For everyone Your guide to taking maternity leave

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. 

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

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. 

“It was really smooth,” she recalls of the lead-up to taking leave.

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. 

“I had to organise childcare quite early on, but my principal Sonia Abdallah was fantastic,” Angela says. “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. Everything’s been very smooth.”

Everything except disconnecting, that is. “I’m not expected to check my emails on my day off, but I still do,” Angela admits. “From a leadership perspective, it has been a little bit tricky for my team, too, when I’m not there. We haven’t had a whole lot of part-time staff in the past, but they’ve adapted and they’re really supportive too.”

Angela never doubted Sonia 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 14 weeks paid maternity leave or 28 weeks at half pay.

2. 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. School teachers are entitled to 38 hours of pre-natal leave, deducted from personal leave and supported by a medical certificate.
ES staff are entitled to 35 hours of pre-natal 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 employees who have completed one year’s 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 one year’s continuous service are entitled to 14 weeks paid maternity leave and up to two years unpaid leave.

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.

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