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What Do I Do When an Employee Asks for Long Service Leave?

Published April 12, 2021 (last updated May 25, 2023) - Head of Operations
An employee looking forward to Long Service Leave.

Your employee who has been with the business forever, suddenly announces they are planning a road trip. They are taking eight weeks off and expect to be paid whilst they are away out of their long service leave entitlement. So, once you have got over the shock, here’s what you need to know.

What is long service leave?

The National Employment Standards (NES) contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 provide that long-term employees (sometimes even casual employees) may be entitled to long service leave. This includes a number of weeks of paid leave – in addition to annual leave for permanent employees – to reward them for their continued employment over the years.

This entitlement is generally derived from the relevant state or territory long service leave legislation, rather than their applicable modern award or workplace agreement. However, the state and territory long service leave laws won’t apply where there are long service leave entitlements in a federal pre-modern award that would have applied to an employee before 1 January 2010. In this case, the entitlements in the pre-modern award will apply. More generous long service leave schemes in a contract, policy, or enterprise agreement could supplement an employee’s minimum entitlement.

State or Territory-based legislation sets out:

  • How long an employee has to have worked continuously to get long service leave (e.g 10 years)
  • How much long service leave the employee gets once they have worked the initial period to qualify
  • How and when the leave is paid

When does an employee get long service leave?

As each state and territory has different requirements, the first thing to do is to check the relevant requirements to establish the length of service that the employee must complete to be entitled.

Next, determine how long the employee has been employed in total. If you took over the business and the employee was already employed, you will need to count back to when they first started. Note that the employee doesn’t need to have been doing the same job for the entire time. If they have had lots of unapproved unpaid leave, this will potentially reduce the length of their continuous service. However, this will depend on the relevant source of long service leave entitlement.

In most states or territories an employee is entitled to long service leave after continuously working for a minimum of 10 years, but it may be less.

How much long service leave does an employee receive?

Again, it depends on the source of long service leave entitlement and how long the employee has been in the business. It can range from 6 to 13 weeks for the initial qualifying period, but an employee gets more leave the longer they stay employed. However, there may be another (usually shorter) qualifying period that applies before they can access the additional leave. Employees also continue to accrue long service leave while they are taking their long service leave.

BrightHR can simplify managing your people and business

BrightHR can help you keep track of your employees’ leave entitlements by monitoring absences and shifts schedules, as well as when they clock in and out with Blip. You can also generate timesheet reports and store wage and time records securely in the cloud.

How is long service leave paid?

Calculation methods differ depending on the source of the long service leave entitlement, but usually the employer pays the employee their normal rate of pay while they are on long service leave. This would what they would have earned if they hadn’t been on leave, generally without any additional benefits or payments (e.g allowances, penalties or overtime).

When can an employee take long service leave?

Long service leave should be taken as soon as the employee qualifies for the leave, but you may be able to agree to postpone it if the long service leave scheme that applies to the employee allows it. An employer may be able to direct an employee to take their long service leave if no agreement can be reached.

Usually, an employer can only refuse the request for long service leave on reasonable business grounds. For example, the business may struggle to fill the role temporarily or the employee wants to take leave during a busy period when the business needs a full workforce.

These reasons may not apply if an employee lets you know far enough in advance when they intend to take the leave. Under Western Australian long service leave legislation, for example, the employee only has to give the employer two weeks’ notice if they met the qualifying period more than 12 months ago and haven’t yet agreed with their employer when to take their leave.

BrightHR has a function that allows employees to submit leave requests through the mobile app for you to review, accept and decline where appropriate.

Get Workplace Advice Now

 Call our FREE 24/7 Advice Line for guidance from Employsure on any leave issues.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of Australia’s largest workplace relations and health & safety advisers to small and medium-sized businesses. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business owners protect their companies and their people.

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