Being an employer, you should be aware that employees are going to get sick from time to time, or they may need to care for others who are unwell. According to the National Employment Standards (NES), sick leave and carer’s leave have strict requirements that employers need to follow.
It is a natural part of life that employees are going to be unwell at times and need to take sick leave to get better. But there are also instances in which employees are needed to care for someone in their family – this is called carer’s leave.
Employees, however, are not entitled to take as much sick leave as they like. All of your full-time and part-time employees, other than those working on a casual basis, can take 10 days of paid personal and carer’s leave for each year of continuous work.
This leave must be accrued, and taken, in days (rather than hours, as is common practice). The accrual rate is one day of leave for every 5.2 weeks of service. Any unused personal/carer’s leave in a year carries over into the next year.
Personal and carer’s leave is not pro-rated for part time employees, meaning they are entitled to the full 10 days per year regardless of how many days or hours they work per week.
Carer’s leave is only applicable to employees who need to care for those in their immediate family. While there may be some cases in which employees would like to care for their friends or close acquaintances, carer’s leave is only applicable to immediate family. So, who are the immediate family? Immediate family can be defined as any of the below:
If an employee requests to take carer’s leave to care for someone who does not fit into the above, then it is at your discretion as the employer whether they are entitled to take time off or not.
To prevent employees taking personal leave or carer’s leave without good reason, they must provide employers with evidence that the leave was taken for the right reasons. Evidence does not have to come in the way of a medical certificate or ‘letter from the Doctor’ – though each of these would suffice. A statutory declaration stating that they were unfit for work is acceptable evidence.
While in most cases this goes without saying, it is important for employers to know that employees must give as much notice as possible for their personal or carer’s leave. This notice should include the reason for leave as well as how likely they are going to be on leave for.
Similar to other forms of leave, during periods of personal leave or carer’s leave employees are entitled to be paid for the ordinary hours they would have worked that day, had they not been on leave. The amount deduced from their personal/carer’s leave balance depends on the portion of the day the employee is absent for. If they are absent for a full day (regardless of how many ordinary hours they were due to work), deduct one day from their balance. If they were absent for a part-day, deduct a portion equivalent to the employee’s unworked ordinary hours.
Unless their award, agreement or contract offers more, you need to pay your employee at least their base rate for the normal hours of work. However, this does not include penalties, loadings or bonuses.
Unused personal/carer’s leave is not paid on termination of employment, unless specified in an applicable industrial instrument, contract, or policy.
Sometimes employees use up all of their personal leave or carer’s leave – whether it be due to extended periods of illness or multiple instances. But just because they have used up their leave though does not mean they must go to work when unwell. Employees who have run out of paid personal leave and carer’s leave are entitled to two days of unpaid leave per occasion.
Another form of leave that employees are entitled to is compassionate leave. Compassionate leave can be taken when a member of an employee’s immediate family or household has a personal illness or injury that poses a serious threat to their life, or in some cases causes death. Employees are entitled to two days per occasion of paid compassionate leave. However, if they are employed on a casual basis, this leave is unpaid.
As experts, Employsure can help you understand the finer details of paid or unpaid personal leave and carer’s leave. If you are unsure of the rate you should be paying for personal/carer’s leave, or if you have any other questions, please call our 24 hour Advice Line now on 1300 651 415.