Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme starts

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin today visited Westmead Hospital in Sydney to meet some of the first parents to benefit from the Gillard Government’s new national Paid Parental Leave scheme.

The Prime Minister said the start of the scheme – a first for Australia – represented a major win for Australian families and a historic day for workplace relations in this country.

The scheme provides up to 18 weeks of Government-funded Parental Leave pay at the National Minimum Wage (currently $570 per week before tax) for eligible parents of children born or adopted from 1 January 2011.

After decades of inaction, Australian families now have the added security of Paid Parental Leave while they welcome in a new member of their family.

The Government expects 148,000 Australian families will be eligible for Paid Parental Leave each year. Already more than 7,500 families expecting babies early in 2011 have applied for the payment.

To be eligible for Paid Parental Leave the primary carer must have an individual annual income of $150,000 or less and have worked prior to the birth of their baby.

Applicants will meet the work test if they have worked at least 330 hours (just over one day a week) in 10 of the 13 months before the expected date of birth.

Minister Macklin said that for many women, particularly the self-employed and those in part-time, casual, seasonal or contract work, this will be the first time they will have access to Paid Parental Leave.

Most mothers will receive parental leave pay through their employer in their usual pay cycle – just like employer provided leave entitlements.

This will help women stay connected to the workforce, and will help employers attract and retain valuable and skilled staff.

Parental Leave pay can be transferred between parents to give families more options to balance work and family.

Families who don’t qualify for Paid Parental Leave will still have the option of the baby bonus and other family payments if eligible.

Paid Parental Leave can be taken any time from the birth of the child until the child turns one, as long as the parent has not returned to work. It can be taken at the same time as, before or after any employer-funded leave.

Parents can lodge their claims for Paid Parental Leave up to three months before their baby’s due date to ensure payments begin as soon after the birth as parents wish.

The Government-funded scheme has a net cost of around $260 million each year.

This is a great victory for the many Australians who have campaigned for decades for a national Paid Parental Leave scheme.

To apply or to find out more, please visit Family Assist website.