Am I eligible for unpaid parental leave?
If you are a permanent full-time, part-time or casual employee you may be eligible to take up to 12 months unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards if:
- you, your spouse or de facto partner are giving birth to a child or adopting a child under 16 years of age; and
- you have responsibility for the care of your child; and
- you have or would have completed 12 months of ‘continuous service’ with your employer by the expected date of birth or date of placement of your child or, the starting date of the leave if the leave is taken after another person takes unpaid parental leave; and
- if you are a casual employee, you have been working for your employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months before the expected birth of your child and you have a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis, if not for the birth or adoption of your child.
How do I apply for unpaid parental leave?
It is very important to formally apply for unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards to make sure you become eligible for the ‘return to work guarantee’.
- You formally apply for unpaid parental leave by providing your employer with written notice letting them know the intended start and end dates of your leave. You must give this notice to your employer at least 10 weeks before starting your unpaid parental leave or else as soon as you can. It is important to keep a copy of your written notice for your records. You must also give your employer relevant medical evidence if required, for example a medical certificate.
- At least 4 weeks before the intended start date of your unpaid parental leave, you must confirm the intended start and end dates of your parental leave with your employer. You must also advise your employer of any changes. It is a good idea to also keep a copy of your confirmation for your records.
- If you cannot give the right amount of notice, for example if your baby is born prematurely, you can still take unpaid parental leave as long as you provide notice when you can.
- If you have taken less than 12 months unpaid parental leave, you may extend your leave by giving your employer written notice of the extension at least 4 weeks before the end date of the original leave period. The notice must tell your employer the new end date for the leave.
- You can ask your employer to extend your unpaid parental leave for longer than your 12 months but it is up to your employer whether they allow this.
Returning to work
If you have formally applied for unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards, then you are eligible for the ‘return to work guarantee’. The return to work guarantee is where you have the right to return to the same job you held before your unpaid parental leave began. If that job is no longer there, you then have the right to an available position for which you are suited that you can do, which is nearest in status and pay to your old job.
You may ask to return to work part-time. Your employer does not have to give you part-time work, but if they do not, your employer should give you reasons why flexible working arrangements cannot be made. This refusal may also amount to unlawful discrimination under state and federal antidiscrimination law.
If your employer makes a decision that will affect your status, pay or location of work, they must take reasonable steps to inform you of this decision and give you an opportunity to discuss it with them.
For further support
More detail can be found in the fact sheet which you should download.
Call our Telephone Information Service on Melbourne Metro (03) 9662 1933 or Regional Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania on 1800 331 617.