Overview of your parental leave rights
New parents who are working (including some self-employed people) are legally entitled to time off work so they can care for their newborn baby or their new adopted child under the age of six. Other people who permanently take over the primary care role for a child under six are also entitled to parental leave – for example, you’ll qualify if your grandchild comes to live with you and you’re going to raise the child in place of their parents.
There are different entitlements available to you depending on whether you’re the primary carer or the spouse or partner – some leave is available only to the primary carer, and some only to the spouse or partner, while some is available to either of them (see “Taking parental leave from your job: Types of parental leave” in this section).
Note: You can’t be fired because you’re pregnant, or because you ask to take parental leave or while you’re on parental leave. There is a limited exception for cases of genuine redundancy.
Who’s entitled to parental leave?
You may be entitled to take parental leave from your job if you or your partner is pregnant, or if you’re adopting or otherwise permanently taking over the care of a child under six years old.
To qualify, you must meet both of the following requirements:
- you must have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 months (for full parental leave entitlements) or at least six months (for some entitlements) on the expected date of birth or on the date when you begin caring for the child, and
- over that qualifying period, you must have worked for an average of at least 10 hours a week.
When is a spouse or partner entitled to parental leave?
To be eligible as a spouse or partner you must be married to, or be in a civil union or de facto relationship with, the primary carer of a child under six. This includes same-sex partners. As the spouse or partner you don’t have to be a natural parent of the child.
To be eligible you must also have worked for the relevant qualifying period – either six months or 12 months with the same employer.
Can I take parental leave again for subsequent children?
Yes. You can take parental leave more than once, so long as it’s been at least six months since you returned to work at the end of the previous parental leave. You must also meet the eligibility requirements each time (see above, “Who’s entitled to parental leave?”).
Notifying your employer that you want to take parental leave
You must give your employer written notice, stating when you intend to go on parental leave and how long you’ll be on leave for.
If the child is going to be born to you or your partner (as opposed to you adopting or otherwise taking over the primary care role for a child), you have to give the written notice at least three months before the due date. You’ll need to include a certificate from a doctor or midwife.
Your employer must respond in writing within 21 days, stating whether you’re entitled to parental leave and, if not, giving reasons for this. Their response must also tell you whether your job can be kept open while you’re on leave.
If you’re adopting a child or taking over primary care for a child, you must give your employer written notice at least 14 days beforehand.
If you become the primary carer of a child before their first birthday (where the birth parent has died or for any other reason), you must give your employer notice within a reasonable period after you become the primary carer.
COVID-19 rules affecting parental leave
Special laws apply for two years from 25 March 2020, allowing certain workers – “COVID-19 response workers” – on parental leave to temporarily return to work during that two-year period without losing their parental leave entitlements.
A COVID-19 response worker is an employee or self-employed person who temporarily returns to work from parental leave because either:
- their role can’t reasonably be filled by another person, because of their skills, qualification or experience, or
- there’s a higher demand than usual for workers doing that role.
If you were a COVID-19 response worker on parental leave who temporarily returned to work for one continuous period of up to 12 weeks during the special two-year period, you’re then able to apply for parental leave payments after resuming work.
So a person on primary carer leave could temporarily return to work as a COVID-19 response worker and then resume their leave afterwards.
The date for the end of extended leave will be after six months of leave or 12 months of leave (depending on how long you had been in the job). The time you returned to work isn’t counted.