Guide to Unpaid Parental Leave

Key points

  • Under the Fair Work Act and National Employment Standards set out parental leave and related entitlements for all Australian employees
  • The provisions include birth and adoption related leave, special maternity leave, the right to transfer to a safe job, consultation requirements, a return to work guarantee and unpaid pre-adoption leave

Unpaid Parental Leave

An employee is entitled to unpaid parental leave if they have worked for their employer for 12 months or more.

This includes casual employees where they have provided regular and systematic service over a period of 12 months or more.

Unpaid Parental Leave Entitlement

Employees are entitled to unpaid parental leave if the employee, the employees spouse or the employees defacto partner gives birth or if the employee adopts a child under the age of 16.

Each eligible member of an employee couple can take a separate period of up to 12 months unpaid parental leave. If only 1 person takes leave they can take up to 24 months leave if their employer agrees.

Taking the leave

The rules around taking the leave depend on whether 1 or both members of a couple take leave.

  • If only 1 member of the couple takes leave then: The leave can be taken as a single continuous period and as a single continuous period and a flexible period of up to 30 days.
  • A pregnant employee can start their leave up to 6 weeks before the expected date of birth of the child or earlier if agreed with the employer.
  • If the employee is not giving birth the leave can start on the date of birth or date of placement of the child.
  • The leave can start any time within 12 months of the date of birth or date of placement of the child if the employee has a spouse or defacto partner who is not employed and who has responsibility for the care of the child.
  • Employees can take paid leave at the same time as unpaid parental leave.

If both members of an employee couple take unpaid parental leave then:

  • The employees are entitled to a total of 24 months of leave between them which will generally have to be taken as a single continuous period
  • If the employee taking leave first is pregnant their leave can start up to 6 weeks before the expected date of birth, otherwise the leave will start on the date of birth or date of placement.
  • Both employees can take leave at the same time for up to 8 weeks. It can be taken in separate periods each with a minimum of 2 weeks unless a shorter period is agreed by employers. Concurrent leave must be taken in the first 12 months after birth or adoption of a child
  • Both employees can take paid leave at the same time as unpaid parental leave

Extending Unpaid Parental Leave

An employee taking 12 months unpaid parental leave can ask their employer for an extension of a further 12 months unpaid parental leave unless their partner has already taken 12 months unpaid parental leave.

The employee must give the employer at least 4 weeks notice before the end of their initial unpaid parental leave.

The employer must respond in writing within 21 days. The employer can only refuse the request if they have given the employee a reasonable opportunity to discuss their request and their are reasonable business grounds to do so.

 

You can get more details about the Unpaid Parental Leave entitlements from Fair Work Australia.

This summary has been prepared by MoneyBrilliant Pty Ltd (AFSL 492711). The information in this summary is of a factual nature only. We are not suggesting or recommending that you take any particular course of action in relation to any financial product or service. It does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. If you need financial advice or taxation advice you should seek advice from a licensed financial adviser or tax agent. You may also be able to access additional information from the websites of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) or the Australian Taxation Office.

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