Carer’s Leave & Compassionate Leave

Both sick and carer’s leave and compassionate leave allow you to take time off work when you need to – without losing income.

Like most of your rights at work, these types of leave became law after the union movement campaigned for them and won.

Sick and carer’s leave

Sick and carer’s leave, also known as personal leave, allows you to take a day off work when you need it and still get paid.

You can take this leave if you are unwell, which includes illness, injury, stress, poor mental health and many other things.

You can also take this leave if you need to care for a member of your immediate family or household or if there is an emergency.

You need to give as much notice as you reasonably can before taking sick and carer’s leave. In many cases, your employer can also ask you to provide evidence of your reason for taking leave, such as a medical certificate. However, some enterprise agreements may limit this requirement.

Full-time, permanent employees get a minimum of ten days of sick and carer’s leave each year. 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 be entitled to more than ten days of sick and carer’s leave each year.

If you use up all of your paid sick and carer’s leave, you also have the right to take at least two days of unpaid carer’s leave if you need it.

Casual employees are not entitled to any paid sick leave. It’s one of the many problems with casual work, something that the union movement is fighting to change.

Compassionate leave

Compassionate leave, also known as bereavement leave, can be taken when a member of your immediate family or household dies or contracts a life-threatening illness or injury. 

Both full-time and part-time employees have the right to take two days of paid compassionate leave per incident. You are entitled to two days of leave each time something happens. If someone gets seriously sick and then dies sometime later, these are two separate incidents. 

If you are a casual employee, the same rules apply. Unfortunately, casuals can only take unpaid compassionate leave.

You should give as much notice as you can before taking compassionate leave. Your employer can ask you to provide evidence, but this request must be reasonable and sensitive to the circumstances.

Accumulating and cashing out leave

Sick and carer’s leave starts accumulating from your first day of work, even if you are on probation. It continues to accumulate while you are on paid leave and while you are doing community service. But it does not accumulate while you are on unpaid leave.

If you have any unused sick and carer’s leave at the end of the year, it just rolls over to the next year.

Compassionate leave does not accumulate over time like sick and carer’s leave does. Instead, you get two days of leave each time a member of your immediate family or household dies or contracts a life-threatening illness or injury.

When you take compassionate leave, the days do not get subtracted from any other leave balance and there is no maximum amount that you can take each year.

When you leave your job, you cannot cash out sick and carer’s leave or compassionate leave, so make sure to take your leave when you need to.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is carer’s leave?

Carer’s leave, also known as personal leave,  allows you to take time off to help them support a family member or loved one with an illness that requires them to be cared for.

The National Employment Standards (NES) states that workers (except casual employees) must be entitled to paid carer’s leave. If you are a full-time employee, then you are usually entitled to 10 days paid carer’s leave for each year you work with your current employer.

Can an employer refuse carer’s leave?

No, as long as your application for carer’s leave is legitimate and follows the guidelines stated in the Fair Work Act 2009, then your employer cannot refuse your request.

Some employees will require additional evidence to prove the legitimacy of your leave request, such as a medical note from a doctor.

Is carer’s leave the same as sick leave?

No, carer’s leave and sick leave are not the same. An employee can take paid sick leave when they can’t work due to personal illness, accident or injury. This can include mental illness and pregnancy-related illness.

Employees can take carer’s leave to support and look after a member of their family who is sick, injured or experiencing an emergency.

What constitutes carer’s leave?

Carer’s leave refers to an instance where a worker has to take time off to look after a family member who has become ill or suffered an accident and needs care and support. In this circumstance, employees are entitled to take carer’s leave.

Do you get paid for carer’s leave?

Yes, a full-time employee should be paid for carer’s leave. You can take paid carer’s leave to look after a member of your immediate family or household who is sick or injured.

If you take carer’s leave then you should be paid your ordinary rate of pay and for the entire time you take off. The National Employment Standards, managed by the Fair Work Ombuds, ensures the standards of carer’s leave are upheld.

Do you need a doctors certificate for carer’s leave?

Whilst you don’t necessarily have to provide a doctor’s certificate for carer’s leave, employers do have the right to request one. In this circumstance, you do need to provide this evidence to legitimise your leave. This can take the form of a medical certificate, a letter from a doctor or a statutory declaration.

Am I entitled to carer’s leave?

If you are a permanent employee who is in a situation where you need to take time off to look after an immediate family member who is sick or injured, then you should be entitled to carer’s leave. If accepted and approved, your employer should pay you your regular wage for this period.

How much carer’s leave can I take?

Workers are entitled to take as much carer’s leave as they have accumulated. A full-time worker whose ordinary hours of work are 76 hours per fortnight is entitled to 114 hours of paid carer’s leave for every year that they have worked for their current employer.

How much carer’s leave can I take per year?

Most workers will accumulate 10 days of paid carer’s leave for each year that they work with their current employer.

Under the National Employment Standards, all employees (except casual employees) should be entitled to paid carer’s leave and employers are required to approve all legitimate requests.

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