So one of your employees has just announced she or he is expecting a bundle of joy. Which means, inevitably, a period of maternity leave and some disruption to your workplace. When such joyous pregnancy news is announced, it’s important you as an employer adhere to your legal obligations. Below is a quick outline or your legal obligations which should be considered before taking any move towards restructuring your workplace.


Discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy is illegal. The anti-discrimination law in Australia makes clear discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy is unlawful. This doesn’t just relate to the hiring process, but also the treatment of the worker in the workplace during and after their announcement. If for example, a member of staff was going to be promoted pre-baby news that promotion should still occur. Being found guilty of discrimination on this grounds can have dire consequences, with compensation payments often being ordered in the tens of thousands of dollars. Be sure you understand your obligations as an employer and that you do not breach any discrimination laws.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Understand how maternity and paternity leave works. Maternity and paternity leaves 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 of your individual situation with your employer. Per the Federal Government Regulations:

  • To be eligible, the worker must have worked continuously for one employer for 12 months in full-time, part-time or in some cases casual employment.
  • They can begin to leave up to 6 weeks before the due date – or earlier if agreed upon by the employer.
  • They can take 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave – this applies to both parents if both are working and are eligible.

In addition, as an employer, you should also provide a safe job where necessary – all employees are entitled to a safe work place, which safety requirements may vary with pregnancy. When there is no safe job available, no safe job leave can be taken.

Key Takeaways

You should understand flexible workplace arrangements. On their return to work, your employee may request flexible working arrangements, such as to balance their competing obligations of work and parenthood, with the right to request same forming part of the National Employment Standards. Here, such a request may only be refused on ‘reasonable business grounds’. Working from home is an example of flexible workplace arrangements.

If you have any questions about your employees taking maternity or paternity leave, get in touch with our employment lawyers. Contact us on 1300 544 755.

Emma Jervis
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