Pregnancy is an exciting time, and while you’re making a birth plan and choosing a pram, it’s also important to think about your future child care needs.
You might be intending to care for your infant full-time, going back to work soon after they’re born, or looking for some help here and there, and whatever your expectations, a little planning goes a long way.
Parental leave needs to be organised in advance, some childcare services have long waiting lists and quality nannies are in high demand, so here are a few childcare considerations before your baby arrives.
Are you eligible for parental leave?
In Australia, there are unpaid and paid parental leave arrangements for new mums and dads.
If you’ve been working for your employer for at least 12 months by the time your baby is due or born and will be responsible for looking after them, then you’re entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave. Likewise, your child’s other parent can take 12 months off work to care for your baby.
To lock this in, you or your partner will need to give your employer at least 10 weeks’ notice (in writing) of your intention to take the leave, and then confirm the start and end dates of the leave at least four weeks before you want to take it.
There’s the option of requesting another 12 months off, and there’s more detail about unpaid parental leave here.
The government also offers a Paid Parental Leave scheme to help eligible parents take time off work to care for a new child. Parental Leave Pay amounts to $753.90 per week before tax, for up to 18 weeks, and although you can claim this after your baby is born, the government recommends that you apply for it up to three months before your baby is due.
It’s possible to transfer some or all of your Parental Leave Pay to your partner, and they might also qualify for Dad and Partner Pay for up to two weeks. This pay is also calculated at $753.90 per week before tax, and it’s recommended that dads and partners claim this before their baby arrives, too.
What kind of childcare do you need?
Childcare is helpful whether you’ll be staying at home for a while or returning to work, and there are several options, depending on your needs.
While you’re at home, a Mothercraft nurse or night nanny can help you get some quality rest in the first weeks of your newborn’s life, and a mother’s help can support you from birth to six months. Au pairs are also an option in your baby’s first year, as long as they’re not solely in charge of your little one’s care.
Once you’re back at work, you could hire a live-in or live-out nanny to look after your baby, and if you already have children, a nanny may be a cost-effective option for your growing family.
Many childcare centres cater to children from birth, and family day care offers individualised home-based care from the age of six weeks. You might also think about grandparent care, if your baby and grandparent are ready for this.
Babies benefit from one-on-one attention provided by a single care-giver, so it’s important to find a carer both you and they feel comfortable with – whether that’s at home or in a centre.
Our Childcare Compass can help you find the right fit for your family.
Which childcare provider will you choose?
There is high demand for quality childcare in some areas, so once you know what type of care you’d like, it’s a good idea to research quality providers well before your baby is born.
We recommend that you:
- Search all the childcare options in your area
- Compare reviews, ratings, vacancies and fees to create a shortlist; then
- Contact your favourites by phone or email, explaining when you need child care to start and how much care you’ll require.
It’s important to visit the shortlisted services, or interview prospective nannies, before making a final decision, and you may need to put your name on a waiting list (or three) if your top choices are highly sought after.
There’s more information about waiting lists here, but as a guide, you’re encouraged to start planning early to ensure your little one has access to quality care when they need it.
How do you get child care assistance?
You can’t apply for the Childcare Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Childcare Subsidy (ACCS) until your baby has been born, but it’s good to know that these government payments help eligible families pay for childcare.
The CCS is paid to childcare providers to reduce your fees, and if your baby is attending an approved childcare service (including centre-based care, family day care or in home care) then you’ll likely qualify for it.
You can read more about eligibility here. The subsidy amount is calculated according to your family’s income, the hourly rate cap for your service and your child’s age, plus the hours of activity you and your partner do.
Make a note to apply for this childcare assistance before your little one starts at care, and keep in mind that you’ll need to confirm your child’s enrolment before the government can pay the CCS to their service.
The Family Tax Benefit (including a Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement) is another way that the government supports parents, and it can be claimed up to three months before your baby is born.
You’ll find more information about pre-birth claims and child care planning here, and we wish you all the best with your pregnancy, your new arrival and the wonderful world of childcare!