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Australia has recently modernised it’s parental leave entitlements including the introduction of a national paid parental leave scheme. Parental leave provides for the time close to the birth and beyond, but what are the different types of pregnancy leave entitlements available in Australia?
During pregnancy you will accrue personal leave the same way you did before falling pregnant. It’s not considered an illness or injury but if you experience a pregnancy-related illness or injury, you are entitled to access your personal leave entitlements. During the term of your pregnancy, you can also use personal leave for times when you may be unwell due to morning sickness or if you need to attend appointments with your midwife, obstetrician, general practitioner or other medical professional, for example.
Special Maternity Leave
You may also take ‘special maternity leave’ if circumstances permit. If you meet the government’s criteria to take unpaid parental leave, you can also take unpaid special maternity leave if you fall ill with a pregnancy related illness or if your pregnancy ends after 12 weeks because of a miscarriage, termination or stillbirth. Entitlement to special maternity leave ends when the illness or the pregnancy ends as a result of birth, whichever occurs sooner. However, if your pregnancy ends by miscarriage, termination or still birth, your entitlement to take special maternity leave continues until you’re fit to return to the workplace1.
Special maternity leave is a separate entitlement to unpaid parental leave, and as such the taking of special maternity leave won’t reduce the amount of unpaid leave you can take. You‘re required to notify your employer as soon as possible of your intention to take special maternity leave, however in extraneous circumstances this can take place after you start the leave. You must also tell your employer how long you intend to be away, so the necessary arrangements can be made to cover your workload. Your employer may request a medical certificate as supporting evidence of your need to take this type of leave.
Annual Leave as Pregnancy Leave
If you’ve notified your employer of the date you plan to start your parental leave but need to begin your leave sooner as time approaches, you can request to bring forward the commencement of your parental leave. Alternatively, you can request to use accrued annual leave entitlements, where applicable. If you have enough annual leave to cover the period and if your employer is agreeable, you’ll be paid for this time.
‘No Safe Job’ Leave
If your job is particularly physical or considered unsafe for a pregnant employee to perform, you can ask to move to an alternate job. This is called moving to a ‘safe job’ and your employers ability to provide a solution may determine when your parental leave commences and which type of leave you can access prior to commencing unpaid parental leave. If no safe job can be found, you may be eligible to receive ‘no safe job leave’ 2.
As you can see, there are various forms of pregnancy leave available in Australia. It’s important to know the types you may be entitled to and how to access them. If you’re unsure or would like further clarification, please speak to your employer or the Fair Work Ombudsmen.