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Legislation introduced to improve unpaid parental leave entitlements

Media Release

The Morrison Government has introduced legislation to improve unpaid parental leave entitlements for families dealing with the trauma of stillbirths, infant deaths and premature births.

Currently, parents who experience a stillbirth or infant death are only entitled to a guaranteed six-weeks of unpaid leave before they can be required to return to work.

The Fair Work Amendment (Improving Unpaid Parental Leave for Parents of Stillborn Babies and Other Measures) Bill, 2020, creates a guaranteed entitlement to 12-months of unpaid leave for eligible parents – the same amount of unpaid leave parents of healthy babies can choose to take.

"Tragically, more than 2000 Australian families experience a stillbirth each year, while many more lose a child soon after birth from medical complications," Attorney-General Christian Porter said.

"This change to unpaid leave entitlements will give these parents the time and space they need to grieve the loss of their baby, without having to worry about returning to work before they’re ready to do so."

The Bill was subject to wide consultation, including with interest groups representing parents who experience stillbirth and premature birth. It also responds to a key recommendation of a 2018 Senate Committee which examined the need for more education and support in relation to stillbirths.

For parents of premature babies, or newborns that experience birth-related complications that result in immediate hospitalisation, the Government is also removing a barrier that prevented them from going back to work while their child is in hospital, and then restarting their unpaid parental leave when their baby comes home.

"Parents have told us that not being able to pause their leave while their child is in hospital meant that they had little or no leave left once their baby was ready to come home," the Attorney-General said.

"These changes will give parents that flexibility and ensure they will get to spend quality time at home with their child when the time is right."

Changes will also be made to complement the new flexible Parental Leave Payment to allow employees to use up to 30 days of their existing entitlement to 12 months unpaid parental leave on a flexible basis (in days or weeks) any time up to two years after the birth or adoption of their child.