For everyone Your guide to taking maternity leave

Primary teacher Angela Livingstone. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

Returning to work from maternity leave can be a bit bumpy for some AEU members, but a supportive school leadership made the process particularly painless for Angela Livingstone. The Grade 5/6 unit leader at Brunswick North Primary School gave notice in October 2018, five months before her second son Max was born. 

When she returned to work in Term 1 last year, she didn’t have to teach any classes for the first three weeks. Instead, she switched to a support role and was even spared yard duty. While the school checked in on her socially during Angela’s leave, there was no talk of work until she was ready to discuss returning.

“It was really smooth,” Angela recalls. “I had to organise childcare quite early on, but my principal was fantastic. She workshopped ideas with me and really put the ball in my court.”

For Angela, returning to work either three or four days per week was the best option, as her eldest son James was at primary school. At 0.8, Angela’s unit leader role would still be manageable, and the school could absorb the day off through an existing teacher. Returning at three days would require a new staff member to job-share with her and would probably make the unit leader role unfeasible.

“In the end, I opted for four days, which worked best for us as a family.”

“Sonia was great, laying all the options out on the table so I could make an informed decision,” Angela says. “In the end, I opted for four days, which worked best for us as a family. Sonia was also flexible about which day I took off, working around childcare.”

PE teacher Tim Lumsden now job-shares with her and another Year 5 teacher. “He’s wonderful,” Angela enthuses. “I leave a plan for him and he’ll speak to me if there are any issues. He always keeps me informed. It took the kids a little bit of time to get used to it, but they are OK now.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of part-time staff in the past, but the leadership team has adapted and they’re really supportive too.”

Angela never doubted that her principal would have her back, but she checked in with the AEU first to make sure she was across all her rights regarding her return to work. “Sonia is very, very supportive of the AEU, so it was great to have a chat with someone there – just get it all down in writing.”

If anything, it’s Angela who puts pressure on herself. “Max got really sick during Book Week when we had all this stuff going, but that’s just life.

“You’ve got responsibilities in the classroom, but you’ve also got your parental responsibilities. Sometimes leadership has to remind me of that, because if your kids are sick, you just have to go. Leadership is really supportive, but sometimes you don’t support yourself.”


Maternity leave: know your rights

1. Schools employees with 26 or more weeks of qualifying service within the 52 weeks preceding the commencement of paid maternity leave, will be entitled to 16 weeks paid maternity leave or 32 weeks at half pay.

2. In schools, employees are entitled to up to seven years of unpaid family leave. This can be used in a single block for one child or in multiple smaller blocks for multiple children.

3. Pregnant employees are entitled to 38 hours of prenatal leave in addition to personal leave entitlements to attend pregnancy-related appointments.

4. Maternity leave for schools employees begins six weeks prior to the expected date of birth until eight weeks after birth, unless deemed fit for work and given medical clearance.

5. If the 14-week period includes public holidays‚ they are included as paid maternity leave. 

6. TAFE and Adult Provision employees who have completed 12 months of continuous service are entitled to 14 weeks paid leave, plus leave without pay of up to 38 weeks, totalling 12 months.

7. Early Childhood staff employed under VECTEA or EEEA who have completed 12 months of continuous service are entitled to 14 weeks paid maternity leave and up to two years unpaid leave. They are also entitled to access the Federal Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

8. Parents are entitled to request flexible work options on return from maternity leave, including part-time employment. 

For advice on maternity or parental leave, contact our Member Support Centre on 1800 238 842.

Read more about gains in parental leave rights for schools members.

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