Until recently, new parents received paid parental leave for just 18 weeks, one of the lowest allowances in the OECD.
Parliament originally voted to increase paid parental leave to 26 weeks back in 2016, however the previous Government vetoed the change. The increase will now take place incrementally, with the first increase from 18 to 22 weeks applicable to babies born or due from 1 July 2018, and a further extension to 26 weeks expected from 1 July 2020. The change also applies to those adopting, or becoming primary carer for a child.
The maximum payment has remained at $538.55 before tax, however it is hoped that the increased leave period will benefit families more than just financially. It is hoped there will be a positive impact on parental bonding with their newborn, and will also assist with the World Health Organisation's recommendation of breastfeeding up to six months of age.
The policy is set to cost approximately $325 million over four years. The Government believe it will give children the best start, whilst also reducing the level of stress on new parents.