Vulnerable mums chase unpaid parental leave
VULNERABLE new parents are waiting months for paid parental leave to kick in, with one Gold Coast family told she is "one of thousands" in limbo.
One mother of four has been waiting almost two months while another has been paid one week out of nine owed in what is a festive season blow.
Paradise Point mother-of-four Shannon said her son Hugo was born on November 6 and paperwork was submitted three days later. But seven weeks on she still hasn't received any payment, despite contacting her employer and Centrelink nearly a dozen times.
"It has been left to me to chase it up over and over again and it's the last thing new mums need to worry about when they already have a new baby to care for and bond with," she said.
"New mums don't need stress as they are very vulnerable to postnatal depression.
"We did have savings but I was sent on unpaid leave from 34 weeks because of my health so I have been 10 weeks no pay it will be 12 weeks if my paid parental leave goes in next pay cycle which is after New Year's.
"We would have got by financially for longer on it, if it was not Christmas."
Shannon was contacted by Centrelink after Bulletin inquiries and was told Centrelink would consider paying her now but her employer had accepted the payment would be made to them so she'd have to wait for her next pay cycle after New Year's.
"She also said they had not had any communication from my work since I lodged intentions for paid parental leave at the beginning of October," she said.
"When I asked why I had not received a letter in my myGov inbox notifying me they were having trouble communicating with my employer … she said 'that's not our process at the moment' but that is a good idea to put forward and she will suggest that be added."
Gold Coast mum Corine Williams was supposed to get Centrelink's paid parental leave from October 19 for two weeks and then the start of November her husband was to receive it because she returned to work.
"Due to a stuff up at Centrelink's end we have only been paid for one week out of the nine so far," she said. "I was told on the phone by one of the staff we are one of thousands of parents going through this".
She was also told it's a "paperwork issue at our end" yet it was completed by the family before their son was born months ago.
"These clerical errors have caused us so much stress and I've spent hours on the phone trying to sort this out. But for those who are on Struggle Street, living week-to-week, this must be devastating for them at this time of year."
Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said: "Staff are working extremely hard to process claims as quickly as possible, with the majority of Parental Leave Pay claims being processed within a week.
"There have been no processing delays or errors. Most assessments, whether new or existing customers, are not taking the length of time you suggest (months) and there is no backlog."
It's understood claims taking longer are due to the agency waiting on additional information from the customer's employer or customers themselves.
Centrelink strongly encouraged people to regularly check their myGov account, as it said it would send a letter if further information was needed. Those in hardship were asked to contact Centrelink and discuss options.
Customers can claim for Parental Leave Pay up to three months before their child's due date.
Centrelink has also extended the work test period for Parental Leave Pay for those whose employment has been affected by COVID-19. Learn by visiting servicesaustralia.gov.au
Originally published as Vulnerable Coast mums chase $1000s in unpaid parental leave