Are You Planning Your Maternity Leave? Find Out What You Need to Know

Are You Planning Your Maternity Leave? Find Out What You Need to Know

When you're expecting a baby, there are likely to be a million things running through your brain 24/7, and you're going to be getting tips, advice and good wishes from every side. 


In all the tumult, especially in the early days, there are things that you simply won't have time to think about, as well as things you haven't even realised that you should be thinking about!


One of the aspects of approaching motherhood that you should, however, find some time to consider and plan for is your maternity leave.


Maternity leave is a valuable resource designed to support new mothers in Australia, and so to enjoy it to the full, it pays to spend some time in advance planning and preparing for when the time arrives, as it will no doubt come round sooner than you expect!


Planning your maternity leave: pre-leave, during leave, and after leave

To make it a little easier, given how much else you are probably going to have on your plate, here are some tips and advice for how best to plan for your maternity leave.

Plans for what should happen in the pre-leave period

Although it sounds obvious, it can be easy to forget to set the dates when your maternity leave is going to begin and end. These can't be written in stone of course, and will always be subject to change, but if you can lay out an approximate timetable it will help you, your employer and your workmates, as it will give everyone time to adjust and prepare for your not being around.


It may also act as a (not so subtle) reminder to your boss to arrange cover, or to make sure they too have put plans in place to account for your absence. In this way, everyone can approach your maternity leave in the same positive frame of mind as you are. 


In addition, it is a good idea as part of your pre-leave plan to go through all the projects you are currently working on and their deadlines (if applicable), highlighting those you expect to finish before you go on leave and those that will likely require further work even after you are away. If you are in the position to allocate responsibility for these tasks, it's a good idea to do it now; if it's not your responsibility, those above you may nevertheless appreciate your suggestions.

If you can assign estimated completion dates to your projects, this will likely be appreciated as it gives both you and your team a better sense of where things currently stand and what remains to be done. It might also be worthwhile to make explicit who needs to sign off on any of these projects, so they don't get overlooked.


Plans for what happens during leave

In an ideal world, being on maternity leave would be precisely that, i.e., you are not available for anything for the entire period you are away from work. However, this might not always be possible " or even desirable " but if it is your intention to be entirely unavailable for the entirety of your maternity leave, this needs to be made clear to colleagues as part of your pre-leave planning. 


However, if you have decided that you are in fact going to be available at times during your maternity leave, it will be a good idea to outline (both for yourself and colleagues) what this means in practice. 


For instance, will it entail you responding to emails for a set period each week? Will you participate in online meetings? Will you be checking in at set times each week with members of your team? 


It is important, however, to remember that whatever your intentions, maternity leave can be more demanding than anticipated, and you may not have the time to commit to work tasks that you expected. If this turns out to be the case, don't be afraid to let people know and adjust expectations accordingly.


Some women decide that towards the end of maternity leave they want to start transitioning back into work. If this is the case, you should agree in advance to a plan as to how and when this might happen.


For instance, you might like to work part-time for a couple of weeks before returning full time, or if you have been unavailable for the majority of your maternity leave, you might plan a date for checking in with work a few weeks ahead of your return, just to give you and your colleagues peace of mind that everything is progressing as it should be, as well as being a chance for you simply to touch base with workmates.


Plans for what should happen in the post-leave period 

As part of the planning for your post-leave period, you should have set a date when you expect to return to work. Of course, circumstances may change and you might not want or be able to stick to this date, but it's important nevertheless to have one clearly established. It will help you to manage your time, your workplace to effectively manage its staffing, and colleagues to take care of their responsibilities.

Ideally, your plan for the post-leave period should also factor in whether are going to leap straight back in and assume all of your regular responsibilities, or whether there will be a transition period, where you work alongside a colleague who has been performing some or all of your role, enabling them to bring projects to a close and you to ease your way back in.


Your plan should also look ahead to what sort of schedule you anticipate working in the immediate post-leave period. It might be that you want to negotiate some flexibility on work hours, for instance, when you first return. It certainly pays to have these conversations in advance of going on leave, as your organisation may be unable or unwilling to accommodate you if you haven't raised the issue with them in advance.


Maternity leave in Australia " what you need to know

To help you plan for your maternity leave, it is helpful to understand your rights and what benefits you are entitled to under Australian federal and state laws.


Below are some of the most common questions asked about maternity leave in Australia. The answers may help you as you set about preparing your pre leave, during leave, and after leave plans.


How much maternity leave are women entitled to in Australia?

New mothers in Australia are entitled to 12 months of leave once you have been working for the same employer for 12 months or longer.


You can request up to an additional 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave, with any request needing to be made in writing at least four weeks in advance of any request for additional leave of four weeks or longer. Your employer must respond within 21 days informing you whether they agree to your request, giving valid reasons as to why it is being refused.


When can maternity leave begin?

Maternity leave can begin at 34 weeks, i.e., six weeks before the expected date of the birth of your baby.


If you are adopting a baby, or are the partner of a woman giving birth, parental leave can begin on the day of the birth or adoption.

Is maternity leave paid or unpaid?

Under Australian law, all women are entitled to 12 months' unpaid maternity leave, although some employers will offer a period of paid paternity leave.


There is also a Federal Government scheme which provides for 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. 


At what rate do you receive maternity pay?

Maternity Pay (known as Parental Leave Pay) is available for up to 18 weeks (90 payable days) and is based on the national minimum wage weekly rate.


The time frame is made up of a continuous Paid Parental Leave period of up to 60 payable days (12 weeks) and an additional 30 Flexible Paid Parental Leave days, to help you balance work and family commitments.


Flexible Paid Parental Leave days can be taken straight away at the end of the 12 week Paid Parental Leave period, or at any time within 2 years of your child's birth or adoption.


Partners can also be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay for up to 2 weeks (10 payable days).


In total, as a family you may therefore be entitled to up to 20 weeks' Paid Parental Leave (100 payable days), although an individual mother can only receive a maximum of 18 weeks (90 payable days) of maternity leave. 


In most cases, you will receive your Parental Leave Pay via your employer as part of your regular pay cycle, although in some cases it may be paid to you directly by the Federal Government. 


Are childcare subsidies available?

Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is available throughout Australia to assist with meeting the costs of childcare at an approved child care centre once you return to work after maternity leave.


The amount you are entitled to receive will depend on your circumstances, and will take into account family income, the hourly rate cap for the type of child care you use, the number of children you have, and the number of hours you and/or your partner provide care for your child.


Families with more than one child aged 5 or younger will get a higher Child Care Subsidy.


How much paternity leave are fathers entitled to?

At the birth or adoption of a child, all fathers are entitled to 5 days' unpaid paternity leave. 


It is also possible to apply to the Federal Government for a period of paid paternity leave.






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