How practices can navigate parental leave

Parental leave can be complex to navigate, especially if you are a small business owner with no human resources department.

When it comes to parental leave in any kind of business, striking the balance between complying with the legal requirements and looking after the business’ needs is imperative.

So, what are your legal requirements around parental leave?

Under the National Employment Standards (NES) in the Fair Work Act 2009, eligible employees can access up to 12 months of parental leave. Employees who have accessed less than 12 months (excluding any period of concurrent leave) parental leave, may extend the leave for a further period up to the full amount of the 12-month entitlement.

An employee who would like to extend beyond 12 months parental leave must make a request to their employer. The employer must respond in writing within 21 days, stating whether they grant or refuse the request. An employer can only refuse the request if:

  • they have given the employee a reasonable opportunity to discuss their request
  • there are reasonable business grounds to do so.

The employer must detail their reasoning in writing.


The government-funded scheme provides employees with pay at the National Minimum Wage for a maximum of 18 weeks. They must receive an adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less to be eligible. Employees either receive the government-funded pay directly from Centrelink or passed on to them via their employer.

Employers must provide this payment to employees who:

  • have worked for their employer for at least 12 months prior to the date or expected date of birth/adoption
  • will continue as an employee during their Parental Leave Pay
  • are based in Australia, and
  • are expected to receive eight weeks or more of Parental Leave Pay.

These days many organisations also offer paid parental leave to their employees through a contract, internal policy or enterprise agreement.

Employees also have a return-to-work guarantee that means they must return to the same position they held prior to their parental leave. If the role no longer exists, employees must be placed in a position that is of equal stature and salary to their original position.

We recommend ensuring communication is really clear from the beginning around what is needed in preparation for their leave and also being understanding of what your employee requires from you, whether it be flexibility with working arrangements to make appointments or more frequent check-ins to see how they are progressing.

Creating an easy transition for your employee will create a strong sense of satisfaction and loyalty to you and your business.


You may also want to consider hiring a locum for the period your employee is on leave. The QLS Locum Service connects sole to small practices seeking short or fixed-term assistance with experienced solicitors. You can access more information about the service.

Practitioners should note that changes to parental leave entitlements announced in the federal Budget on 25 October will commence on 1 July 2023.

The Practice Advisory Service (PAS) is a confidential complimentary service to members offered by the QLS Ethics and Practice Centre. Our consultants can discuss with you staffing issues or concerns. Submit an expression of interest for a consultation with a Practice Advisory Service solicitor today.

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