ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Can I work during my paid parental leave?”

by Leo Wiles
06 September 2017

I have a question. What is it like freelancing as a new mum, and how does it work with paid parental leave? Can you work occasionally and invoice after the leave payments end? Also, will you actually WANT to work when you’ve got a newborn? Anon

Firstly, the ‘newborn haze’ is different for everyone, so whether you’ll be willing AND able to string a sentence together is something you’ll only know once you bring your bundle of joy home. It’ll depend on things like how much sleep you get, how well your baby sleeps, how quickly you get into a routine – a whole host of things. But it’s also important to NOT plan because you just have no idea how things are going to go. This is a time to just go with the flow.

In regards to working during your Paid Parental Leave (PPL)? No way Jose.  The reality is that is you that once you receive PPL, legally you cannot work at all – even if you were to post-date your invoice. You have to remain on leave from the time you become your child’s primary carer until the end of the 18-week PPL period, in order to receive the National Minimum Wage of $695 a week before tax (correct as of July 2017).

The only exceptions to this rule for eligible freelance mums and dads, according to the Department of Human Services, is if you ‘perform occasional tasks to keep an eye on your business or to ensure your business remains operational while you’re on leave’.

The self employment and keeping an eye on your business guidelines mean you can:

  • pay an account
  • check on the delivery of an order
  • approve the business accounts
  • deal with ad hoc disputes
  • organise a repair
  • organise replacement staff to manage your absence
  • maintain a basic level of contact with clients, and
  • keep your professional skills up to date.

However, if you return to actively running or maintaining the daily operations of your business before the end of your Paid Parental Leave period, you’ll be regarded as having returned to work. (Although I imagine there is nothing to stop you maintaining your social media streams, updating your online portfolio and creating a list of fabulous story ideas to send out once your 4 1/2 month PPL is up.)

NB: Because I am not a lawyer and had my children back in the days of the long-gone baby bonus and before PPL, please check your eligibility based on your individual circumstances. And don’t forget that on 1 January 2013, the Paid Parental Leave scheme was expanded to include a new two-week payment for working dads or partners, called Dad and Partner Pay.

Freelancers: how did you handle your work / maternity leave when you had a baby? Were you strictly tools-down? How long did you take for mat leave or until you felt it was time to go back to work? The poster of this question would love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.

2 responses on "ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Can I work during my paid parental leave?”"

  1. Oh gosh, I didn’t know this! I find the idea of not being able to write an article for 4.5 months quite sad – I was hoping it would be something I could if there were ever any downtime… I’m still a fair way off the point of being a mum but it’s good to know these things in advance. I wish a little bit of work was allowed – why must it be so strict 🙁

  2. Sally says:

    Don’t know if this will be of any help, but when I was getting the paid parental leave I didn’t do any paid work until the last month, when I took on some writing work. To be really ‘by the book’ I invoiced for it about a month after the paid parental leave ended, and my accountant said that was fine because it didn’t indicate I had done the work during the payment period, so no dramas.
    Congrats on your upcoming bubba!

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