Parental leave for stillbirth, premature birth or infant death

Respect@Work: Changes to the Fair Work Act 2009

On 10 September 2021, the Fair Work Act 2009 was updated to include miscarriage as a reason to access compassionate leave.

We're reviewing the information on this page in light of these changes. We encourage you to keep checking back here for updates.

Find out more at New sexual harassment protections take effect.

An employee who experiences a stillbirth or the death of a child during the first 24 months of life can take unpaid parental leave. Find out more about the eligibility rules and requirements.

These provisions only apply to a child who is born, or whose placement happens, on or after 27 November 2020.

Unpaid parental leave

Employees can take up to 12 months’ unpaid parental leave if they experience:

  • a stillbirth
  • the death of a child during the first 24 months of life.

After a stillbirth or death of a child, employees can’t:

  • be called back to work
  • have any unpaid parental leave cancelled by their employer.

Employees can choose to return to work after experiencing a stillbirth or death of a child. If they decide to return to work after starting unpaid parental leave, they need to give their employer at least 4 weeks’ written notice before returning. If they haven’t started leave, they just need to give written notice about their return to work. Employers and employees can agree to the employee returning to work on an earlier date.

Find out more about eligibility and notice requirements for taking unpaid parental leave on our Applying for parental leave page.

Taking compassionate leave

After experiencing a stillbirth or death of a child, an employee parent may be entitled to take compassionate leave while on unpaid parental leave. Another employee may also be entitled to take compassionate leave if the infant was, or would have been, an immediate family or household member of the employee.

Find out more about compassionate leave entitlements on our Compassionate and bereavement leave page.

Premature birth and birth-related complications

Employees who experience premature births or other birth-related complications that result in their newborn having to stay in hospital or being hospitalised immediately after birth can agree with their employers to put their unpaid parental leave on hold.

This means that while their newborn is hospitalised, parents can return to work and the period when they are back at work will not be deducted from their unpaid parental leave. The employee can then resume their unpaid parental leave at the earliest of:

  • a time agreed with their employer
  • the end of the day when the newborn is discharged from the hospital, or
  • if the newborn dies, the end of the day when the newborn dies.

Tools and resources

Support services are available if you've experienced or are impacted by stillbirth.

Stillbirth Foundation Australia external-icon.png provide practical resources and emotional help external-icon.png for parents who have experienced a stillbirth. They also provide resources and advice for family members, friends and colleagues external-icon.png who are supporting someone through the impact of stillbirth.

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 sacked because of:

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

You have 21 days from the day you were sacked 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:

  • Find information, downloadable guides and toolkits on pregnancy, parental leave and parents in the workplace on the Supporting working parents external-icon.png website. 
  • Learn about discrimination and bullying and harassment 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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