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Pregnancy at work: what employers should know

For many small business employers, the topic of pregnancy at work, including timeframes around key parental leave dates, is shrouded in mystery. Here’s some basics to point you in the right direction.

Being pregnant is a big deal. I state this not from personal experience (which would be a miracle in itself) but by the number of pregnant celebrities and mummy bloggers bombarding the media as well as websites dedicated to the topic of pregnancy.

For employers, there’s no shortage of information on responsibilities, obligations and expectations around pregnancy at work. But where to start? Sometimes too much information is as confusing as not enough. Here’s two sources I’d recommend:

The Australian Human Rights Commission website contains some great resources for employers seeking information on supporting working parents, including a toolkit for employers and a quick employer guide:

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s site also contains comprehensive yet easy to understand information on Maternity and Parental Leave, including a checklist for employers and employees:

Timeframes and notice periods around pregnancy at work often cause a little confusion. Here’s a quick reference guide:




When must your employee notify you in writing of their intention to take unpaid parental leave under the Fair Work Act? At least 10 weeks before they wish to commence unpaid parental leave (or as soon as practicable). Such notice must specify the intended start and end dates.
When must your employee confirm in writing the start and end dates of their unpaid parental leave or advise you of any changes? At least 4 weeks before they start unpaid parental leave unless this is not practicable (e.g. the child is born prematurely).
When does parental leave have to start? The leave may start up to 6 weeks before the expected date of birth (or earlier if agreed).

Where the employee is working within 6 weeks of the expected birth date, the unpaid parental leave under the Fair Work Act must not start later than the date of birth of the child.

What if your employee wishes to shorten their original period of unpaid leave (e.g. from 12 months to 9 months)? The original leave period can generally only be shortened by agreement with you.
When must your employee tell you in writing that they are extending their initial period of unpaid parental leave (e.g. from 9 months to 12 months?) At least 4 weeks before their expected date of return. This is a right under the Fair Work Act and cannot be refused by you.
When must your employee request in writing an extension to their 12-month period of unpaid parental leave? (e.g. from 12 months to 18 months) At least 4 weeks before the end date of the original leave period.
When must you respond to a request for an extension to the unpaid parental leave period beyond 12 months? Within 21 days of receiving the request in writing. If you refuse, your response must include reasons for the refusal.

When you’re not a HR expert, finding accurate and simple information sources for your HR challenges is half the battle. The other half is finding someone who speaks your language when you can’t find that source.

At Bare Bones Consulting, we specialise in providing simple, tailored and value for money information to solve your HR challenges. We don’t make things harder or more complicated than they have to be because we know you want to focus on the real reasons you got into business. Why not call for a chat to see what we can do for you?

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.