Home > Blog

How long is maternity leave in Australia?

According to the World Economic Forum , women account for 49.7% of the global workforce, making them almost half of the total workforce. And, data shared by the Australian Institute of Family Studies reveals that women make up 48 percent of the Australian workforce.

Not surprisingly, maternity leave accounts for one of the longest-duration leaves in any organization. Today, with employers hiring from a global talent pool, it's crucial for organizations to comply with international laws and regulations beyond their native country. This is particularly significant when it comes to maternity leave, for both male and female employees.

In this article, we shed the spotlight on maternity leave laws in Australia , its duration, payouts, eligibility criteria, and more. Let’s dive in!

Maternity Leave in Australia

Formally known as parental leave, maternity leave in Australia refers to the time an employee is entitled to take off from work if they are having or adopting a child.

An employee can take maternity leave when:

Paid Maternity Leave

Under the Australian Government's Paid Parental Leave Scheme, employees are entitled to up to 18 weeks of paid leave if they are having or adopting a child.

However, it’s important to note that while on paid maternity leave, they will be paid the minimum wage, not their usual salary.

The eligibility criteria include:

That’s not all. Employees can access both, paid and unpaid maternity leave at the same time. They still have the right to take up to 12 months of unpaid leave from work even while being eligible for the Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

Unpaid Maternity Leave

The Fair Work Act 2009 in Australia provides for up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave for a permanent full-time or part-time employee. This leave can be extended if needed but the request must be put in writing four weeks before the end of the initial maternity leave period.

To take an unpaid parental leave one must:

Casual employees also have the right to take unpaid maternity leave so long as:

Those planning to adopt a child can also take up to two weeks of unpaid pre-adoption leave in order to attend interviews, examinations and fulfill other formalities.

Special Maternity Leave

In special cases, such as pregnancy-related complications or illnesses, an employee can also avail Special Maternity Leave. For this, the female employee must be within 28 weeks of their expected birth date. This leave is essentially unpaid and is independent of the mandated maternity leave.

Duration of Maternity Leave in Australia

As per the maternity leave laws in Australia, parents are entitled to 18 weeks of paid parental leave and 52 weeks of unpaid leave.

Aside from the entitled 12 months of maternity leave, an employee can request a further 12 months with their employer if required. This period will be classified as one maternity leave. Only one maternity leave is allowed per pregnancy. Women employees who avail the special maternity leave due to pregnancy-related complications continue to remain entitled to the full 12 months of unpaid parental leave.

If an employee is not personally giving birth (in the case of a partner or an adoption) then their maternity leave period will begin on the date of birth or placement of the child.

Who is Eligible for Parental Leave?

The maternity leave laws in Australia are very clear on who is eligible for parental leave.

To qualify for the scheme, an employee must:

Casual employees need to give assurance that they plan to continue remaining in employment on a regular and systematic basis to be eligible for maternity leave.

When Can Parental Leave Start?

In Australia, maternity leave can start up to 6 weeks before the child’s expected due date. Those desirous of beginning their maternity leave earlier can do so after discussing this with their employer. However, irrespective of when the maternity leave starts, it must end within 24 months of the birth of the child.

If an employee is adopting or is the partner of a person giving birth, their leave can start from the day of adoption or from the child’s birth.

According to the Fair Work Act, employees in Australia must give their employer 10 weeks' notice before starting their leave. The notice should be a written one and should clearly specify the amount and start date of the maternity leave.

A ‘Safe Job’ and ‘No Safe Job’ Leave

In Australia, pregnant employees are entitled to be transferred to a "safe job" or "no safe job leave", depending on their work circumstances. A Safe Job Leave guarantees pregnant employees, who've worked for at least 12 months, alternative duties or transfer to a safe job if their regular duties pose health risks. No Safe Job Leave allows leave without pay if providing alternative duties or a safe job isn't feasible due to health concerns.

In the absence of a safe job, the employee can avail the "no safe job" leave at their usual rate of pay till the start of the unpaid parental leave. If the employee is eligible for unpaid parental leave, they can also take "no safe job" leave at the usual rate of pay until the unpaid parental leave starts.

If the employee is transferred to a safe job, they have to be paid for the duration they worked in the safe job at their full rate of pay.

Parental Leave Considerations On a Global Scale

Maternity leave laws vary across the globe. While several countries guarantee employees fully paid maternity leave, others offer partial payment and some countries don’t mandate paid maternity leave at all.

This poses significant compliance risks for companies operating or hiring talent in multiple jurisdictions as it calls for navigating the local employment laws of each country where they engage talent. This could, understandably, turn tricky.

BGC, Your Trusted Partner to Unlock the Doors to a Global Presence

No business or organization wants to run the risk of landing on the wrong side of the law in a foreign country, especially when it comes to employee rights and benefits. In such scenarios, partnering with a vetted and trusted Employer of Record (EOR) service provider such as the BGC Group can significantly lower the risk of lost business opportunities and non-compliance issues (thereby inviting penalties). Thanks to our region-specific local knowledge, we can take care of issues like maternity leave laws, help with tailored parental leave requirements and compliance across multiple jurisdictions on your behalf.

With a proven track record of 18 years behind it, BGC has been the linchpin for organizations looking to successfully build their global base in countries with very differing laws and regulations from their native country. What can seem challenging for an organization is easily sorted out by BGC’s EOR solutions.

Reach out to our team of experts for a free consultation today and confidently expand your global footprint with BGC’s EOR solutions.