Parental leave

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EmployerEmployee / worker

The information on this page applies only to employers and employees in the WA state industrial relations system. The state system covers businesses which operate as sole traders, unincorporated partnerships, unincorporated trust arrangements as well as any incorporated associations or not for profit bodies that are not trading or financial corporations.  The Guide to who is in the WA State System has more detail.

This information does not apply to any business which operates as a Pty Ltd business and is a trading or financial corporation nor to any incorporated association or not for profit body that is a trading or financial corporation. These businesses and organisations are in the national fair work system and should visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website for information on employment laws. 

Unpaid parental leave

Entitlements to unpaid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child exist for eligible full time, part time and casual employees. Unpaid parental leave for all eligible employees is provided by the federal Fair Work Act 2009. This entitlement comes from the National Employment Standards (NES) and applies to all employees in Australia, including employees covered by WA awards and award free state system employees. 

Eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave with a possible extension of up to 12 months.

Who can take parental leave? (eligible employees)

Full time, part time and casual employees can take unpaid parental leave if:

  • they are responsible for caring for a newborn or newly adopted child and
  • they have (or will have) completed at least 12 months of service before the date of birth or adoption.

Casual employees must:

  • have been working with their employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months and
  • have a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment.

For further information on unpaid parental leave, including employee eligibility, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website

Additional entitlements: State system employees only

In addition to the parental leave entitlements provided under the national industrial relations system, employees covered by WA awards and state system award free employees have additional entitlements under WA laws to request:

  • a return to work after parental leave on a modified basis and
  • a reversion to pre-parental leave working arrangements.

If you are unsure whether you are in the state system, please visit the Guide to who is in the WA state system page or contact Wageline

Returning to work on a modified basis

An employee may request to return to work after parental leave on a modified basis; this could mean working fewer days or hours, on different days or at different times.

An employee must make the request to their employer in writing at least seven weeks before they are due back from parental leave.

An employer is to agree to the request unless:

  • they are not satisfied that the request is genuinely based on the employee’s parental responsibilities or
  • there are reasonable grounds to refuse the request because of the harmful effect it would have on the employer’s business. These reasons include cost, lack of replacement staff, loss of efficiency or the impact on production or delivery of goods or services.

If the employer refuses the employee’s request they must give their reasons to the employee in writing. An employee may seek the enforcement of their request and if this occurs, the employer is responsible for proving the refusal was justified.

Reversion to previous working arrangements

An employee who has returned to work on a modified basis may subsequently request to resume working on the same basis as before starting parental leave. For example, a previously full time employee returned from parental leave to work three days per week. After a period working on a part time basis that employee may ask to resume working on a full time basis.

An employee must give their employer at least six weeks of written notice of their intention to resume their previous working arrangements and an employer must agree to the request unless they have reasonable grounds to refuse.

An employer may require an employee to resume their previous working arrangements if:

  • the employee no longer has a child below school age or
  • allowing the employee to continue working on a modified basis would have a harmful effect on the employer’s business.

An employer must give an employee at least six weeks of written notice of, and their reasons for, the requirement to resume work on their previous working arrangements.

Paid parental leave pay

The Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave Scheme provides Government funded Parental Leave Pay to employees who meet eligibility criteria. Employers may be required to have a role in providing payments to employees through their payroll system. The scheme is administered by the federal Department of Human Services. 

Go to the Department of Human Services website 

Record keeping

All state system employers are legally required to keep employment records that detail time worked, leave taken and pay received by employees.

Learn more on the Employment records - Employer obligations page

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