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Maternity leave entitlements in Australia

Pregnant woman on a work laptop looking at maternity leave entitlements in AustraliaNot sure whether or not you’re entitled to maternity leave or parental leave?

Maternity leave entitlements in Australia are determined primarily by Federal Government regulations.

State Government laws and individual employer policies are also applicable and can vary widely, which means this information is more of a starting point – so make sure you confirm the details for your individual situation with your employer.

IMPORTANT: If you’re eligible for Parental Leave Pay from the Government – you’re not automatically entitled to maternity leave from your employer. These are separate issues – one is a payment only and one is time off work – and you’ll need to sort out both. Read more about Parental Leave Pay to see if you’re eligible.

Are you entitled to maternity leave?

The following is a summary of the main maternity leave eligibility requirements and conditions, as set by the Federal Government.

  • You must have worked continuously for one employer for 12 months in full-time, part-time or in some cases casual employment.
  • You can begin leave up to 6 weeks before you are expected to give birth (i.e. in week 34 of your pregnancy) – or earlier if agreed upon by your employer. If adopting or or your partner is having a baby, you can start leave the day of the birth/adoption.
  • You can take 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave – this applies to either parent, if both are working and are eligible (although only 8 weeks can be take at the same time). If your partner has not taken their share of unpaid parental leave, you can apply for a further 52 weeks straight after the first lot.
  • You must advise your employer in writing as soon as you can when you expect to take leave, and no later than 4 weeks before the start of your leave.
  • If required by your employer, you must provide a medical certificate confirming your pregnancy no later than 10 weeks before the due date, and also provide a statutory declaration stating you will be the primary care giver and that you will not do anything inconsistent with their employment contract while on leave.
  • When returning to work, or requesting a further 52 weeks of leave, you must give 4 weeks written notice (for leave longer than 4 weeks). For requests for further leave, your employer must respond within 21 days saying yes or no, and providing valid reasons if no.
  • You can generally return to the same position you held before you went on maternity leave, or if that position doesn’t exist anymore, you are entitled to another position similar in status and pay.
  • The Fair Work Act 2009 ensures that same sex de facto relationships are recognised for unpaid parental leave entitlements.


READ: See our Maternity Leave Checklist for points to consider and questions to ask.

While State governments must comply with Federal regulations, they also have their own specific information and requirements – meaning the documents required and the application process may vary across different states. Some states have sites and information sheets dedicated to maternity leave and parental leave, while others refer back to federal law.

Employers must stick to federal and state government regulations, but some may have their own policies in regard to maternity and parental leave. These can vary widely, with some employers being much more generous than others.

  • Check your company policy and employment contract and discuss your personal situation with your employer.
  • Leave is generally unpaid unless your award, contract, or company policy states otherwise.
  • If you do not comply with some of the above regulations, such as being employed for 12 months first, you can still negotiate with your employer to potentially take maternity leave – though your employer has the right to say no.
  • You may be able to combine paid annual leave with unpaid maternity leave.
READ: Our easy-to-understand guide to government family benefit payments

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73 comments so far -

  1. Hi,

    Just wondering if I am entitled to any maternity pay, we have submitted or Permeant Residency application. I am working casual but full time for the last 5 years in Australia would I get the state maternity pay if our application was not processed before the baby arrives?


    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your question and congrats on your pregnancy.

      I am afraid I don’t know a lot about Visas but I do know that you do have to meet the residency requirements from the date you become the child’s primary carer, which for the birth mother means the day the baby is born.

      They must be
      one of the following:
      • an Australian resident, including:
      − an Australian citizen
      − the holder of a permanent visa
      − a special category visa holder who is a protected SCV holder
      • the holder of a special category visa who is residing in Australia
      • the holder of a temporary visa subclass 070, 309, 310, 447, 451, 695, 785, 786, 787, 820, 826, or
      the holder of specific Criminal Justice Stay Visas.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

      All the best!

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —

  2. Hi,

    I think I’m on the right track to understanding but just want to double check. Say I was to start a new job. I fall pregnant after working there for 4 months. By the time the baby is due I would have been working for said employer for 13 months. Would I be eligible to take the 12 months unpaid maternity leave and have the opportunity to return to work?

    Or would I have to work 12 months before falling pregnant?

    • Hi Maddi!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your question.

      You’re on the right track. You are entitled to take 12 months of parental leave from your job (unpaid) if you’ve worked there for at least 12 months before the date (or expected date) of your baby’s birth.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to come back if you have more questions.

      All the best

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —

  3. Hi,

    I’ve been through one round of IVF and was unsuccessful. I wanted to start another round but it looks like I will have to find another job after 5 years. I’m in the planning stages so would like to know how long before I would need to be in a new job before I could try to become pregnant and be eligible for employer paid maternity leave. Do I need to work for 12 months before getting pregnant or could I become pregnant before the 12 months if my due date was at the 12 month mark?
    Thank you

  4. Hi there,

    I can see this question is pretty much answered throughout the comments but I wanted to just share my story and see if you can help me.

    I have recently returned from living in NZ for two years. I worked full time there, I’m an Australian citizen – moved to be with my now hubby.

    I moved back to Aus in Jan 2019 and started work Feb 4th 2019 and we fell pregnant (an exciting but not the best timed surprise…)

    I am due the 30th Sep 2019 and i’m a little concerned as to what I am entitled to as I won’t have worked 10/12 months with my current employer.

    I have always worked full time in Australia and NZ when i lived there, so I am unsure on how to apply for what I can get?

    Please help if you can.

    Much appreciated!


    • Hi Whitney!

      Thanks for reading and congrats on your pregnancy.

      Based on the dates you’ve told me, if I were you I would be applying for the government’s Parental Leave Pay.

      Basically to be eligible you need to:

    • have worked 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child, and
      330 hours in that 10 month period (just more than one day a week) with no more than an 8-week gap between two consecutive working days.
    • have received an individual adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less in the financial year either before the date of birth
    • It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked for one employer or many — and overseas work can count as well.

      BUT … if you’ve only been in this new job for 10 months before your baby’s due date, they are not obliged to offer you maternity leave (which is the entitlement to take 12 months off (usually unpaid) and have your job waiting for you on your return).

      However, even if they’re not obliged to offer it to you, they are still able to if they want to keep you on. When I fell pregnant with my first born I’d only been employed for 10 months but they still offered me maternity leave. So it is possible — but it is something you’d have to chat with them about.

      You might want to have a look at some of our other articles more specifically on Parental Leave Pay and other Australian government payments.

      Hope this helps. Please feel free to ask more questions if you have them.

      Take care!

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —

  5. Thanks for the informative info. I’m looking at changing roles but the industry I’d be going to only do fixed term contracts. I’m wondering if the fixed term contract is more than 12 months if i’d be able to take mat leave before the contract is finished?

    • Hi Jules, Thanks for reading and thanks for your question. I am glad you found this information helpful.

      Unfortunately, I’m not sure about the answer to your question — I don’t know that much about contracts. Your best bet would probably be to contact Fair Work Australia.

      Their number is 13 13 94 and they’re open 8am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday (except for public holidays).

      I’m sorry I couldn’t help more. Please feel free to ask more questions if you have them.

      Take care!

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —

  6. Hi, thank you for this helpful article 😀
    I have a questions too (it’s my first baby;) – My due date is in October 2019. I recently changed job so I won’t be working for my employer for 12 months which means I am not entitled for the unpaid 12 moths parental leave. But I was constantly employed in last few years – does it mean I can apply for government paid maternity leave?
    And do I understand it correctly that I have to use an unpaid leave (provided by my employer) for the time I will be with my baby at home on Government Paid Leave? Sorry for so many questions, it’s my first baby and I don’t have any friends in similar employment situation. Thank you very much.

    • Hi Hana,

      Thanks for your question and congrats on your pregnancy.

      I’m very glad you found the article helpful.

      So, you’re right in what you understand.

      If you’re applying for the Government’s Parental Leave Pay you have to show that you’ve worked 10 out of the 13 months before baby’s due date. And also 330 hours in those 10 months. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked for one or many employers. It just matters that you have worked.

      Now, you didn’t say how long you’ve been in your new job. And the rule is that you’re not entitled to that leave if you haven’t been there for 12 months. However, even if you’re not entitled to it, your employer can still offer it to you. When I was pregnant with my first child, I’d only been at my workplace for 10 months and they still offered me unpaid maternity leave.

      So it is definitely worth having the conversation with them about what might be the best for you.

      Keep in mind that the government’s Parental Leave Pay cannot start until after the baby is born so you have to budget for those weeks between stopping work and having the baby. You might chat to your workplace about what paid leave you might be able to take then.

      You might want to check out our other article on PPL:

      I hope I’ve answered your question. Please feel free to ask more questions if you have them.

      Take care!

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —

  7. Hi, thanks for this amazing article! It really explains everything. Just a question. I’m pregnant and due in September ‘19. I think I meet all the criteria for paid maternity leave. Just wondering if I get it how long do I have to work after the first baby in order to get pregnant again and be entitled with paid maternity leave again? Do I have to work 10 of the 13 months again? For example if my paid Maternity Leave finishes in January 2020 do I have to work straight away after that? And then work until January 2021 to be able to have paid Maternity leave again? What about if I take unpaid maternity leave and then I return to work in June for example. Will this mean I have to work then until July 2021? To be entitled with paid maternity leave? Thanks for your time sorry to bother with a long post but I need concrete examples.

    • Hi Lily! Thanks for reading and congrats on your pregnancy. I’m glad that you’ve found our article useful.

      To be eligble for the Government’s Parental Leave Pay you DO have to meet all the same criteria for each child. So you do have to work for 10 months out of the 13 again.

      HOWEVER — periods of Parental Leave Pay DO count as work when calculating the work test. So for example if you take 4 months of Parental Leave Pay then return to work for another six months, you’ll likely meet the work test because that is 10 months all up.

      Hope this helps! If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

      Take care!

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —

  8. Hi I work for ACT Health and have returned back to work after been on maternity leave. I would like to know how long I have to work before I can take mat leave again?

    • Hi Courtney!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your question!

      So, in terms of maternity leave (the entitlement to 12 months of unpaid leave) you have to have worked for an employer for 12 months before you’re able to take it. But you DO NOT have to work for another 12 months before you can take ANOTHER period of parental leave with that same employer.

      Now, I’m not sure what happens if your employer offers paid maternity leave. They may have a clause in your contract or their policies that outline whether there are any conditions or time frames that you have to adhere to.

      And in terms of the government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme you have to be able to meet all the same criteria each time. So to meet the work test again you’ll have to work for at least 10 out of the 13 months before your baby’s due date. Keep in mind however that a previous period of Parental Leave Pay DOES count as work towards the work test.

      I hope this helps somewhat. Please come back if you have further questions.

      All the best!

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —

  9. Hi
    I am 7 months pregment and i work in aged care in tasmania. I nearly work for 18 months in that organisation and I contract as a part time permanent around 32 hours fortnight and my contract is completed now 9 months. but usually i pick the shift and work around 60 hours in fortnight.
    I still not have permanent residency visa, I have 489 skilled regional visa so when i applied for maternity leave can i got a pay from my organisation or not.
    If i got a pay from organisation whom i give the letter to human resource management or manger.

    • Hi Manu,

      Thanks for your question and congratulations on your pregnancy. Not long to go now!

      I’m not exactly sure on whether or not you’d be entitled to maternity leave or paid maternity leave. I would suggest that you contact Fair Work Australia to learn about your rights in this instance. Their number is 13 13 94 (8am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday). Or check out this page:

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. Hope you get some answers. Take care!

      — follow us on Facebook to stay in touch with all things pregnancy and parenting —



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