Parental leave and your super
Find out how your super is affected when you take parental leave such as maternity or paternity leave and learn how you can reduce the impact on your balance.
In this article you’ll find:
- What are the types of parental leave?
- Is super paid on parental leave?
- Will super ever be paid on parental leave?
- How can you top up your super balance?
You can’t always plan for every financial decision, but it helps to understand how different times of your life may impact your financial future. While you’re working, and if you’re eligible, you’ll be receiving superannuation from your employer. What you may not know is that super is not usually paid if you take time off work to care for a new baby. If you continue to take time off to have more children, this break from super contributions can reduce your retirement savings significantly.
Here we explain the types of parental leave, and how you can top up your super balance if you plan on taking time off work. We also look into whether super pay on parental leave is likely to change in future.
What are the types of parental leave?
Parental leave (also referred to as maternity or paternity leave) falls into two categories in Australia:
- Paid parental leave from your employer
- The government’s Parental Leave Pay.
If you’re eligible, you can receive both types.
Eligibility for paid parental leave from your employer can differ from workplace to workplace. In general (but not always) you will need to have worked for 12 continuous months to qualify and the amount you receive (usually measured in weeks) will also vary from place to place.
Sometimes there are reasons why you’re not eligible for paid parental leave. Perhaps you’re a freelancer. Or maybe you haven’t worked long enough with your employer to receive it. You may still be eligible for the government plan.
It’s not compulsory for employers to offer paid parental leave, though most do. For more information on best practice employer parental leave, visit the FairWork Australia page.
If you’re not sure what your workplace offers, get in touch with your HR or Payroll department for more information.
Are you eligible for Parental Leave Pay from the government?
Generally, you’re eligible for the government’s Parental Leave Pay if you have a newborn or recently adopted a child and you;
- have met the income test
- will not be working during your Paid Parental Leave period except for allowable reasons
- have met the work test
- have registered or applied to register your child’s birth with your state or territory birth registry if they’re a newborn.
For more information on eligibility and how much Parental Leave Pay you’re entitled to, visit the Services Australia page.
Are super contributions included with parental leave pay?
Generally, neither employer-paid nor government-paid parental leave will pay super, though some employers may offer super on parental leave as an employment incentive.
According to a 2017 ABS report, women are still taking 95% of primary parental leave. With no super being paid during this time it means women will more likely have less super at retirement and are more likely to need government assistance, such as the Age Pension during this later phase of life.
To see examples of how your super can be impacted when you take parental leave, see our page on Career breaks and super.
Will super ever be paid on parental leave?
There is definitely a strong argument from political parties and advocacy groups for super to be paid on parental leave. The recent Retirement Income Review confirmed that making super payable on parental leave would help bridge the gap between men and women’s retirement savings.
Super Consumers Australia director Xavier O’Halloran is calling on all political parties to put forward their policies around super on paid parental leave ahead of next year’s federal election. For Women in Super the introduction of compulsory superannuation payments for parents on parental leave is a no-brainer. It’s a main policy point that underpins their Make Super Fair campaign.
Compulsory super payments will not only help close the gap between men and women’s super-balances at retirement - they’ll also help reduce the risk of women living in poverty at retirement.
How can you keep your super topped up in the meantime?
If you take parental leave, there are some measures you can take to reduce the impact on your super.
Split super contributions with your partner
Before-tax super contributions can be split between you and your partner – this means that if you’re not working but your partner is, they can give you some of the super they’ve earned during the year (or vice versa).
Or whichever of you is still working can make an after-tax spouse super contribution into the other’s account. A tax offset of up to $540 each financial year is available if the partner that’s not working earns less than $40,000.
For more information, including eligibility and how to make a payment on either of these options, see our Spouse contributions page.
If you know that having kids is part of your life picture, you could plan for the impact this may have on your super balance and save extra before you take time off. The two most common ways members boost their super savings ahead of parenthood are either salary sacrifice or after-tax contributions.
Salary sacrifice super contributions
This is where you ask your employer to direct some of your pre-tax pay to your super account, rather than receiving it in your take-home pay. This is in addition to the Super Guarantee amount they’re generally required to pay.
Salary sacrifice contributions may reduce the amount of tax you pay on your assessable income. Learn more about The benefits and consideration of salary sacrifice | UniSuper.
After-tax super contributions
These are contributions you personally make from your take-home pay or savings and can make a difference over time. See more on after-tax contributions.
It’s also possible to make personal deductible contributions. You can claim this super contribution as a tax deduction on your individual tax return if you meet certain eligibility criteria. This may suit you if you’re self-employed. Learn more about personal deductible contributions.
Check your investment strategy
How you invest your super now can affect your super balance later. We offer a range of investment options for members with different investment needs.
Learn about our investment options, investment risk and returns and how to make an investment choice.
If you’re a DBD member, you can only choose how your accumulation component is invested.
Change is coming
Some employers choose to pay super on parental leave as an incentive for attracting and retaining employees. This is especially the case for employers who care about reducing the gender pay gap. Some super funds including UniSuper, Australian Super and NGS Super do this. The big four banks as well as HSBC Australia also pay their employees super and corporations across media, energy and property now offer similar benefits to help narrow the super gender gap.