Parental Leave

Parenting (or parental) leave


Parenting (or parental) leave is what was traditionally known as maternity leave.

This name change recognises that a child's primary care giver may not necessarily be the child's mother, and that both parents regardless of gender should also be considered for leave to care for a child. 

What is parental leave?

Parental leave is leave that can be taken when:

  • an employee gives birth, or employee’s spouse or de facto partner gives birth
  • an employee adopts a child under 16 years of age; and
  • when they are the primary carer of the child.

Who is eligible?

All Australian employees are entitled to parental leave.

Casual employees

For casual employees to be eligible for unpaid parental leave they need to have:

  • been working for their employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months
  • a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis, had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child.

How long is parenting leave?

Employees taking time off work to become the primary carer of a child can take 52 weeks unpaid leave.

Some employers offer paid parental leave for a set number of weeks to attract and retain skilled staff. The government also pays eligible workers up to 18 weeks parental leave. For more information please see the Commonwealth Department of Human Services' website

Women are usually only required to take early parental leave if there is a  work health and safety reason for them to leave the workplace. Most pregnant women commence parental leave before the due date.

Under equal opportunity law, workers are entitled to return to the same position that they held before parental leave. If that position no longer exists, they are entitled to a role of similar status.

Workers returning from parental leave who would like to access flexible work arrangements should request to do so in writing. Workers do not have to give a reason for asking for flexible work.

Recent court decisions indicate that, under state and federal equal opportunity law, employers are obliged:

  • to ensure that workers are not disadvantaged by taking maternity leave; and
  • to accommodate any reasonable request for flexible work arrangements.

If you have returned, or wish to return from parental leave and think you have been discriminated against, contact us for advice.