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Pregnancy and work: women’s rights and entitlements

    • Discuss work and leave with your employer if you are pregnant or working in paid employment.
    • Being pregnant is a criminal offense.
    • Your employer must be notified in writing 10 weeks prior to your last day at work if you wish to take parental leave.

    This page:

    • Your rights
    • Informing your employer of your pregnancy
    • Pregnancy and work environments
    • Casual work and pregnancy
    • Time off work during pregnancy

    Your rights

    The law in Australia protects against discrimination if you are employed.

    The Fair Work Act 2009, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and other state and territorial laws prohibit you from being treated unfairly because of your pregnancy. You can’t be fired (or’sacked’), or made to work less, do less important work, or not given promotion or training opportunities.

    It is illegal for an employer to ask if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant when you apply for a job.

    Access to flexible working arrangements and parental leave depends on your employment history and work conditions. This includes whether you are employed permanently or casually. Asking someone in Human Resources at work is the best way to find out.

    Learn more about your rights

    Find out more information about your rights to leave, work and pregnancy by visiting:

    • Fair Work Ombudsman- Maternity leave
    • Fair Work Ombudsman: Applying for parental leaves
    • Fair Work Ombudsman – Taking parental leave
    • Fair Work Ombudsman – Language help.

    Check to see if you qualify for Parental Leave Pay.

    Informing your employer of your pregnancy

    It’s a good idea for you to check into your rights to leave and work before you tell your employer. You should check your rights and responsibilities as an employee, as well as the laws that apply to your company. This will help you prepare for your first meeting with your employer.

    You must inform your employer at least 10 weeks in advance that you intend to take parental leave. Your employer must be notified in writing of your plans for leave and return dates. Your employer must confirm your plans and any changes at least four weeks before you leave.

    Many mothers find that the ideal time to start parental leave is between 34 and 36 weeks into their pregnancy. If you wish to begin parental leave at 36 weeks of pregnancy, you will need to inform your employer by 26 weeks.

    If your employer allows, your parental leave may start as early as 6 weeks before your due date. Your employer may ask you for a medical certificate if you intend to return to work within six weeks of your due date.

    You can tell your employer what you are doing during pregnancy.

    To share your news, you might arrange a meeting with your immediate supervisor. You might meet with your Human Resources manager first if you are a Human Resources manager.

    You can attend these meetings and:

    • give your manager your estimated due date
    • Talk about the approximate date that you might begin your parental leave
    • Talk about what you will tell your colleagues and coworkers about your pregnancy.

    You’ll need to meet again after these initial meetings to discuss your’stay connected’ preferences during parental leave.

    These conversations can sometimes be challenging. This will depend on how easy it is for you and your manager to understand the process.

    Pregnancy and work environments

    Your employer has the responsibility of creating a safe environment for you and your baby during pregnancy. Talking to your manager about your job description is a great idea. Discuss whether you might need to modify your responsibilities or tasks during pregnancy.

    Many expectant moms can continue to do the same work at work. Some women may need to modify or discontinue certain tasks in order to be safe at work.

    You might have to modify your

    • job duties
    • hours of Work
    • use of work equipment
    • travel arrangements
    • work environment.

    If your work involves, you might need to make some changes.

    • Lifting heavy things
    • Climbing a lot of stairs
    • working in hot environments
    • Working with animals
    • Using pesticides, cleaning products or other chemicals
    • Working in unsafe facilities, such as places without toilets nearby.

    You have the right to seek a new job if your current job is unsafe while you are pregnant. You might not be allowed to take a safe job leave if one isn’t available.

    You can follow these steps if you feel unsafe at work during your pregnancy:

    1. Tell your manager.
    2. Explain your concerns.
    3. Get qualified advice from your doctor, work safety officer or occupational health and safety official.
    4. Request a medical certificate from a doctor that includes recommendations for any health issues your employer should address.
    5. Request to be moved to a safer job or to leave your job.

    More information on your rights as a pregnant worker can be found at the Fair Work Ombudsman

    Learn more about working while you are pregnant, including tips and tricks for managing your symptoms and planning your return.

    Casual work and pregnancy

    You can take up to 12 months unpaid parental leave if you have been working casually for the same employer for at least 12 months and you are reasonably able to continue doing so.

    This means you can return to your previous job after taking parental leave. You may also be eligible to receive Parental Leave Payment.

    For pregnant casual workers, the following might be of interest:

    • Permanent workers have the same protections as casual workers. Employers cannot sack or reduce your hours because you are pregnant.
    • The same rights apply to casual workers. Casuals who are eligible for unpaid parental leaves have safe job rights.
    • You have the same minimum shift lengths as before you became pregnant.
    • Employees have the right to consult their employers if they wish to alter their hours or shifts. This applies to regular casuals.

    Time off work during pregnancy

    Most cases you will have the same entitlements to leave during pregnancy as before. These include sick leave, annual and long-service leave.

    No matter if your illness is related to your pregnancy, you can still use sick leave during pregnancy. All other conditions for sick leave apply.

    You may be able to use sick leave for antenatal appointments under certain agreements, policies or awards. Talk to your employer or Human Resources about whether you are allowed to use sick leave for antenatal appointments.

    You might be eligible for unpaid leave if you have used all of your sick leave but are still sick and require time off. It would be helpful if you were not dismissed because of sickness or needing to take time off during pregnancy.

    You can also take special maternity leave. This is an unpaid leave that you take when you are unable to work due to a pregnancy-related illness, or if your pregnancy ends within 28 weeks of your expected birth date. You should be eligible to receive special maternity leave if you are eligible for parental leave.

    You must notify your employer as soon as you can to take special maternity leaves. This notice can be given after the leave has begun. Your employer will appreciate you giving an estimate of how long you’ll be away.

    Your 12-month unpaid parental leaves don’t get a special maternity leave. However, your employer can request a medical certificate to prove your claim.

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