Pregnant employee entitlements
There are a range of entitlements available for pregnant employees.
On this page:
Employees who are pregnant still get their ordinary sick leave entitlements while they’re at work.
Pregnancy is not an illness or injury. If a pregnant employee experiences a pregnancy-related illness or injury, they can take sick leave.
Find out more about sick leave entitlements at Sick and carer’s leave.
A pregnant employee who is eligible for unpaid parental leave can take unpaid special maternity leave if:
- they have a pregnancy-related illness
- they have a miscarriage.
If an employee takes special maternity leave because of a pregnancy-related illness, the leave will end when the pregnancy or illness ends, whichever is earlier.
If the employee takes leave because of a miscarriage or termination, it can continue until they're fit for work.
Special maternity leave doesn’t reduce the amount of unpaid parental leave that an employee can take.
Notice and medical certificates
An employee will need to tell their employer as soon as possible that they’re taking special maternity leave. This can be after the leave has started. They will also need to tell their employer how long they expect to be on leave.
The employer can ask for evidence and can request a medical certificate.
Employees can take compassionate leave if:
- a member of their immediate family or household dies, or contracts or develops a life-threatening illness or injury
- a baby in their immediate family or household is stillborn
- they have a miscarriage
- their current spouse or de facto partner has a miscarriage.
Find out more about compassionate leave entitlements at Compassionate and bereavement leave.
All pregnant employees, including casuals, are entitled to move to a safe job if it isn’t safe for them to do their usual job because of their pregnancy. This includes employees that aren’t eligible for unpaid parental leave.
An employee who moves to a safe job will still get the same pay rate, hours of work and other entitlements that they got in their usual job. The employer and employee can agree on different working hours. The employee will stay until it's safe to go back to their normal job, or until they give birth.
The employee will need to give their employer evidence that:
- they can work but can’t do their normal job (including why the normal job isn't safe), and
- how long they shouldn't work in their normal job.
The employer can ask for this to be a medical certificate.
When no safe job is available
If there is no safe job available, the employee can take no safe job leave. If the employee is entitled to unpaid parental leave, no safe job leave is paid.
For a full-time or part-time employee, no safe job leave is paid at the base rate of pay for ordinary hours of work.
For a casual, no safe job leave is paid at the base rate of pay (not including the casual loading) for the average number of hours they would have worked in the period they're on leave.
Employees who aren't entitled to unpaid parental leave can take unpaid no safe job leave.
If a pregnant employee wants to work in the 6 weeks before their due date, their employer can ask for a medical certificate within 7 days that states:
- they can continue to work
- it’s safe for them to do their normal job.
If the certificate says they’re fit for work but it isn’t safe for them to continue in their normal job, then the employee will be entitled to a safe job or no safe job leave.
If the employee doesn’t provide a medical certificate or the certificate says they can’t continue work at all, then the employer can direct the employee to start unpaid parental leave.
An employee’s unpaid parental leave starts when they’re directed to take unpaid parental leave and will count as part of their total unpaid parental leave entitlement.
If the employee planned to take parental leave at a later date after the birth, the period of directed leave doesn’t have to be taken in a continuous period with the other parental leave.
An employee can’t be discriminated against because they’re pregnant. This means that an employee can’t be fired, demoted or treated differently from other employees because they are pregnant.
Example: Discriminating against a pregnant employee
Melissa is a full-time employee and works in a clothing store. She tells her boss Peter that she is pregnant.
A few weeks later her hours are reduced and she is told that she is now a part-time employee. When Melissa asks Peter about this, he says he's reducing her hours to help her with her pregnancy and that in his family the women always reduce their hours when they are pregnant.
Even though Peter thinks he is helping Melissa, this is still discrimination. He is treating her differently from his other employees because she is pregnant.
For more information on discrimination see Protection from discrimination at work.
Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.73, 80-82 and 351