Career Advice

So You’re Pregnant…Now What? | PART 2

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read
Christin Noelle 7q Ktbe3xv6 A Unsplash

2) I am not actually working but am applying for jobs, do I have to tell them I am pregnant?

An employer is not allowed to discriminate against you if you are pregnant and therefore cannot NOT offer you a job just because you are pregnant, except for in special circumstances.  Basically, the employer is only allowed to discriminate against you if you:

  • Are not able to adequately perform the duties of the role; or

  • Where there are Work Health Safety issues that cannot be resolved, which would make it unsafe for you to undertake the work; or

  • If the position requires the completion of a specific project and where you would be unable to meet those project deadlines

The Australian Human Rights Commission describes these exceptions as ‘unusual’. 

What does this mean in reality?

Well, if you are applying for a fixed term contract role where there are deadlines you cannot meet because you would be absent due to having the baby, then the employer may be able to claim you cannot meet the requirements of the role. 


If the job required some kind of physical activity, or exposure to some kind of environment that is not safe for an unborn child or would put you in harm’s way, and IF the employer could not reasonably make changes to the job to remove these risks, then they can choose not to employ you.


The employer can reasonably say that you cannot actually do the job because of your pregnancy, then they may be able to rule you out for consideration. 

What is very clear though, is that IF you are able to do the job, and the environment offers no work health safety risks to you that cannot be managed, and there are no project deadlines that you clearly cannot meet, then there is no reason you are not as entitled to be considered for employment as the next person with the same skills and experience.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, nearly 20% of complaints they received in 1999-2000 concerned alleged discrimination based on pregnancy or risk of pregnancy.  I don’t think that these stats would have reduced dramatically in the past 17 years.

Can my Employer tell me when to take Parental Leave?

If you are wanting to work in the 6 weeks before you are due to have your baby, your employer can insist that you provide a medical certificate stating that you are fit to work and can continue in your normal job.

If the medical certificate says that you are fit to work, but it is no longer safe to do your normal role, you can ask to be moved into a ‘safe’ job (see above).

If the medical certificate says you are now unfit for work, your employer can legally direct you to start your unpaid paternity leave. 

How do I go about telling my Employer what my plans are?

OK, assuming that you are entitled to it, and plan on taking parental leave, here is what I recommend (this is my personal opinion ONLY people, you do whatever you want).

Once you have told your employer that you are pregnant, at some point you will have to let them know what your plans are.  How much time do you want to take off?  When do you want to take leave from?  When do you envisage returning to work?  All of these points are just as important to your employer as they are to you, because it helps them plan on managing your job whilst you are away.

So once you have worked out what your entitlements are, looked at your personal circumstances and make a decision on how you would like to manage your parental leave, put it in writing and give it to your employer.  My boss is an absolute star and very, very supportive, but even he wanted to know as soon as I could tell him what my plans for leave were.

Can you change your mind?

If your circumstances change, you can, of course, change your mind.  In terms of a return to work date, you should confirm your intention to return to work or change your intention of returning to work within 4 weeks of your intended date of return.  So, if you want to take extra time, come back early or not return at all – give your boss 4 weeks’ notice, in writing, before the date you nominated to return to work.

What if I want to come back part time?

People returning to work after taking parental leave, have the right under Australia law, to request flexible working arrangements and employers have quite a lot of onus on them to try and accommodate this.

What entitlements do I have for unpaid / paid parental leave.

If you are a permanent full time or part time employee who has worked for your employer for a period of 12 months prior to having the baby, you are entitled to 12 months unpaid parental leave.  Only one parent can take this at a time though, so if you are planning to ‘share the care’ over that 12 months with your partner, you cannot take parental leave concurrently.

Paid Dad and Partner Pay…

Now this is a good thing!  Firstly, ask your partner to check with their employer to find out if they offer paid leave for Dads/Partners – some do!  But regardless, under the Government’s paid paternity schemes, Dads or Partners are entitled to 2 weeks paid at the national minimum wage.  So go give your partner the eye and tell them to book in some leave – you will need another pair of hands around the place when you bring that baby home!

Paid Maternity / Paternity Leave…         

Now is a good time to find out if your employer offers a paid maternity / paternity scheme and if they do, what conditions have they stipulated around it.  Employers are not obliged to offer paid parental leave, but if they do, it’s worth knowing what is being offered – it will help you plan out your maternity leave (and if you are like me and have a mortgage or bills to pay, it will help with your budget).

Regardless of whether your employer offers a paid parental scheme, the government does.