As an industry dominated by women, parental leave is especially important for us. Most workers, both permanent and casual, who have been employed for at least 12 months, are entitled to 12 months’ unpaid parental leave in the event of a birth or adoption – when you become the primary carer for a child.
(If you’re a casual worker, there are some conditions. You have to be employed for a regular basis, and if it’s not for the birth/adoption of your child, there’s a reasonable expectation that your employment would continue.)
This leave is protected under the National Employment Standards (NES) and is available to all genders and couples, no matter your status or sexuality.
Whether you choose to get straight back to work, take time out, or even change your career is totally up to you! But we want to make sure you’re fully aware of your rights when it comes to parental leave, and what you need to do. Here are some questions we get asked all the time about parental leave:
When can I start my leave?
Parental leave can start up to 6 weeks before the expected due date of your baby if you’re the one giving birth. If you want to continue to work within the 6 weeks before your baby’s birth, you may be asked to provide a medical certificate stating you’re fit to work.
You set your start date and have to agree to it. Your employer cannot force you to change your dates if you don’t want to. If you’re the one giving birth, and your employer is asking you to continue working within 6 weeks of your due date, please get in touch with us straight away!
If you’re not the one giving birth, leave will start on the date of birth (or placement) of the child.
Do I have to give notice?
Yes! The first thing you need to do is give your employer 10 weeks’ written notice that you intend to take parental leave (there are exceptions if this is not possible). You also have to give the start and end dates for your intended leave.
You also need to confirm these dates 4 weeks before you’re due to start leave and let your employer know if there have been any changes.
Can I extend my leave if I want to?
Sometimes. You can request an extension of a further 12 months, as long as your partner hasn’t also taken 12 months of parental leave. This gives you 24 months in total.
Your request has to be in writing, and you have to give 4 weeks’ notice. Your employer may say no, but only if they have ‘reasonable business grounds’. These aren’t strictly defined in the NES so if this does happen to you, reach out to us.
Can I go back to my old job?
Yes, 100%! The return to work guarantee under the NES entitles you to the same position you were in before taking leave (or, if that position no longer exists, the position closest in status and pay for which you are qualified). So if you were permanent, for example, your employer must offer you the same permanent role, at the same level of pay (including any legislated Award increases that might have happened while you were on leave).
Everyone’s circumstances are different, and we know there’s heaps of other questions you might have around your rights to parental leave. We offer one-on-one legal advice and support to all our HSA members and make sure you have the info and help you need. And if a dispute does come up between you and your employer, we’ll also work with you, so you get the best outcome! Get started today if you need help.