Pregnant employee entitlements

There are a range of entitlements available for pregnant employees.

Sick leave

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.

Special maternity 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.

While the employee won’t be entitled to take special maternity leave if the baby is stillborn, they may still be entitled to take unpaid parental leave or compassionate leave.

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.

Compassionate leave

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.

Safe jobs

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 and other entitlements that they got in their usual job for the hours they work in the safe job. Their hours will stay the same, unless the employer and employee agree on different ordinary hours. The employee may get different loadings, penalty rates or allowances for the new hours worked. 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.

Directing employees to take parental 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.

Protection from discrimination

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 external-icon.png

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 FWC) 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 FWC. Check the information at the FWC 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, 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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