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Understanding Personal/Carer’s Leave

Leave entitlementsApril 5, 2016

Understanding Personal/Carer’s Leave (Last Updated On: April 18, 2019)

Understanding Personal/Carer’s Leave

When employees fall ill or become injured or if they need time off work to care for an immediate family member or a member of their household who is ill or injured, they can access their personal/carer’s leave.

As an employer, it is vital to know the difference between the two types of leaves, how much leave an eligible employee can take, and when you can reasonably refuse a request for personal and carer’s leave.

By doing so, you will avoid confusion and successfully meet all your obligations to your employees.

What is Personal Leave?

Also known as sick leave, personal leave is when an employee cannot work due to a personal illness or injury, and requires time off to recover.

To be eligible, an employee should have proof of a physical or mental ailment that prevents them from performing their normal work duties.

What is Carer’s Leave?

Carer’s leave is when an employee takes time off work to support or care for a member of their immediate family or household who has become ill, injured or subjected to an unexpected emergency.

There are clear definitions of who is considered to be ‘immediate family’ under the NES (National Employment Standards). So before you approve a request for carer’s leave, you should clarify the nature of the relationship between the employee and ill or injured person.

Regardless of the illness or injury, the ailment should serious enough to justify ongoing support. Reasonable evidence in the way of a medical certificate, letter from the doctor, or a statutory declaration may be given.

When Can Employees Apply for Carer’s Leave?

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, an immediate family member is:

  • an employee’s child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, current/former spouse, or de facto partner
  • the child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of a spouse/de facto partner

This definition includes all step-relations and adoptive relations.

You have the right to refuse an employee’s request for carer’s leave if the ill or injured person does not fit into the above. Contrarily, you may also approve a request for someone who doesn’t fall in the list above.

Can an Employer Reject a Personal or Carer’s Leave Request?

This will depend on the circumstances and whether there is a valid reason to do so.  This should be communicated with the employee – either in writing or verbally. Below are a few common reasons for refusing a request:

  • The employee has run out of personal leave/carer’s leave
  • The ill or injured person who requires care or support from an employee seeking carer’s leave, does not fit under the category of ‘immediate family’ or ‘household member’
  • The employee did not give acceptable evidence to support their request
  • Reasonable notice was not given as soon as possible

The above reasons should be assessed on a case by case basis.

Laws and Legislation

All employees, with the exception of casuals are automatically entitled to personal/carer’s leave as stipulated in the NES. This applies regardless of Modern Awards, agreements or contracts.

Under the NES, full-time employees are entitled to 10 days of paid personal/carer’s leave for each year of continuous work. Part-time employees are entitled to the same number of personal/carer’s leave days paid in proportion to the number of hours they work.

Any unused personal/carer’s leave will roll over to the following year.

Does the Employee Have to Supply a Medical Certificate?

Technically, there is no legislation that states an employee has to supply a medical certificate or ‘letter from the doctor’. However, employers can request evidence of personal/carer’s leave.

What if an Employee Runs Out of Paid Personal and Carer’s Leave?

When this happens, it does not mean the employee has to come into work if they are unwell.

If an employee has run out of paid personal/carer’s leave and they are unfit to work, the employer needs to still consider their request for unpaid personal or carer’s leave. An employee should not attend work if they are unfit to carry out their duties due to an injury or illness as this may become a health and safety risk.

What about Compassionate Leave?

Also known as ‘bereavement leave,’ this is when an employee takes time off work when a member of their immediate family or household:

  • contracts or develops a life-threatening illness or injury or
  • passes away

Legally, your employees are entitled to two days of compassionate leave on each occasion. Depending on the severity of the situation, additional leave arrangements can be negotiated. Permanent employees will entitled to be paid when they take compassionate leave.

Need Help?

It is always advisable to have relevant and reliable workplace policies that you can refer to when it comes to navigating issues like leave – especially when it is sensitive issues like personal/carer’s leave.

If you have an employee who has put in a request and you’re not certain how to proceed, or if you’d like to be prepared and have a solid policy in place, call our Employsure advice line on 1300 651 415 and get immediate assistance.

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