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Working during pregnancy

6-minute read

UnIess your doctor tells you it is unsafe, it is possible to work while you are pregnant. But both you and your employer may need to make some adjustments. Here are some tips on managing your work and career at this time.

Your rights

Having a baby often coincides with a time when your career is taking off.

In Australia, you are protected by law against discrimination during pregnancy. That means you cannot be treated unfairly because you are pregnant - for example, by being sacked, given fewer hours or overlooked for a promotion.

Employers are not allowed to ask you if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant when you are applying for a job.

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

Pregnancy is not considered 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 appointments related to your pregnancy.

For more information on your rights, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Safety at work

All pregnant employees, including casuals, are entitled to be moved into a safe job if it isn’t safe for them to do their usual job while they are pregnant. They are entitled to the same pay rate and working hours as in their usual job. If no safe job is available, you may be entitled to no safe job leave. You may need to provide a certificate from your doctor stating whether or not you are fit to do your job.

It is especially important to think of risks and hazards to your pregnancy if you work with chemicals or animals, or do physically strenuous work, such as heavy lifting. You should also consider the physical and emotional strains of your job, travelling, posture and moving at work. 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 performing a work task makes you feel dizzy and unwell, don’t do it and seek medical advice. You can also talk to your workplace health and safety officer or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.

When do I tell work that I'm pregnant?

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

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.

It is a good idea to tell your employer you are pregnant before they hear it from somebody else. Your employer will need to assess any health and safety risks. They may need to move you to a different role that is safe during pregnancy, or consider different working hours in consultation with you.

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

Managing work while pregnant

You may need to manage pregnancy symptoms at work, from morning sickness in the early stages of your pregnancy to fatigue at the end. Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Take regular breaks if you can and get plenty of rest at home.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes — most department stores stock business maternity wear, or you can buy work clothes online.
  • Eat healthily and drink plenty of water.
  • Try to organise your work so you don’t have to travel too much, or change your hours around the times you know you are least likely to suffer morning sickness.
  • Talk to your colleagues about your pregnancy — this will help everyone support you and help to manage any tiredness, changing emotions or absent-mindedness you may experience.
  • Try to manage stress, for example with yoga, stretching, deep breathing or going for a walk.
  • Accept help.

When to stop working when pregnant

There isn’t an exact right time to start parental leave, and when you plan to stop work will depend on a number of factors. Your financial situation, your work role, how you are feeling during your pregnancy, as well as your and your employer’s preferences all contribute to this complex decision.

Many women find that 34-36 weeks of pregnancy is an ideal time to start parental leave. So, if you want to start parental leave at 36 weeks, you need to tell your employer about your plans by the time you’re 26 weeks pregnant.

Your parental leave can start 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 can ask for a medical certificate that states:

  • you can 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, then 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.

Career worries and concerns

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

For support, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.

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

Last reviewed: January 2022

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