An employee returning from parental leave wants to change roles, must we accept?

As an employer, are you aware of your obligations if an employee returning from paid parental leave requests to move into a different role? We recently answered this question.

“An employee is coming back from parental leave. As their original role involves weekend work, they have asked to change roles. Unfortunately, there is no vacant role. Must we create a new role or offer flexible working arrangements? What are our options?”


Firstly, in line with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), employees on parental leave have a return to work guarantee with their pre-parental leave position. If this position changes or is no longer available, you need to offer an appropriate alternative role. This position must align with the employee’s qualifications or be nearest in status and pay to their pre-parental leave position. If you cannot offer an alternative role that the employee finds acceptable, you need to offer a redundancy.

Comparatively, if the employee asks to return to work in a different position, this is at your discretion. There is no obligation to accept.

Remember, when an employee is returning from parental leave, have a conversation about what this looks like for them. Every situation is different, and some employees may request flexible work arrangements. In accordance with Division 4, part 2-2 of the Fair Work Act, an employee is entitled to make this request. You are only able to refuse on reasonable grounds. You must also consult with the employee. 

So, what constitutes reasonable grounds? Possibly if:

  • The change would be too costly.
  • The change would result in a significant loss of productivity.
  • If the employee is unable to meet the inherent requirements of the role. 

Under the Fair Work Act, it’s important to remember that it is unlawful to take adverse action against an employee because they request flexible work arrangements or because of their family or carer responsibilities. 


For advice specific to your business, get in touch with Lisa at or Nick at, or call (07) 46383599 to book your free, one-hour, no-obligation HR consultation.