job Leave.

If you are a full-time or part-time employee entitled to unpaid maternity or paternity leave, then No Safe Job Leave is paid at your base rate of pay for your ordinary hours of work. This excludes bonuses and other entitlements you would normally receive.

If you are a casual employee entitled to unpaid maternity or paternity leave, then No Safe Job Leave is paid at your base rate for the average number of hours you usually work. This excludes penalty rates and other entitlements you would normally receive.

If you are not entitled to unpaid maternity or paternity leave, then you will need to take No Safe Job Leave without pay.

No matter what kind of No Safe Job Leave you take, you can take as much as you need until it is safe for you to return to your normal job or you commence maternity leave.

 

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Funding for this factsheet was provided by the Victorian Government as part of the UTECH project. Please note that the information given here is general information only and is not legal advice. For further assistance, it is recommended you speak to your union.

 


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