Returning to work from parental leave
Find out about entitlements when returning to work from parental leave and requesting flexible working arrangements.
On this page:
An employee who’s been on unpaid parental leave is entitled to come back to the job they had before going on leave.
They’re entitled to this job even if another person is working in their role as a replacement.
If the employee was transferred to a safe job before they took unpaid parental leave or they reduced their hours due to the pregnancy, then they’re entitled to return to the job they had before the transfer or reduction.
Visit the Pregnant employee entitlements page for information on transferring to a safe job during pregnancy.
Employees on fixed term contracts
An employer doesn’t have to extend an employee’s fixed term contract because they’re taking unpaid parental leave.
If the employee is on a fixed term contract and it ends while they are on unpaid parental leave, they’re not entitled to return to the same job (unless an employment contract says otherwise).
If they’re on a fixed term contract and it ends after they come back from leave, they’re entitled to return to the same job and finish working the contract.
If an employee’s job doesn’t exist anymore or it has changed, then they have to be offered a suitable available job that:
- the employee is qualified and suited to work in
- is nearest to their old job in pay and status.
If an employee’s job doesn’t exist anymore after they come back from unpaid parental leave, this may mean a redundancy has taken place.
If the job still exists and someone else is doing it, (the ‘replacement employee’) then there’s no redundancy. Visit the Applying for parental leave for requirements when hiring replacement employees.
Discussing changes to an employee’s job
If an employer decides to make significant changes to an employee’s job (for example, to status, pay or location) while they’re on unpaid parental leave, they have to:
- discuss these changes with the employee
- give them an opportunity to talk about these changes, even if they’re on leave.
All awards and registered agreements have a consultation process for when there are major changes to the workplace, such as redundancies.
Certain employees, such as parents returning to work after taking parental leave, have the right to request flexible working arrangements.
Flexible working arrangements include working part-time instead of full-time and changing starting and finishing times of work or working from home.
Visit the Flexible working arrangements page for information on requesting an arrangement.
Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.83 and 84
A best practice employer can support employees who are breastfeeding by making sure they have suitable facilities available - examples include a private room for breastfeeding, somewhere where the employee can store a breast pump, and a fridge where they store any breast milk.
Employees should also be given appropriate breaks so that they can breastfeed or express.
Breastfeeding is a protected ground of discrimination. Making an employee feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding, or not providing adequate facilities or breaks, may constitute discrimination. It may also be a breach of work health and safety laws.
For more information about discrimination, see Protection from discrimination at work.
For more information about workplace health and safety, contact your relevant state or territory health and safety body.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association can help with developing policies that support breastfeeding women in the workplace.