Applying for parental leave

Before an employee can take unpaid parental leave under the Fair Work Act, they need to give their employer written notice.

An employee may also need to provide evidence if the employer asks for it.


When an employee wants to take unpaid parental leave, including flexible unpaid parental leave, there are notice requirements they need to follow.

Eligible employees can take up to:

  • 12 months of unpaid parental leave, or
  • 24 months if their employer agrees to extend the employee’s initial period of unpaid parental leave.

The leave can be taken:

  • as a single continuous period (continuous unpaid parental leave)
  • flexibly for up to 100 days (flexible unpaid parental leave)
  • as a combination of a continuous period and flexible days.

Flexible unpaid parental leave comes out of an employee’s entitlement to 12 months of unpaid parental leave.

Learn more about taking unpaid parental leave and the rules that apply at Taking parental leave.


Employees who want to take unpaid parental leave (either continuously, flexibly or both) need to give their employer notice that they’re taking leave. They also need to confirm the dates of their leave with their employer.

Notice before starting leave

An employee has to give their employer at least 10 weeks’ notice before starting their unpaid parental leave, regardless of whether it’s continuous or flexible leave.

This notice needs to:

  • be in writing
  • say how much leave they want to take
  • include the start and finish dates for any continuous unpaid parental leave
  • state the total number of days of flexible unpaid parental leave the employee intends to take.

If an employee can’t give 10 weeks’ notice, they need to provide as much notice as possible. This may be after the leave has started.

An employee can provide less notice with their employer’s agreement if the employee is:

  • only taking flexible unpaid parental leave
  • taking flexible unpaid parental leave before a period of continuous unpaid parental leave.

4 weeks before starting leave

At least 4 weeks before an employee is due to start their leave, the employee has to confirm the following with their employer:

  • their parental leave dates; or
  • any changes to the dates.

An employee should also provide notice as soon as possible if they can’t provide 4 weeks’ notice.

Giving notice as soon as possible

If an employee can’t give the appropriate notice, they’re still entitled to take the leave as long as they give notice as soon as possible. Examples include if a baby is born prematurely.

Example: Giving notice for unpaid parental leave

Saanvi is a full-time employee and is expecting the birth of her second child.

Saanvi’s doctor has advised her she is expected to give birth on 1 November.

Saanvi tells her employer that she will take unpaid parental leave starting 6 weeks before the expected date of birth.

Saanvi submits this request 12 weeks before the expected date of birth.

Saanvi unexpectedly gives birth 8 weeks early and needs to start her parental leave earlier than planned. She lets her employer know as soon as possible.

Flexible unpaid parental leave and notice

In addition to the notice requirements above, an employee has to give at least 4 weeks’ notice of the specific flexible parental leave days they’re taking.

An employee can change a flexible parental leave day after they’ve given notice if their employer agrees.

Example: Notice before taking a flexible parental leave day

Abdul has recently returned to work following a period of 2 months of unpaid parental leave.

Before starting his leave, Abdul applied for 30 days flexible unpaid parental leave to be taken in the months following his return to work.

Abdul tells his employer that in 6 weeks’ time his child will be going into childcare for the first time when his partner, Prisha, returns to work. To help with the transition to childcare, Abdul would like to take 2 days of flexible unpaid parental leave. He tells his employer which dates he plans to take the flexible leave.

Abdul can take the 2 days as flexible unpaid parental leave because he has provided more than 4 weeks’ notice of the exact dates.

Notice requirements for extending parental leave

Learn more about extending parental leave and notice requirements at Extending parental leave. We have free templates available and information on what happens if a problem arises.

Pre-adoption leave notice

Employees entitled to take pre-adoption leave have to give their employer notice that they're taking leave as soon as possible (this can be after the leave has started).

Employees also have to tell their employer how long they expect to be on leave.

Evidence requirements

Employers can ask employees for evidence of the expected date of birth or of the date of placement of an adopted child. For example a medical certificate or statutory declaration.

An employer can specifically ask for a medical certificate from their employee giving the expected date of birth. Employers can also ask for evidence to support pre-adoption leave.

If an employee doesn’t provide the evidence their employer asks for, they won’t be entitled to the leave.

Hiring replacement employees

Many employers will hire a new employee to cover someone who is on parental leave. During the application process the employer has to tell potential employees that:

  • the job will be temporary
  • the employee who is taking leave has the right to return to their job
  • there are situations where the employer or employee can end the parental leave (for example, stillbirth or employee ceasing to have responsibility for the child).

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.74 and 84A.

Workplace problems

If you think a mistake has been made about pay, parental leave or returning to work, see our Fixing a workplace problem section for 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.

Sometimes other issues arise around unpaid parental leave, such as bullying or workplace discrimination. Access information below, including on how to take action:

Tools and resources

Related information

Help for small business