Returning to work from parental leave

Find out about entitlements when returning to work from parental leave.

Right to return to the same job

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 of hours.

Visit Entitlements while pregnant for information on transferring to a safe job during pregnancy.

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.84

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.

For more information about fixed term contracts, see Fixed term contract employees.

When an employee’s job no longer exists

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 a replacement employee is doing it then there’s no redundancy. The employee returning from parental leave has the right to return to the job they had before going on leave.

Find out more information about keeping replacement employees at 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 their responsibilities, 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. For more information, see Redundancy.

Breastfeeding in the workplace

Employees are allowed to breastfeed in the workplace.

Employees can’t be discriminated against because they are breastfeeding. Making an employee feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding, or not providing adequate facilities or breaks, may be discrimination. It may also be a breach of work health and safety laws.

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 the employee can store a breast pump, and a fridge where they store breast milk.

Employees should also be given appropriate breaks so that they can breastfeed or express.

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.

Taking more parental leave

Employees can take parental leave multiple times. If an employee is working for the same employer, they don’t need to work an additional 12 months to take another period of parental leave.

For more information about taking more parental leave, see Applying for parental leave.

Tools and resources

Related information