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Parental leave policies and staff support

Manage parental leave, support staff to return to work and encourage productivity and loyalty

On this page

  • Find parental leave policies
  • Understand your obligations
  • Support staff to return to work

Paid parental leave

Eligible working parents receive 18 weeks of parental leave pay at the national minimum wage. This is fully funded by the Australian Government, but employers must process the payments through their payroll. 

Employers can find out more about eligibility requirements and obligations at the Department of Human Services website.

Use the parental leave policies from our HR manual template below to ensure you provide staff with the right support.

HR Policy and Procedure Manual template (DOCX 216.86 KB)DOCX icon

From 1 January 2013, eligible working dads and partners – including same sex and adopting parents – are able to receive two weeks of government funded pay through Dad and Partner Pay after having a baby or adopting a child.  

Employers don't have to process the payments, but there are record-keeping requirements.  

Parental leave entitlements for all employees

Parental leave refers to:

  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • adoption leave. 

The entitlements related to pregnancy and parental leave contained in the National Employment Standards (NES) apply to Victorian employees. 

Awards, agreements or common law contracts may contain more generous entitlements. Under the NES, employees who have worked for you more than 12 months – including regular casuals – are entitled to take at least 12 months unpaid parental leave if the employee has – or will have the responsibility for – the care of the child or adopted child under 16 years old.

Parental leave is available to both parents in a relationship, including de-facto and same-sex couples. Both parents can take parental leave, but generally not at the same time – except for up to a maximum of three weeks unpaid leave immediately after the birth, or placement of an adopted child. The timing of this can be altered in agreement with the employer.

Unpaid parental leave can be extended, but couples cannot take more than 24 months between them.

Requests for parental leave need to be in writing at least ten weeks before the leave start date – unless that is not reasonably possible.

Employees on parental leave have a legal right to return to their job – or a job of equivalent pay and status – once they return from leave. These are the minimum entitlements available for all employees under the NES. Awards and agreements for different industries might provide better entitlements, or employers and employees can always agree to more generous entitlements.

Pregnancy at work

Under the NES – at a minimum – pregnant women (including regular casuals) with at least 12 months service have the right to:

  • transfer to a safe job if their pregnancy stops them from performing their normal job – if there is no safe job available, an employee may take paid 'no safe job' leave  
  • equal access to work opportunities – such as promotions, transfers and performance management
  • maternity leave
  • request flexible working arrangements after returning to work
  • freedom from discrimination, harassment or bullying.

It is against the law to discriminate against a female because she is pregnant, or may become pregnant. 

In Victoria, employers are also liable (legally responsible) for the behaviour of their staff. This means that complaints can be made against the employer – as owner of the organisation – for the discriminatory conduct of employees. 

Pregnancy at work checklist

Even if none of your staff are pregnant, make sure you have pregnancy and parental leave policies, and communicate them to your staff.

When you have an employee expecting a child, you should do the following:

  • Talk to them about their options and entitlements.
  • Check if they're eligible for paid parental leave.
  • Keep in touch while they're on leave.
  • Discuss a return to work plan that suits both you and your employee.

Support staff to return to work

It's important that employees feel supported during their pregnancy and while they're on leave – they're likely to be more productive during their pregnancy, and return to work in a positive frame of mind.

Make sure you communicate with them regularly at all stages, including their rights and responsibilities and both parties expectations. Employees on parental leave may like to be invited to company functions and social events.

It's a good idea to write down what's agreed about contact. Employees also have certain obligations about providing notice to employers about changes to parental leave.

Visit our page on communication skills for managers to help you maintain good communication with staff away on parental leave.