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Working during pregnancy

8-minute read

Key facts

  • In Australia, you are protected by law against discrimination in the workplace because of pregnancy.
  • Depending on your job, you may need to make some adjustments with your employer to make your job safe during pregnancy.
  • You need to give your employer 10 weeks' notice if you are planning to take parental leave.
  • There are things you can do, so you are more comfortable at work during pregnancy.
  • If you need support to manage your work during pregnancy, you can contact Australian Humans Right Commission or Fair Work Ombudsman.

What are my rights when working during pregnancy?

In Australia, you are protected by law against discrimination during pregnancy. That means you cannot be treated unfairly because you are pregnant. For example, you can't be dismissed from work (fired or sacked), given fewer hours or shifts, or overlooked for a promotion due to your pregnancy.

Employers must ask job-specific questions when you are applying for a job. They are not allowed to ask if you're pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

Your entitlement to parental leave and flexible working arrangements depends on your award, agreement or contract and how long you have been working at your job.

Pregnancy is not seen as an illness or an injury. If you get sick or are injured because of your pregnancy, you still get your usual sick leave entitlements. You are also entitled to take time off for check-ups, scans and tests during your pregnancy.

Is it unsafe for me to work during my pregnancy?

It is safe to work while you are pregnant unless your doctor tells you it is unsafe. Depending on what type of work you do, you and your employer may need to make some adjustments.

All employees, including casual workers, are entitled to move into a safe job, if it isn't safe for you to do your usual job while pregnant. You are entitled to the same pay rate and working hours as in your usual job, unless you agree to different working hours.

If a safe job is not available, you may be entitled to 'no safe job' leave. You may need to provide a certificate from your doctor stating whether you are fit to do your job.

It is more likely that you will need changes to your work if you usually work with chemical or biological hazards or do physically demanding work, such as heavy lifting.

Consider speaking with your employer about:

  • physical and emotional strains of your job
  • work travel
  • help with correct posture and moving at work

Even when you are fit and healthy, you may experience some health challenges while you're pregnant. For example, you are more likely to get aches and pains in your hands and arms (carpal tunnel syndrome) while you are pregnant.

If you are not sure whether something is safe, or a work task makes you feel dizzy, sore or unwell, stop doing it and get medical advice from your doctor or midwife.

You should feel comfortable to discuss options with your employer or your workplace health and safety officer. Employers are required to provide a safe workplace for all workers, as per occupational health and safety laws.

When do I tell work that I'm pregnant?

There is no law that requires you to inform your employer of your pregnancy at any specific time, but some jobs may have their own requirements. Check your award, agreement or contract.

Despite this, it is a good idea to tell your employer you are pregnant before they hear it from somebody else. Your employer also has their own legal obligations with regards to your pregnancy, for example:

  • assessing any health and safety risks of your job to your pregnancy
  • moving you to a different role that is safe during pregnancy
  • discussing more suitable working hours with you

You need to give your employer 10 weeks' notice if you are planning to take parental leave. You must give them written notice of your leave and return dates and confirm these at least 4 weeks before your leave starts.

You may need to give your employer a medical certificate confirming that you are pregnant and your expected due date.

How can I manage work while pregnant?

You may need to manage pregnancy symptoms while at work, such as morning sickness or fatigue.

Here are some tips for a healthy pregnancy at work:

  • Take regular breaks if you can and get plenty of rest at home.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes — some workplaces may provide larger uniforms or you can buy maternity clothes for work.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Organise your workspace so you are more comfortable throughout your pregnancy.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, talk to your colleagues about your pregnancy, so they can help you manage any pregnancy symptoms while at work.
  • Find ways to manage work-related stress, for example, yoga, stretching, deep breathing or going for a short walk.
  • Ask for help or accept help if you need it.

When should I stop working during my pregnancy?

There isn't a right time to start parental leave. The correct time for you to stop working will depend on many factors, including:

  • your pregnancy and any complications
  • your general health
  • your financial situation
  • your work role
  • your and your employer's needs

You can start parental leave up to 6 weeks before your due date, or earlier if your employer agrees. If you want to work within 6 weeks of your due date, your employer may request a medical certificate that states that:

  • your health allows you to continue to work
  • it's safe for you to do your normal job

If the certificate says you're fit for work, but it isn't safe to continue in your normal job, you will be entitled to a safe job or 'no safe job' leave.

It can be helpful to start planning a handover of your roles that others will need to perform when you're on leave. Schedule handover activities and training well in advance so you don't find yourself doing too much or getting stressed before going on leave.

Resources and support

It is illegal to discriminate against you because you are pregnant. If you need support to manage your work, you can contact:

If you need emotional support you can view Beyond Blue's emotional health and wellbeing guide for pregnant women, new mums and other carers or call them on 1300 22 4636.

Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) also offers information and support if you are pregnant or raising a family. You can call them on 1300 726 306.

Services Australia has information on parental leave pay and how to claim online. If you need help in another language than English, you can call the Centrelink multilingual phone service on 131 202 to speak with someone in your language.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2023

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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