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Personal/Carer’s Leave

Published April 1, 2015 (last updated on February 29, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


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), personal leave (also known as sick leave) and carer’s leave have strict requirements that employers need to follow.

What Is Personal and Carer’s Leave (Sick Leave)?

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. Permanent full-time employees are entitled to 10 days of paid personal and carer’s leave for each year of continuous work. Permanent part-time employees and permanent employees working variable hours are entitled to a pro rata amount based on the number of ordinary hours worked in a two-week fortnightly period, or 1/26th of the employee’s ordinary hours of work in a year, per year of service. Casual employees are not entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave but are entitled to 2 days’ unpaid carer’s leave on certain occasions.

This leave must be accrued, and taken, in hours. The accrual rate is equal to the number of ordinary hours worked in a period x 0.03846. Any unused personal/carer’s leave in a year carries over into the next year.

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When Is Carer’s Leave Applicable?

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:

  • Spouse/De Facto Partner

  • Child

  • Parent or grandparent

  • Grandchild or sibling

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.

Giving Evidence for Personal Leave or Carer’s Leave.

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.

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How Much Do I Pay Employees During Personal Leave or Carer’s Leave?

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 number of ordinary hours for which they were absent. If they are absent for a full day, deduct the number of ordinary hours they would have worked from their balance. If they were absent for a part-day, e.g. 4 hours, deduct the number of ordinary hours for which they were absent, i.e. 4 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, bonuses or annual leave loading.

Unused personal/carer’s leave is not paid on termination of employment, unless specified in an applicable industrial instrument, contract, or policy.

But What Happens If An Employee Uses Up All Of Their Personal Leave Or Carer’s Leave?

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. Employers also have the discretion to allow employees to access other forms of paid leave by agreement, e.g. annual leave or long service leave.

Compassionate Leave

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is personal leave the same as sick leave?

Personal leave is any time off work. It includes both sick leave and carer’s leave. 

Can an employee use carer’s leave for paternity leave?

During unpaid parental leave, employees can’t take paid sick or carer’s leave. 

Can an employee who has run out of sick leave use annual leave instead?

An employee can take as much paid sick or carer’s leave as they have accumulated. If you run out of sick leave, you may be able to take unpaid personal leave. Employees who do not have enough personal leave to cover the absence can use annual leave at the discretion of the employer. 

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