Guide to Planning Maternity Leave

Reviewed by

Team Kin

⚡In a nutshell

  • Whether you are full-time, part-time or a casual employee, you can still be eligible for parental leave, as long as you have worked in the organisation for a minimum of 12 months.
  • There are a bunch of rights you are entitled to while you're working and pregnant, while you're on leave and caring for your newborn and upon returning to work. It's important you know these and we encourage you to have a discussion with your employer about them.
  • If you decide to have another child, you don't have to wait another 12 months with the same employer to take more parental leave. However, if you have changed employers during this time, you still need to have worked there for a minimum of 12 months.

✍️ Dear future parent

Planning for a baby can be full of exciting and daunting emotions all bundled into one journey.

But, key advice to any future or current expectant parent is to seek information well ahead of time.

As you could probably imagine, when you've just welcomed a new baby into your family, it can be terribly hard to transition back into work straight away. Besides, you want to spend some quality time with your little human!

In Australia, more parents are spending longer at home with their newborn. About 2 in 5 women go back to work when the baby is 7 months or older.

However, sometimes it's actually not financially viable for some people to take the entirety of parental leave. And that's okay.

But it's still important to know the ins and outs of what exactly you are entitled to as an employee.  It will give you not only peace of mind, but you'll be able to devise a plan on how you will take advantage of this opportunity; while still leaving you financially stable and supported.  

🙋‍♀️ 🙋‍♂️ What am I entitled to?

There are a number of parental leave entitlements (paid and unpaid) that you may not be aware of, and could be eligible for.

Unpaid Parental Leave

Parental leave allows employees (full-time, part-time or casual) to take time away from work when:

  • You've given birth
  • Have a spouse or de factor partner that has just given birth
  • You've adopted a child under 16 years of age

If you fit the above scenario criteria, you are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave, and can request an additional 12 months of leave by chatting to your employer.

The only catch is: you need to have worked for your employer for at least 12 months. If you're casual or part-time, you just need to have worked for 12 months on a regular or systematic basis.

And, if you do request the additional 12 months, your employer may refuse this on reasonable business grounds, which needs to be stated in writing.

These entitlements apply both to you as the mother or your partner.

Government-Funded Parental Leave

The Australian Government have gone and done a nice thing where they will fund 18 weeks worth of parental leave, at the national minimum wage.

That's $740.60 per week before tax. Not too shabby.

Am I eligible? 👇🏼

  • The birth mother of a newborn
  • The adoptive parent of a child
  • Another person caring for a child under exceptional circumstances

What other criteria do I need to meet? 👇🏼

  • You must be the primary carer of the child (i.e the one who predominately feeds, bathes, dresses, and puts to sleep at night. And repeat)
  • You earn an adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less
  • You can't be working while you are receiving this payment
  • You've been slogging it out at work for 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child
  • During those 10 months worked, you’ve worked a minimum of 330 hours (equivalent to around 1 day a week)
  • You meet Australian residency requirements

What if I'm self-employed?  You're still eligible as long as you meet the work test.

By the way, this also doesn't affect the unpaid parental leave entitlements. If you are eligible for the paid parental leave, you can get both.

Government-Funded Dads and Parents Leave

What about the partners? Well, for eligible fathers and partners (including same-sex partners), the Australian Government will fund 2 weeks of leave paid at the minimum wage.

That’s $740.60 per week before tax.

Am I eligible? 👇🏼

  • The biological father of the child or the partner of the biological mother
  • The adoptive parent or the partner of the adopting parent
  • The person caring for a child born of a surrogacy arrangement

What other criteria needs to be met? 👇🏼

  • You must be the primary carer of the child when you are caring for them
  • You earn an adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less in the financial year period to leave or the birth of your child (whichever is earlier)
  • You are not working while you receive the payment
  • You have worked 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child. During those ten months, you’ve worked a minimum of 330 hours (which is around 1 day a week)
  • You meet Australian residency requirements

Employer-Funded Parental Leave

More Aussie employers (currently 50%) are starting to fund their employee's Parental Leave.

They've finally caught onto the fact that paid parental leave is a pretty attractive component to a modern workplace.

It's a great way for companies to attract better talent, encourage diversity and improve the work-life balance of their employees.

And the great thing about this is that you can be paid for both your employers' paid parental leave AND the Australian Government's Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

Double noice 👏🏼

But the amount of time that is offered varies from employer to employer.

  • Based on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA), the average length of paid primary carer’s leave offered by employers was 10.3 weeks in 2018.
  • And around 40% of companies offer secondary carers leave, providing an average of 1.6 weeks paid leave.  

Also, the amount paid varies from employer to employer too.  

  • It will depend on your arrangements with them, but it cannot be less than what the Government is providing. So either the minimum wage or more.
  • Majority of employers will offer your full pay rate in addition to the Government’s Scheme (if you’re eligible), while other employers will offer a top up on the Government’s Scheme to your full pay rate.

👩🏼‍💻 Applying for parental leave

Once you've figured out where you stand in terms of the entitlements offered, you need to give your employer a certain amount of written notice and evidence if they request it.

🙋🏼 How much notice do I need to give my employer?

Under the Fair Work Act, you've got to give your employer 10 weeks notice before starting your leave.

Ideally, this should be in writing and say how much leave you intend to take (and when you intend to take it).

Then, four weeks prior to your planned parental leave date you should confirm your intended leave dates with your employer in writing.

🙋🏼 How far in advance can I take leave before the expected birth or adoption?

Your leave can start up to 6 weeks before the expected birth of your child.

If you want earlier, you can chat with your employer and come to an agreement.

💁🏼 But I want to work right up until the birth, then what?

You might need a medical certificate that states you are fit to work if you want to work through part of the last six weeks of pregnancy.

🙇🏼‍♀️ OK, I've changed my mind and want to extend my leave - is that okay?

Absolutely. But you will need to give around 4 weeks of notice before your expected return date that you originally agreed on.

🤰 Your rights while you’re pregnant

You’re entitled to a bunch of extra rights if you happen to be carrying another human life.

🤒 Sick leave

If you experience pregnancy-related illness (morning sickness, anyone?) you are able to take sick-leave (instead of dipping into your annual leave).

💐 Special maternity leave

This special leave is reserved for the mamas out there who are going through the awful experience of a miscarriage, abortion or stillbirth.

Also note that special maternity leave won’t reduce the amount of unpaid parental leave that an employee can take. Take your time.

👷🏽‍♀️ Safe jobs

Regardless of whether or not you’re entitled to maternity leave, all pregnant women are entitled to move to a safe job if it isn’t safe for them to do their usual job because of their pregnancy.

If you move to a safe job, you are still entitled to the same pay rate, hours, or work and other entitlements you get in your usual job. Nothing should change in that regard.

🌴 No Safe Job Leave

If you're not able to find a suitable safe job in your workplace, you're entitled to paid No Safe Job Leave. Which means you are paid at the base rate of pay for ordinary hours of work for a full-time or part-time employee.

If you are a casual employee, it will be paid at the base rate of pay (not including casual loading) for the average number of hours you would usually work.

🤱Your rights during your leave

Here are a few extra entitlements to be aware of when you're off work caring for your little one.

👀 Kept in the loop

While you're taking parental leave, you're allowed to work up to 10 days without ending the parental leave period or formally returning to work if you are taking unpaid parental leave.

The 10 days doesn't need to be consecutive either, and can be spaced out according to what you and your employer agree on.

These days are paid at your usual rate and are designed to assist you in keeping in touch with your employer and colleagues while you are on leave.

It's a good way to help you return to employment after leave gradually.

Your employer must also consult with you if there are any significant changes to your job while you’re on leave.

🤓 Returning from leave early

You might decide to shorten the amount of leave than originally planned. If that's the case, you need to have this discussion with your employer.

In this case, they can choose to agree or not agree. If they don’t agree, you have to return to work on the planned date.

But, there is an exception: If you want to reduce or cancel your period of unpaid leave because of a still birth or death, you can end your leave by giving your employer 4 weeks notice.  

🙏 Extending your leave

If you are taking unpaid leave, you are able to apply to extend your time off. The amount of time will depend on your original leave period.

Extending leave in the first 12 months: You can extend your leave period up to the 12 month limit if your original unpaid leave period was less than that. Your employer needs to agree for anything above and beyond the 12 months.

Extending leave beyond the initial 12 months: If you’ve taken 12 months unpaid parental leave, you can apply to extend your leave to a total of 24 months. But, your employer can refuse the request on reasonable grounds but they need to have a discussion with you first.

✌️ Ending your employment while on leave

You have every right to resign from your job while you're on parental leave. Just make sure you give the correct notice period to your employer and use your parental leave as the notice period.

👩‍💼 Your rights when returning to work

These are your entitlements when it's time to return to work after your parental leave.

🤝 Work guarantee

If you were entitled to parental leave under the Fair Work Act, then you have the right to work guarantee. What this means is that you have the right to reutn to your pre-parental leave position. Exactly the way you left it (unless your employer spoke to you about any changes while you were on leave).

If you were transferred to a safe job before you took leave you are entitled to return to the job you had before the transfer.

If, for some reason, your position no longer exists then you are entitled to another position that is similar in status and pay.

That's the work guarantee.

💪 Flexible work arrangement

Going back to work while having a little human to care for requires some flexibility. That means you are entitled to request flexible working arrangements if you've worked for at least 12 months with your employer before making the request.

You can ask for things like changes to your start and finish times, job sharing or working from home.

You can also request flexible working arrangements if you are a parent, or have the responsibility of care for a child who is school aged or younger.

Your employer has the right to refuse the request on reasonable business grounds, however, the reasons for refusal must be in writing.

The same goes for casual employees. If you’ve been working for 12 months consistently and have a reasonable expectation of continuing employment with the employer on a regular basis.

🍼 Breastfeeding

It's best practice for an employer to support their employees who are breastfeeding by ensuring they have suitable facilities to store and pump breast milk. You should also be given the appropriate breaks to breastfeed.

Also know that breastfeeding is a protected ground of discrimination. That means failure to provide adequate facilities may constitute discrimination and a breach of work health and safety laws.

💫 And…repeat!

Thinking about having another child after this one? Well, the good news is that if you have taken parental leave, you don’t have to work for another 12 months before you can take another period of parental leave with the same employer.

But, if you started work with a new employer, you will still need to work with that employer for at least 12 months before you are entitled to parental leave.

🗓️ It's planning time

Once you've worked out the type of parental leave you're entitled to, make sure you give your employer adequate notice.

Once you've got the calendar dates set, then it's best to go straight to the source of truth (aka Australian Government Site) to gather extra information around what documents you might need to provide, or forms you need to fill in to ensure you get any payments you're eligible for.

It's best to get all of this admin done as soon as you can, mainly because it's not that fun and you could instead be buying cute baby things.


  1. Australian Government Department of Human Services. Parental Leave Pay. 2019
  2. Australian Government Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). WGEA Data Explorer: Support for Carers & Paid Parental Leave. 2018
  3. Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman. Parental Leave. 2019