The beginner’s guide to parental leave, part two: paid parental leave

Yes, girl! You’ve mustered up the courage to come back for part two of our beginner’s guide to parental leave! Now that you’ve mastered unpaid parental leave, we’re going to chat about paid parental leave and what you’re entitled to. 

Before we get into the nitty gritty, a reminder that this beginner’s guide is not exhaustive! We’d be here for HOURS (possibly days) if it was. It’s designed to get you started, so shimmy over to the Fair Work and Services Australia websites when you’re applying for all the info, to check what you’re eligible for and more. 

First off, what’s paid parental leave?

Loosely, it’s a payment you can receive for a portion of your overall parental leave period. You can receive paid parental leave from: 

  • The government – aka Parental Leave Pay, as they call it (PLP for short), and
  • Your employer – aka the motherf*cking jackpot!

This piece will focus on the former, because what you can receive from your employer and the circumstances vary company to company. Be sure to have a chat with your boss…and negotiate your ass off. 

What can you get?

As long as you’re eligible (more on this in a sec), you’re entitled to the following: 

  • Up to 18 weeks of PLP.
  • Paid at minimum wage (which, at the time of writing, is $150.78 per day before tax).

Who can get it?

PLP is designed for primary carers of a newborn or adopted child.  

But, there are a couple of key eligibility criteria you’ve got to meet, based on your work, income, and residency circumstances:

  • You need to have worked for 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child. During this time, you need to have clocked up at least 330 hours of work (which is about one day a week). Note that there may be some exceptions to the work requirements in the case of pregnancy related illness, complications, and premature birth,
  • You must not have earned more than $150,000 last financial year,
  • You must be living in Australia and be a citizen, permanent resident or have a special visa, and
  • You must not be working or have returned to work to receive PLP.

Dads and partners can get a little something-something too, called – as you might have guessed already – Dad and Partner Pay. It’s two weeks’ paid leave at minimum wage, and they can get it if they:

  • Will be caring for the child,
  • Earned less than $150,000 last financial year,
  • Will not be working or taking any other paid leave at the same time as receiving the payment, and
  • Are living in Australia and a citizen, permanent resident, or have a special visa.

Unsure about your eligibility? Click here for more info on the work side of things, here for more info on income, and here for details on the residency rules. Or, for the brave souls amongst us, you can call, email or visit Services Australia to have a chat. 

When do I take my PLP?

As a simple answer, you take it within a year after your baby is born or you’ve adopted your little one and before going back to work. You can actually nominate when during your maternity leave you’d like to take it – so you might be starting maternity leave in January, but prefer to take your PLP in June. 

But, it’s a little more nuanced than this. PLP can be taken as a single chunk of 18 weeks, or flexibly. Which is *awesome*. So, understanding this next part will help you determine timeframes and when you need to take your PLP by. We’ll try to explain as clearly as possible…

Your 18 weeks of PLP can be broken into two parts:

  • Set PLP – the first period of 12 weeks, which must be used in one chunk within 12 months of your child’s birth or adoption, and
  • Flexible PLP – the second period of 30 days, which can be used in a single go, or flexibly as agreed with your employer. You have to use it within 24 months of your little one’s birth or adoption, and only once you’ve finished your first 12 weeks of PLP.

This means you can receive PLP for 18 consecutive weeks, or for 12 consecutive weeks (during which time you can’t be working) before returning to work on a flexible basis. 

Here’s an example from the Fair Work site that helps explain it:

“Kerry works part-time, four days a week. After the birth of her child, she uses her initial 12 set weeks of PLP while she’s on parental leave from work. 

After the 12 weeks, Kerry returns to work hoping to access flexible PLP. Kerry and her employer agree that she’ll work two days per week and use flexible PLP for the other two days. They also agree that after her flexible PLP runs out, she’ll return to four days of work a week.

Kerry takes her flexible PLP for two days each week for the next 15 weeks – a total of 30 days. She then returns to work for four days a week as agreed with her employer.”

Cool, cool, cool, cool. Anyone else feel like their brain is melting? Is it too early for a mocktail? 

Let’s finish this off with a speed round about logistics…

Where do you apply?

You apply through your myGov account, via Centrelink. You’re already halfway there if you can figure out how to link Centrelink to your myGov account…(I was in tears by this point, and hadn’t even opened the application forms LOL). 

When do you need to apply by?

You can apply up to three months before your baby’s birth or adoption. Applying sooner rather than later will give you the best chance of receiving the full benefits. Why? You need to use 12 of the 18 weeks within the first year, so if you don’t claim within 40 weeks of the birth or adoption of your child, you won’t receive the full 18 weeks of PLP. Here’s more info on timings. 

The moral of this bloody confusing story? Just get it done early. 

What happens if you don’t use all your leave?

Say you want to return to work early. In theory, you’re going to lose your PLP, right? NO! You may be able to transfer it to your partner, if you’re going to tag team and they become primary carer. See more info on that here

The most important question of all – how do I get the money?!

This is probably the easiest part. The government pays the PLP to your employer, and your employer pays you. Bada-bing-bada-boom! If your employer needs info on this, send them here as a start. 

Well, shit. We’ve made it! The end of the guide! I’m packing off for a party nap, but a final tip: if you’re anything like me and USELESS with numbers, government info, etc, phone a friend or rope in your partner to help you interpret the application form and its questions (good practice for getting their help once your baby arrives, too!). Seriously. You’re pregnant and under enough damn stress. 

Did you find this guide useful or do you have any hot tips to add? Let us know in the comments!

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