Australian workers and their unions have fought for and won a range of important leave and holiday entitlements that are among the best in the world.
In recent years unions have successfully defended public holiday pay and four weeks paid annual leave from being cut back under the former Howard Government’s unfair WorkChoices laws.
At the same time, unions have helped win more leave entitlements and pay for parents of young children.
The following information sets out the national minimum standard of leave and holiday conditions that apply to all workers from 1 January 2010.
To find out the specific conditions and leave entitlements applicable to you in your job contact your union or call the Australian Unions workers’ helpline on 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
Full-time and part-time workers are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks of paid annual leave for every 12 months of continuous service. Shift workers are entitled to 5 weeks of paid annual leave.
Annual leave accrues throughout the year, so part time worker who works 2.5 days per week will have 10 full days of paid annual leave, that can be taken over a 4 week period, at the end of a 12 month period.
Many agreements and awards also provide for leave loading - this is typically 17.5% of your base rate of pay and is paid on top of your normal weekly earnings during your annual leave.
Annual leave that has accrued and has not been accessed is to be paid out at the end of your employment. This payment does not always include leave loading.
If during the period that an employee is taking annual leave a public holiday occurs, then the employee is to be paid for this public holiday and is not to be paid annual leave for this day.
The amount of annual leave an employee has accrued should be visible on their payslip.
Casual workers are not entitled to annual leave.
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Personal Leave (Sick Leave), Carer’s Leave and Compassionate Leave
Full-time, permanent workers are entitled to 10 days of paid personal or carer’s leave per year.
Personal leave is for when you are unfit for work due to illness or injury.
Carer’s leave should be taken when you need time off to provide care or support to a member of your immediate family, or a member of your household, who requires care or support because of a personal illness, or personal injury, or an unexpected emergency.
Paid personal and carer’s leave accrues throughout the year at the rate of your ordinary hours of work. Part-time workers accrue this leave in accordance with the percentage of full-time hours that they work.
The leave is to be paid at the rate of ordinary pay, and at the same time as your ordinary pay would usually occur.
Personal or carer’s leave should not be paid to you on a public holiday where you are entitled to public holiday pay.
Workers are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave on each occasion that they are required to care for an unwell family member or household member. Unpaid leave can not be taken where the employee could otherwise take paid leave.
Workers are also entitled to 2 days of paid compassionate leave for each occasion that a member of the employee’s immediate family or household contracts a life threatening illness, sustains a life threatening injury or dies.
You are required to give notice of your requirement to take leave as soon as is reasonably practicable, and to provide evidence of the relevant illness or circumstance that requires you taking the leave.
Your employer is not obliged to allow for leave if you can’t supply evidence.
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You are entitled to access up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave once you have completed 12 months of continuous service with an employer. This applies to all workers, including casual workers. However, casual workers will need to have worked regularly and systematically throughout the 12 months of their service and have a reasonable expectation of ongoing work in order to access parental leave. Parental leave must be taken in one continuous bloc.
Since 2011, women in seasonal, casual or contract work as well as the self-employed also have access to paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
Pregnant workers may begin their leave up to 6 weeks in advance of the expected date of delivery, but no later than date of the child’s birth. For partners who are not giving birth the parental leave must begin on the date of birth of the child.
You may request a further period of unpaid parental leave of up to 12 months to start immediately following the end of the 12 month leave period. This request must be made at least 4 weeks before the end of the original leave period. The employer must agree to this request unless there are reasonable business grounds not to.
You have the right to return to your original position at the end of the leave period, or if their original job is no longer available, then you must be reinstated in an appropriate and comparable role.
To be eligible for Paid Parental Leave it is necessary to:
a) Be the mother of a newborn child or the initial primary care giver of an adopted child under 16 years of age.
b) Have an individual income of $150,000 or less.
c) Be living in Australia and meet the residence requirements. And
d) Meet the Paid Parental Leave work test before the birth or adoption occurs. In other words, you must have worked continuously for at least 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of your child and worked for at least 330 hours in that 10 month period (around one day a week.) You can still be regarded as working continuously even if you work part time or casually, work for more than one employer or have recently changed jobs. If you don’t have more than a break of eight weeks between working days you will be regarded as working continuously.
Paid Parental Leave is for a maximum of 18 weeks (at the National Minimum Wage rate.) It is treated the same as any other taxable income. It’s important to remember though that it’s not a leave entitlement; rather it complements parents’ entitlements to leave such as unpaid Parental leave under the National Employment Standards.
To be denied a return to work after parental leave, or to be dismissed upon becoming pregnant, constitutes unlawful termination. For further information on this see the factsheet Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination and Redundancy.
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Long Service Leave
Long service leave recognises long periods of continuous service with the same employer (regardless of changes to job title or role) and is available to both casual and permanent workers.
In normal circumstances long service leave can not be cashed out.
While long service leave is a minimum standard in the new Fair Work laws, it is generally governed by State and Territory Legislation and by awards and agreements.
You should refer to you award or agreement to find out how much long service leave you are entitled to. You can also visit the Fair Work Australia website at www.fwa.gov.au for links to what kind of long service leave provisions apply in your State or Territory.
You can take community leave if you are required to attend jury service, participate in a voluntary emergency management activity, or in other special circumstances.
Community leave applies to casual and permanent workers.
A permanent worker who has to attend jury service of up to 10 days, is to be paid at their ordinary base rate of pay for this period. After this time the employer may not have to top up the allowance that is paid by the court. Check to see if your enterprise agreement covers this situation – if it doesn’t and you need to approach your employer for compensation contact your union who will help negotiate a fair deal.
- 1 January (New Years Day)
- 26 January (Australia Day)
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- 25 April (Anzac Day)
- Queen’s Birthday Holiday (on the day on which it is celebrated in your State or Territory)
- 25 December (Christmas Day)
- 26 December (Boxing Day)
This list is not inclusive of State or Territory holidays that might also apply to you, or that might replace some of the public holidays listed above. These include:
- Labour Day (date differs in each State/Territory)
- Melbourne Cup Day (Vic), Bank Holiday (NSW), Royal Qld Show (Qld), Picnic Day (NT), Adelaide Cup (SA), Foundation Day (WA), Royal Hobart Show (Tas)
- Easter Saturday (Vic, NSW, Qld, NT, SA), Easter Tuesday (Tas)
- Show Day (NT), Royal Hobart Regatta (Tas)
You should have public holidays away from work and be paid at your ordinary rate of pay for them.
Your employer can request you to work on public holidays, although the request must be reasonable under the circumstances. You should be paid above your ordinary pay rates if you do work on a public holiday.
Casual workers who are not rostered on to work on a public holiday, and part-time workers whose ordinary days do not fall on the public holiday, do not have to be paid for the public holiday, although they should be paid public holiday rates if they work on a public holiday.
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