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Parental leave - things to consider

4-minute read

Parents in Australia are entitled to various payments and leave options when they have a baby. It is important to consider what works best for you and your family when you decide how much leave to take.

Plan your leave

Follow this checklist 3 months before the due date:

Talk to your employer.

You must give your employer at least 10 weeks’ written notice before starting your unpaid parental leave.

You must also confirm the dates of your leave 4 weeks before the leave starts.

Check how much leave you are entitled to (visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website).

Check if you are eligible for any Australian Government payments:

Start the claim process. You can do this 3 months before the baby is born by logging on to your Centrelink account through the MyGov website.

How much money do I need?

Having a baby or adopting a child can have a big financial impact. Parents in Australia are entitled to both paid and unpaid parental leave, but you will still likely be earning less than when you were in paid employment.

When deciding how much time to take off when having a baby, consider how to manage any debts. Can you pay them off before the baby is born? Or roll them into a personal loan? Or maybe switch to interest-only payments for a while?

Sit down and plan a budget so you can work out where to cut back if necessary. You could practise living on one wage for a while so you can see how you will manage after the baby is born.

How much leave should I take?

Research shows that babies tend to be healthier and have better educational outcomes when parents spend time at home with them in the early months.

Paid Parental leave is designed to help parents stay at home for longer with their baby. You are also entitled to 12 months’ unpaid leave.

How long you decide to stay at home depends on your situation. In Australia, more women are spending longer at home with their newborn. About 2 in 5 women go back to work when the baby is 7 months or older.

If you decide to go back to work, one option is for your partner to take leave and stay at home with the baby. Each parent can take up to 12 months’ unpaid leave. The leave must be taken in a single continuous period. One parent’s leave starts the next working day after the first parent returns to work. The combined leave cannot be for more than 24 months.

Before planning your leave, it is a good idea to check childcare options in your area. You can do this on the Child Care Finder website.

Being on leave

Staying at home with a baby can mean a big adjustment. It is important to do things for yourself, have some adult company and nurture your relationships. Read more here about being a new parent.

You are not eligible to receive Parental Leave Pay if you return to work before the end of the leave period. However, you are allowed to keep in touch with your employer so it is easier for you to transition back to work. You can do a paid work activity for a total of 10 days while you are receiving the payment.

If you run your own business, you are not allowed to work while you are receiving the payment. But you can perform basic tasks to keep the business operational, such as paying bills, organising repairs and maintaining basic contact with clients.

Going back to work

Many women return to work before the end of the 12-month period, but work fewer hours than they did before. This means they can earn money but still spend time with their baby.

Discuss both with your partner and your employer how you can balance your caring responsibilities with work. ASIC’s Moneysmart can help you calculate how to budget your income when you return to work.

There is no right time to return to work. It’s your decision and can depend on many factors, including your work itself, your family arrangements and how your child copes with change.

For support, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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