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Annual Leave | Understanding Your Leave Entitlements | Australian Unions

Annual leave, also known as holiday pay, allows you to be paid while you take time off work. Annual leave became standard in 1970 after a hard-fought union campaign.

Full-time, permanent employees have the right to four weeks of annual leave. If you work part-time you are entitled to the same amount of leave, proportionate to how many hours you work each week.

Depending on the award or agreement that covers your workplace, you may even be entitled to more than four weeks. For example, full-time shift workers are usually entitled to a minimum of five weeks of annual leave.

As with most other forms of paid leave, casual employees do not have a general right to take annual leave, unless it has been specifically negotiated at their workplace.

How annual leave accumulates

Annual leave accumulates from the day you start working, even if you’re on probation. It also accumulates while you are:

However, annual leave does not accumulate while you are:

At the end of the year, any unused annual leave you have carries over to the next year. If you leave your job and still have annual leave saved up, you are entitled to have it paid out.

Taking annual leave

You are entitled to take as much annual leave as you have accumulated. There is no minimum amount and you can take it as soon as you like, including while you’re on probation.

You are also free to choose how you take your annual leave. You can choose to take your leave one day at a time or take one long holiday. The only limit is the amount of leave that you have saved up.

Most employers require that you submit a request before taking annual leave. You and your employer must agree on the period you will take for your annual leave.  Your employer must not unreasonably refuse your request to take leave, so they will generally give a reason for not approving your request or when proposing an alternative. 

Some awards and enterprise agreements give you extra options for taking annual leave, such as taking leave in advance or cashing it out.

Public holidays or any other scheduled days off that fall while you are on annual leave do not count as part of your leave. You get these days off the same as you normally would.

In certain circumstances your employer may direct you to take leave, such as if you have accumulated an excessive amount of leave, or if your workplace (or part of it) is being forced to close for a period of time. Most of the time, however, it is your choice when you take your leave.

Pay while on annual leave

You must be paid at least your base rate of pay while on annual leave, excluding extra payments like allowancespenalties and overtime. This includes if your leave is being paid out.

Many awards and enterprise agreements require that your employer pay you leave loading while you are on annual leave, an extra percentage on top of your base rate of pay.  This is usually 17.5%.  Some enterprise agreements also provided that “all purpose allowances”, or some other amounts that you usually receive in your wages, may also be payable while you are on annual leave.

Your employer is required by law to provide a breakdown of all the loadings, allowances and other separate amounts on your payslip, and keep records showing how much leave you have accumulated and taken.

Funding for this factsheet was provided by:

  • the Victorian Government as part of the uTech project; and
  • the Fair Work Ombudsman. 

Please note that the information given here is general information only and is not legal advice. For further assistance, it is recommended you speak to your union.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is annual leave?

Annual Leave is paid time off work.  Many workers use their leave to enjoy time away from work, see family and friends, and celebrate holidays and birthdays.

You accrue leave over the course of the year and you should be able to confirm the hours you have owed to you on a recent payslip or with a manager.

Most employers will have a process for requesting and planning leave. You can schedule your leave whenever you like. Just provide your employer with enough notice and this process should be simple.

How much annual leave do I get per year?

In Australia, you are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks of paid leave every year. There are some simple calculations you can use to check your leave.

4 weeks of annual leave × 38 ordinary hours per week = 152 hours of annual leave per year of work (for a full time worker).

As long as you schedule your leave with your employer collectively and with enough notice, you can enjoy this time whenever and where you like.

When you schedule a period of annual leave, the length of time you take off will be deducted from these hours.

How much annual leave per week?

In Australia, you accrue approximately 2.92 hours of annual leave per week.

152 hours of annual leave ÷ 52 weeks per year = 2.93 hours

When this adds up over the course of an average working year, you’ll be entitled to your minimum 4-week annual leave allowance.

This amount accrues over the course of the year and you can watch your leave hours increase the longer you’ve worked for your current employer. 

Can an employer refuse annual leave?

Yes. Your employer can approve or reject your annual leave request, depending on the needs of the business and whether or not you followed the correct process.

Employers usually have set rules around when you can take leave and the process for submitting a request. If these rules are not followed, then your application can be denied.

Problems commonly arise when an employee gives too short a notice period. To avoid this problem, simply schedule your leave as far in advance as possible and have a prior conversation with your manager. 

The best scenario is when employers and employees work together to schedule leave so that the needs of both parties are met.

Do you accrue annual leave while on annual leave?

Yes, because your annual leave counts as service with your employer. As long as you remain employed and continue to receive a salary, you’ll also continue to receive annual leave.

So even if you are taking a couple of weeks or annual leave to enjoy a holiday, rest and recuperate, you’ll also be building your balance of annual leave hours during this period.

Is super paid during annual leave?

Yes, your employer is still required to pay your superannuation contribution while you are on leave.

Employers are required to pay a superannuation contribution on all ordinary time earnings, which includes time spent on annual leave.

The minimum superannuation contribution an employer can make in Australia is 10%, though this will be increased to 12% over the years from 2022 to 2025.

Because you will continue to be paid a salary while you are on your scheduled annual leave, then your employer is required to follow the same process which includes paying your super.

Can you be forced to take annual leave?

Your employer may require you to take annual leave in limited circumstances, but only if the requirement is reasonable.    If a modern award or enterprise agreement applies to you, it will set out if and when you can be required to take your annual leave.    Generally these requirements relate to circumstances where the business shuts down for a period of time (for example between Christmas and the new year) or where you have accrued a lot of annual leave. 

Cashing out your annual leave means that you receive a payment instead of taking time off work.   Some awards, enterprise agreements and contracts provide for a process to agree with your employer that you will cash out some of your annual leave, however you cannot be forced or pressured to do so.

How does annual leave accrue?

As a full-time or part-time employee, you get at least 4 weeks of annual leave, based on ordinary hours of work.

This means a full time employee would accrue approximately 2.93 hours of annual leave per week.

So to calculate the annual leave you’re accumulating over time as a full time employee, simply multiply the number of weeks you’ve been employed by the business by 2.93.

Be sure to deduct any annual leave that you’ve already taken, and multiply this amount by your hourly rate of pay.
Check your payslips to confirm that this number is accurate and watch it build over time.

It’s always useful to have an understanding of how leave accrues, how much of it you currently have, and when would be a beneficial time to take it.

Does annual leave include public holidays?

Public holidays are nationally recognised days in Australia, and most full- and part-time employees are not required to work.

Examples of nationally recognised Public Holidays in Australia include Christmas, Easter and Australia Day. You are entitled to receive a standard day’s pay when taking a public holiday off work.

Public holidays should not be counted as annual leave. This means that when you take the day off for a Public Holiday, these hours must not be deducted from your annual leave.

Is personal leave the same as annual leave?

There is a difference between annual leave and personal leave.

Personal leave can be used if you are unwell and unable to work. This is commonly referred to as sick leave. You are also able to take ​carer’s leave if a family member is ill, injured or experiencing an unexpected emergency.

In these circumstances, hours should not be deducted from your annual leave. If you or a family member is experiencing these issues then your time of work should be classed as personal leave, not annual leave. Annual leave is to be scheduled ahead of time and is usually used as a period to take holidays, rest and relax.

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