Changes to unpaid parental leave entitlements

Published 27 November 2020 | Updated 22 February 2021

On 26 November 2020, the Fair Work Act was amended to include new unpaid parental leave entitlements for parents who experience traumatic events during or ahead of their unpaid parental leave. This includes:

  • stillbirth
  • premature birth, or
  • death of a child.

The changes also enable all eligible parents to access up to 30 days of their unpaid parental leave flexibly, complementing similar changes that were made to the Paid Parental Leave scheme in July 2020.

These changes to unpaid parental leave came into effect on 27 November 2020. This means these provisions only apply to a child who is born, or whose placement happens, on or after 27 November 2020.

On this page:

Up to 12 months’ unpaid parental leave for parents who experience stillbirth or death of a child

From 27 November 2020, parents may be eligible to take unpaid parental leave for a maximum of 12 months if they experience

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

Employers cannot direct parents to return to work (that is, they can’t cancel any unpaid parental leave) after a stillbirth or death of a child.

Parents may still choose to return to work after a stillbirth or death of a child.

Employees must follow various notice requirements to be able to take unpaid parental leave. For more information, visit Applying for parental leave.

Access to compassionate leave

Parents who experience a stillbirth or death of a child may be entitled to take compassionate leave while on unpaid parental leave.

Another employee may also be entitled to take compassionate leave if the child was, or would have been, an immediate family or household member of the employee.

Learn more about these leave entitlements on our Compassionate & bereavement leave page.


Premature birth & birth-related complications

Parents who experience premature births or other birth-related complications that result in the newborn baby having to stay in hospital or being hospitalised immediately after birth can now agree with their employer to pause their unpaid parental leave.

This means that while their baby is hospitalised, parents may return to work and the period where they are back at work won’t be deducted from their unpaid parental leave.

There have also been changes to the Stillborn Baby Payment, which provides financial support to parents who experience a stillbirth. The changes apply from 1 January 2021 and provide improved support to families dealing with the personal, social and financial impacts after the loss of a child. Learn more about the payment on the Services Australia website – Stillborn Baby Payment external-icon.png.

New flexible unpaid parental leave entitlement

From 27 November 2020, parents entitled to unpaid parental leave can now take up to 30 days (6 weeks) of their maximum 12-month unpaid parental leave period on a flexible basis. This leave is known as flexible unpaid parental leave.

Flexible unpaid parental leave may be taken as:

  • a single continuous period of 1 or more days, or
  • separate periods of 1 or more days each.

Flexible unpaid parental leave needs to be taken within the first 24 months of the birth or adoption of a child and can be taken in a way that complements how they’re receiving payments under the Paid Parental Leave scheme. Parents may choose to take flexible unpaid parental leave for several reasons including to share caring responsibilities between parents or to help with gradually returning to work.

Parents must follow certain notice requirements to be able to take flexible unpaid parental leave. Evidence requirements also apply.

Learn more about the rules for requesting and taking flexible unpaid parental leave at:

Support services are available

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.