Working parents have minimum rights at work before, during and after they take parental leave.

From 1 July 2009, most Australian workplaces are governed by a new system created by the Fair Work Act 2009.

The Fair Work Ombudsman helps employees, employers, contractors and the community to understand and comply with the new system. We provide education, information and advice, help to resolve workplace complaints, conduct investigations, and enforce relevant Commonwealth workplace laws.

All people working in Australia under relevant Commonwealth workplace laws are entitled to general workplace protections.

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides protections of certain rights, including:

  • workplace rights
  • the right to engage in industrial activities
  • the right to be free from unlawful discrimination
  • the right to be free from undue influence or pressure in negotiating individual arrangements.

These rights are protected from certain unlawful actions, including (but not limited to):

  • adverse action
  • coercion
  • misrepresentations
  • undue influence or pressure in relation to:
    • individual flexibility arrangements under modern awards and enterprise agreements
    • guarantees of annual earnings

Taking leave

Full-time, part-time and regular casual employees are entitled take up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave to care for a newborn or adopted child. To apply, employees need to have worked for the business for at least 12 months. They also have to tell their employer that they want to take parental leave at least 10 weeks before the expected start date. T

It’s illegal to discriminate against an employee because of pregnancy or family and carer’s responsibilities. For example, an employer can’t demote or fire an employee because she is pregnant, has the right to take parental leave or because he or she has caring responsibilities – this could be discrimination under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Employers also have to be honest about their employee’s rights. Deliberately misleading someone about their entitlements – such as the right to take parental leave – could be a breach of the law.

Returning to work

There are also protections for employees when they come back to work after parental leave.

When the employee comes back to work, they have the right to come back to the job they had before they went on leave. They also have the right to request flexible working arrangements. This can include changing hours of work or start and finish times, becoming part-time or working from home. Requests can only be rejected if there are reasonable business grounds.

Best Practice Tip

Communication is the key. If you’re planning on taking parental leave, talk to your employer as soon as you can to make sure that they have enough time to make arrangements for your job.

If you’re an employer and your employee takes parental leave, make sure you consult with them if there are any changes that might affect their work and stay in touch with them to help them stay engaged with the workplace. Make sure they’re comfortable talking to you about their plans when they come back to work so you can work together to find a flexible solution that meets both your needs.

Read more at FWO



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