Parental leave is an entitlement that is part of the National Employment Standards. It allows employees to take unpaid time off work to care for a newborn or adopted child.

Who is eligible for parental leave in the building and construction industry?

All national system employees in Australia have access to unpaid parental leave. Under the NES employees are entitled to unpaid parental leave if they have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer. Parental leave also extends to casual employees if they meet additional requirements.

Casual employees can access parental leave if:

  • they have been employed by an employer on a regular and systematic basis for a sequence of periods over at least 12 months
  • had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child, they would have had a reasonable expectation of continuing employment by the employer on a regular and systematic basis.

Under the NES each eligible member of an employee couple may take separate periods of unpaid parental leave, as long as the combined total amount of leave taken does not exceed 12 months. If one member of an employee couple wishes to take more than the combined 12 months of leave, the employee can request a further period of up to 12 months from their employer. Parental leave is only available to employees who have or will have responsibility for the care of the child.

What are the rules for taking unpaid parental leave?

There are different rules for taking unpaid parental leave, depending on:

  • if one employee takes leave
  • if both members of an employee couple take leave. Two employees are an employee couple if each of the employees is the spouse or de facto partner of the other.

One employee taking unpaid parental leave

The following rules apply where one employee (or only one member of an employee couple) takes leave:

  • Leave must be taken in a single continuous period (paid leave, such as annual leave, may be taken at the same time).
  • Leave starts at the birth or placement of the child or, in the case of a pregnant employee, up to six weeks before the expected date of birth.
  • Leave may start at any time within 12 months after the birth or placement of the child if:
    • the employee has a spouse or de facto partner who is not an employee
    • the spouse or de facto partner has responsibility for the care of the child between the date of birth or placement of the child and the start date of the leave.

Both members of an employee couple taking leave

The following rules apply to an employee couple if both employees take unpaid parental leave:

  • Both employees may (if they choose to) at the same time each take up to eight weeks unpaid parental leave (reducing their overall entitlement) either immediately after the birth or placement of a child or, by agreement with the employer, at any time during an extended period starting before the birth and ending no later than six weeks after the birth or placement.
  • Remaining leave must be taken by each person separately in a single continuous period (paid leave, such as annual leave, may be taken at the same time).
  • If the employee who takes leave first is pregnant or gives birth, they may start their leave up to six weeks before the expected date of birth.
  • If the employee who takes leave first is not pregnant, their leave must start on the date of birth or placement of a child.
  • The second employee must start their leave immediately after the first employee’s leave finishes.
  • They are entitled to no more than 24 months between them.

Parental leave also includes the following related entitlements under the NES

  • Unpaid special maternity leave
  • Transfer to a safe job or paid no safe job leave
  • Unpaid adoption leave
  • Return to work guarantee

Parental Leave Pay

Australian Government Paid Parental Leave Scheme

Eligible employees who are the primary carer of a newborn or adopted child get up to 18 weeks leave paid at the national minimum wage.

These payments are made to the employer first, who then pays them to the employee.

Parental Leave Pay from the Australian Government does not change paid parental leave from an employer. An employee can be paid both.

These payments do not affect or replace unpaid parental leave.

Visit the Department of Human Services Parental Leave Pay webpage for information about eligibility requirements and making a claim. There is also information on the Paid Parental Leave scheme for employers.

Dad and Partner Pay

Eligible working dads and partners (including same-sex partners) get two weeks leave paid at the national minimum wage. These payments are made directly to the employee.

Visit the Department of Human Services Dad and Partner Pay webpage for information about eligibility and making a claim.

Employer-funded paid parental leave

Employers can provide for additional paid parental leave beyond what is provided for by the NES in registered agreements, employment contracts and workplace policies. The amount of leave and pay entitlements depends on the relevant registered agreement, contract or policy but cannot be less than provided for by the NES.

Employer-funded paid parental leave does not affect an employee’s eligibility for the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme. An employee can be paid both.