Women in Focus: What happens when you get sick on maternity leave?


After giving birth, many women unfortunately suffer from various physical and mental postpartum illnesses however pursuant to the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) (‘Act’), women are not permitted to take paid sick leave whilst on maternity leave unless with the agreement of the employer.

An employee can however take annual leave and long service leave (‘LSL’) in conjunction with or instead of maternity leave, and in accordance with the Leave Matters policy directive an employee is able to have their annual leave or LSL recredited as sick leave where they are sick for at least 5 days or one week whilst on annual leave or LSL respectively.

ASMOF is of the view that where a woman is sick whilst on annual leave or LSL, which is taken in conjunction with maternity leave, they are entitled to have that leave recredited as sick leave.

A Local Health District does not however agree with this interpretation, and have previously refused to exercise their discretion under section 62(3) of the Act. ASMOF views this decision as harsh, unreasonable and shows a lack of sensitivity and understanding to women’s illnesses post birth.

ASMOF will be pursuing this matter with the Ministry of Health, and also on a state wide level as the interpretation taken by the LHD impacts on all NSW Health employees.

If you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness post birth, please seek assistance from the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service by calling 02 9437 6552.

If you require assistance with accessing your maternity leave, please contact us at allocation@asmof.org.au