Parental leave

Employees can take parental leave when a child is born or adopted.


Parental leave is unpaid leave that can be taken after an:

  • employee gives birth
  • employee's spouse or de facto partner gives birth
  • employee adopts a child under 16 years of age.

Employees are entitled to up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave. They can also request up to an additional 12 months of unpaid leave.

Some people may know parental leave as 'maternity leave' or 'paternity leave'. These are examples of types of parental leave.

Parental leave includes different entitlements for both parents, such as partner leave and adoption leave.

Pre-adoption leave

Employees who are taking parental leave to care for an adopted child are also entitled to 2 days unpaid pre-adoption leave to attend relevant interviews or examinations.

This leave can't be used if an employer tells an employee to take another type of leave. For example, paid annual leave.

Types of parental leave

All employees in Australia are entitled to unpaid parental leave.

There are different types of unpaid parental leave available depending on whether the employee is pregnant or not.

Pregnant employees are entitled to:

  • special parental leave
  • compassionate leave
  • a safe and no safe job leave.

Employees who aren't pregnant are entitled to:

  • partner leave
  • compassionate leave
  • adoption leave.

Employee parents also have a right to return to their old job when their parental leave has finished.

Who is eligible for parental leave

Employees are able to take parental leave if they:

  • have worked for their employer for at least 12 months:
    • before the date or expected date of birth if the employee is pregnant
    • before the date of the adoption, or
    • when the leave starts (if the leave is taken after another person cares for the child or takes parental leave)
  • have or will have responsibility for the care of a child.

Casual employees

Casual employees are eligible for unpaid parental leave if they 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.

Having another child

Employees who have taken parental leave don't have to work for another 12 months before they can take another period of parental leave with that same employer.

However, if they have started work with a new employer, they will need to work with that employer for at least 12 months before they can take parental leave.

There are different arrangements for employees when a transfer of business occurs. See Employee entitlements on a transfer of business for more information.

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.67 - 70, 76 and 85

Tools and resources

Related information

Need help resolving workplace issues about pregnancy, parental leave and returning to work?

For employees:

If you’ve lost your job, contact the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) first if you think you were fired because of:

  • discrimination
  • a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable
  • another protected right.

You have 21 days from the day you were fired to lodge an application with the Commission. Check the information at the Commission website to find out if you can apply for:

For employees and employers:

  • Learn about discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace and what can be done to stop it.
  • If you think a mistake has been made about pay, parental leave or returning to work, see our Fixing a workplace problem section for practical advice on:
    • figuring out if a mistake has been made
    • talking to your employer or employee about fixing it
    • getting help from us if you still can’t resolve it.

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