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What are my rights at work as a new parent? – The Essentials

What are my rights at work as a new parent? – The Essentials

Published on May 12, 2023 by Kate LathamKate Latham

Having a baby and starting a family is a massive life transition. What’s important to know is that your workplace cannot treat you less favorably because of your family responsibilities. This article helps you understand what your rights are as you navigate having time off and re-entering the workplace when the time is right for you and your family.

How much time off am I entitled to?

In Australia, employers must allow part-time or full-time working mothers the option to take up to 12 months unpaid leave if you have worked continuously for the company for at least 12 months. You can also ask your employer for an additional 12 months’ leave (totaling up to 24 months) by requesting the additional leave in writing and providing this request at least 4 weeks before the original date that was planned for your return to work.

You can also return to work early if your employer agrees to the new date (so long as this does not interfere with any ‘confinement period’ clause that might apply to an employee dependent on what award applies to them. A ‘confinement period’ might stipulate a certain amount of time you as a new birth mother are required to work following the birth of your baby). If agreement cannot be reached with your employer regarding a new date, you must return to work on the original date that was planned.

How do I get paid while I am off?

The Australian Government provides Parental Leave Pay for employees that meet the Eligibility Test. From 1 July 2023, it is a payment of up to 100 days or 20 weeks’ pay while you care for your baby. If you are seeking paid leave, you must have worked for at least 330 hours in 10 out of 13 months before the birth or adoption of your baby; worked at least 330 hours in that 10-month period (it equals less than 2 days per week) and had no more than an eight week gap between any two consecutive working days.

Your employer might have an additional parental leave policy and provide additional payments to you while you are on maternity leave. This will vary dependent on your employer and it is best to review your employment contract or relevant policies to see what additional payment if any you might be entitled to. If you cannot locate the information, you are looking for, you should contact your Human Resources department.

Will I return to my original job in the same capacity?

If you have been on unpaid parental leave, you have the right to return to the job you had before going on leave, even if someone was employed in your job as a replacement. You may want to only return to work part-time following the birth of your baby and your employer must consider flexible working arrangements

Regarding maternity leave, if there were changes made to your job due to your pregnancy before you commenced leave, you have the right to return to the job you had before the changes. Such changes can include if your hours were reduced while you were pregnant, or your job or duties changed because they were unsafe to continue to do while pregnant.

What if I am still breastfeeding my baby when I go back to work?

You have a legal right to breastfeed or express and store breast milk at work. If your employer does not provide suitable options or a facility for you to do this, it may be discrimination. It will be a matter of considering what options you might require, whether it might be that you need an area to express milk and store it in a fridge or even request the ability to leave work and feed your baby and arrange to make up the hours later. Most workplaces will have certain awards, agreements and policies that set out what can be offered to you, so it would be important to discuss any concerns with Human Resources before you head back to work to map out a plan that will suit you.

If you think you have been treated unfairly by your employer regarding your return to work, you can contact Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers on 1800 059 278 or via our Contact Page and one of our lawyers will assist you. 

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