What Is Paternity Leave? Types of Parental Leave and FAQs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Bringing a new child into the family is an exciting time for parents. It's also a time to learn about the many parental leave entitlements you may be eligible for. Learning about parental leave can provide you with assurance and support and give both parents time to prepare for the child's birth. In this article, we answer 'What is paternity leave?' and respond to several frequently asked questions.

Legal requirements outlined in the Parental Leave Pay laws are accurate as of August 2022.

What is paternity leave?

To understand the answer to, 'What is paternity leave?', it's helpful to first review the various parental leave entitlements for Australians. Paternity leave is one element of Australia's broad parental leave provisions that comply with the National Employment Standards (NES) as the minimum to be provided by employers to new parents or carers. The term parental leave can include:

Unpaid parental leave

According to the Fair Work Act, employees, including regular casual employees, who have worked for their company for at least 12 months are eligible to take unpaid parental leave when they or their partner is expecting a child. These workers have the option of taking up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave and requesting an additional 12 months of unpaid leave. The employer must receive a written request to extend the leave for an additional 12 months at least four weeks before the first leave period ends. Employees taking unpaid parental leave have a return to work guarantee.

Government-funded Parental Leave Pay (PLP)

The Australian government offers PLP to working parents at the minimum wage for a maximum of 18 weeks. This program only provides eligible employees with a payout while they are on leave; it does not extend the time they may be absent. Workers may divide their PLP over two periods: a set period and a flexible period.

Employees are required to complete the flexible period within 12 months of the adoption or birth of a child and it must be at least 60 days long. The flexible period may be up to 30 days which employees can use as individual days or in one block, depending on what the employer and employee agree on. It has to be used within two years of a child's birth. Working dads or partners who take unpaid leave in the first year after the child's birth or adoption can access Dad and Partner Pay.

Employer-funded paid parental leave

Employers typically list employee benefits in an employment contract, registered agreement or workplace policy. The employer might offer benefits such as parking at work or work-from-home options for pregnant employees, paying the employee's regular salary throughout a portion or all of their absence, enabling partners to take advantage of paid leave during pregnancy, adoption or when the other parent resumes work.

Some other perks may include boosting a worker's compensation so they receive their maximum salary by using government-funded PLP, allowing workers to take yearly leave or long service leave at a reduced rate while on parental leave, paying an employee's superannuation contributions even when on leave and providing return-to-work bonuses for returning employees.

FAQS about parental leave

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to help you better understand the terms and conditions for receiving parental leave payments:

What are the different types of parental leave?

There is a range of different types of leave that fit under the parental leave bracket. They're based on different circumstances. These include birth-related leave and adoption-related leave, including in relation to premature birth, stillbirth or infant death. They may also include unpaid special maternity leave and the right to transfer to a safe job in appropriate cases. It can also include unpaid pre-adoption leave.

Related: What Is Income Tax? (Definition and Examples of Income Tax)

How long is paid leave?

Parental leave guarantees that the parent can return to their job without penalty. If you meet the regulation's specific requirements, your employer may allow up to two weeks of paid leave. Further leave is unpaid, which could present some challenges for parents who might prefer to spend up to 12 weeks with a new child, as it may mean losing their regular income during this period.

Employers may offer another option of partially paid leave for a set time. Although the most generous leave plans offer new fathers full pay for several weeks or months, depending on the organisation, these benefits aren't the norm. According to national law, the federal government has the primary authority to decide parental leave entitlements. These regulations require employers to consider internal organisation policies in addition to state law.

Related: Returning to Work after Taking Parental Leave: 10 Top Tips

How do you claim PLP?

You can apply for your pay no more than 50 weeks after the birth or adoption of your child. The best time to do so is just before the birth or adoption date. Here are five steps you can follow to claim your pay:

Discuss your claim with your employer

It's important to talk to your employer ten to 12 weeks before your child's expected date of birth or adoption. Tell your employer about your plans to claim parental leave. You can then negotiate your additional unpaid leave.

Related: How to Write a Leave Request (With Leave Types and an Example)

Get ready to claim

The easiest way to make your claim is online. Use your myGov Account, which links to Centrelink. If you don't have these accounts, set them up so you can proceed with your claim.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Personal Leave and Annual Leave

Prepare your documents

When you make a claim, there may be some questions for you to answer. Prepare your Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN), your bank account details and your Tax File Number (TFN). Other requirements include details about your residency, such as your citizenship papers, passport or other documentation, any periods you lived outside the country and your work, including your working hours, any unpaid leave and your income details.

Make your claim

The first thing to do is to sign in to your myGov account and go to Centrelink. Click on 'Payments and Claims' in the menu, then click on 'Make a Claim'. Under Families, select 'Get started'. Select 'Apply for Family Assistance (including Paid Parental Leave)', answer all the questions and then submit your claim.

Related: Work Rights in Australia: A Comprehensive Guide

Track your claim

Tracking your claim is simple. Once you've submitted it, Centrelink sends you a claim ID number. Use this number to track your claim online. You might receive an email to your myGov account, or if you don't like receiving electronic letters, you can request a letter by post.

How do I manage my Parental Leave Pay?

If your circumstances change, you can update your details online. For example, if you're not your child's carer during your payment period, or if you work or take paid leave during your payment period, you can make these changes to your claim accordingly. In addition, if you travel out of the country temporarily or leave to live in another country, it's also prudent to change this information on your claim, as if you receive an overpayment, this accumulates as a debt.

Can I get any additional pay or support?

As a new parent, there may be other payments you can benefit from. Following the birth or adoption of your baby, you may be eligible for financial support for the cost of childcare. If you have a low income, you could also benefit from payments such as Family Tax Benefit, Parenting Payment or both.

What happens when I go back to work?

You may be able to access Flexible Paid Parental Leave days before or after you return to work for the first time. These are available for days when either of the following applies:

  • You're on annual or other authorised leave

  • Your employer allows you paid or unpaid leave

If you work, even for one hour, on a particular day, the government considers this a working day. You may be able to access up to 10 keeping-in-touch days under the keeping-in-touch rules. Payments stop immediately if you use your two weeks of paternity leave and then go back to work.

If you decide to end your paid parental leave period early, you can transfer the unused part to another person. Ensure you do this before you return to work and that the person you transfer it to also meets the eligibility criteria. They can submit their claim within 52 weeks of the child's date of birth or adoption.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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