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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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79 comments so far -

  1. Hello, i am on paid and unpaid Maternity leave and will be going back to work in October. So all up im on maternity leave for 10 months.
    I was wondering how long do i have to be back at work before i can go on maternity leave again.

    Thank you

    • Hi Am,

      Thanks for reading and congrats on your new baby.

      To answer your question. If you’re talking about maternity leave – the 12 months leave (unpaid) that you’re entitled to take after the birth of a baby – then you do not have to wait out another 12 months before you can take it again.

      If your company offers some paid maternity leave to help fund that time off (some do, many don’t) then I’d recommend chatting to HR or checking your contract/workplace policies to see if they have specified a length of time that you have to have worked after returning from your first maternity leave, to be eligible to receive that.

      If you’re also hoping to be eligible for the Government’s Parental Leave Pay then you must meet the ‘work test’ again. That is you must work for at least 10 out of the 13 months before the baby’s birth (and 330 hours within those 10 months). Keep in mind that previous Parental Leave Pay DOES count as ‘work’ under the ‘work test’.

      I hope that makes sense. If you have further questions please do not hesitate to ask.

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

  2. hi,

    I’ve slightly different question. I was on maternity last year and return to work in 6 months (started back July 2019) as my company had no maternity policy.

    However due to more pregnancies, my company is now drafting a policy and including paid maternity leave from employer.

    It seems unfair as I missed out and had to return early to support my growing family.

    Can I ask them to back date the policy so that I can also receive the benefit.

    • Hi!

      Thanks for reading and congrats on your new baby.

      I am afraid that I don’t really have an answer for you, I’m not sure what rights you might have in this situation.

      The best thing to do is that have a chat with Fair Work Australia. Their number is 13 13 94 and they’re open 8am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

      You can find more information or contact methods here:

      Sorry I could not 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 —



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