Finally, Australians are now able to receive paid parental leave as of 1 January 2011. The Government is offering parents 18 weeks paid parental leave of $570 per week, (equivalent to the minimum wage in Australia). Either Mum or Dad can take the leave or share the 18 weeks between them.
These laws finally bring Australia into line with the rest of the world. All countries in the world apart from four, provide paid parental leave. To meet the requirements for paid parental leave the parent(s), must have worked for a minimum of ten months out of the last 13 months before the birth or adoption and completed a minimum of 313 hours in that period. Also, parents who earn more than $150,000 p.a. do not qualify.
Many other countries specify that the leave is maternity leave only (ie can only be taken by Mum), or they are very specific about the way in which leave can be allocated between the parents, usually with the majority for the mother.
In comparison, Australia’s paid maternity leave package is quite progressive as it allows the parents to decide between them who is to take the leave and in what proportion. In my view this aspect of the paid leave is beneficial, as I think couples should be free to work out the parenting arrangements that suit them best, rather than have this proscribed by the government.
Australia is less traditional than other countries, as the government does not assume that Mum will always be the primary caregiver and Dad will be at work being the “breadwinner”. This less traditional approach is not surprising considering that in Australia, Family Law Courts must consider whether equal time, and if not equal time, substantial and significant time with both parents is in the child’s best interests.
In terms of how all this applies to you, you can still ask your employer for 24 months unpaid leave while also applying for the 18 weeks paid parental leave. However, the 18 weeks must fall within the 24 month period.
If your employer already has a paid maternity leave scheme in place, they must still honour this in addition to the Government scheme.
For more information regarding paid parental leave please see the following link http://www.familyassist.gov.au/payments/family-assistance-payments/paid-parental-leave-scheme/.