If you’re planning a pregnancy it also pays to starts planning your maternity leave.
Sometimes a few months could be the difference between whether or not you’re entitled to take leave – or whether you are eligible for a maternity leave payment. In these cases it is worth knowing exactly what you’re in for.
Here are six steps to working out where you stand when it comes to maternity leave entitlement in Australia.
Here are 6 maternity leave questions to ask BEFORE you’re pregnant
1. What are your personal circumstances and preferences?
Take some time to clearly and realistically consider your own situation and expectations in regards to taking maternity leave.
- Discuss plans with your partner – though it may be an emotional subject, it is important you both agree on plans for after the baby arrives in terms of care and family income.
- When would you like to ideally start maternity leave?
- When do you plan to return to work?
- Will your partner also take parental leave?
- Would you like to return to work full time or part time after the baby is born?
2. What is your financial situation?
Even before the baby is born, you will have a lot of expenses which you may not have thought of. Just the basics of setting up a nursery for your baby can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Then of course there are ongoing costs as your child/ren grow.
- What will be the financial implications on your family should you have unpaid maternity leave?
- Can you continue to afford essentials such as food, transport and rent/mortgage repayments if your income was to stop or be reduced for up to a year while on maternity leave?
- Do you have savings or an emergency fund to fall back on if necessary?
- What is your current cost of living and how will this change once the baby arrives, and continue to change as your child/ren grow?
- What are your spending habits and could these perhaps change if necessary to be able to survive on a lower income – for example, instead of buying brand new baby items there are many second hand options to consider.
3. Are you entitled to any Government assistance?
- The Federal government offers various regular payments to help towards the cost of raising children, many of which are dependent upon your level of (joint) income.
- Once the baby is born, what kind of financial compensation will you receive from the government?
- What is the current amount of Parental Leave Pay in Australia? Are you entitled to this and over what time frame will this be paid?
- Which ongoing government family payments will you receive and how will these be affected by your level of income? (e.g. Family Tax Benefit A, Family Tax Benefit B)
- How will the amounts of these benefits be affected if you are on paid/unpaid leave?
For more information read our article on Government family benefits in Australia.
4. What is your employer’s maternity leave policy?
Maternity leave offered by various employers vary widely, with some being much more generous than others.
- How long do you need to have worked for your employer before they will offer you the option of taking maternity leave?
- Does your employer offer maternity leave entitlements beyond the minimum required by federal and state legislation?
- Is leave paid or unpaid and over what period of time?
- How much notice are you required to give before you start leave?
5. Are there any maternity leave clauses in your personal contract?
Details in your personal contract with your employer will further determine what your entitlements are in your own situation.
- Is there allowance for maternity leave specifically referred to in your contract?
- What other types of leave are you entitled to, for example you may wish to combine unpaid maternity leave with paid annual leave
6. Have you made a back-up plan in case of unexpected changes in circumstance?
Even the best plans can be affected by circumstances either within or beyond your control.
- Consider what may happen if unexpected circumstances should strike, for example what would you do if your partner lost their job while you were on maternity leave?
- Look into life and disability insurance for both you and your partner
- Allow for your own emotions and expectations to change drastically after the baby is born – you may be convinced you are happy to leave your baby in daycare at a young age and return to work, but you may feel differently once he or she arrives (or vice versa).