Both sick and carer’s leave and compassionate leave allow you to take time off work when you need to – without losing income.
Like most of your rights at work, these types of leave became law after the union movement campaigned for them and won.
Sick and carer’s leave
Sick and carer’s leave, also known as personal leave, allows you to take a day off work when you need it and still get paid.
You can take this leave if you are unwell, which includes illness, injury, stress, poor mental health and many other things.
You can also take this leave if you need to care for a member of your immediate family or household or if there is an emergency.
You need to give as much notice as you reasonably can before taking sick and carer’s leave. In many cases, your employer can also ask you to provide evidence of your reason for taking leave, such as a medical certificate, however some enterprise agreements may limit this requirement.
Full-time, permanent employees get a minimum of ten days of sick and carer’s leave each year. If you work part-time you are entitled to the same amount of leave, proportionate to how many hours you work each week.
Depending on the award or agreement that covers your workplace, you may be entitled to more than ten days of sick and carer’s leave each year.
If you use up all of your paid sick and carer’s leave, you also have the right to take at least two days of unpaid carer’s leave if you need it.
Casual employees are not entitled to any paid sick leave. It’s one of the many problems with casual work, something that the union movement is fighting to change.
Compassionate leave, also known as bereavement leave, can be taken when a member of your immediate family or household dies or contracts a life-threatening illness or injury.
Both full-time and part-time employees have the right to take two days of paid compassionate leave per incident. You are entitled to two days of leave each time something happens. If someone gets seriously sick and then dies sometime later, these are two separate incidents.
If you are a casual employee, the same rules apply. Unfortunately, casuals can only take unpaid compassionate leave.
You should give as much notice as you can before taking compassionate leave. Your employer can ask you to provide evidence, but this request must be reasonable and sensitive to the circumstances.
Accumulating and cashing out leave
Sick and carer’s leave starts accumulating from your first day of work, even if you are on probation. It continues to accumulate while you are on paid leave and while you are doing community service. But it does not accumulate while you are on unpaid leave.
If you have any unused sick and carer’s leave at the end of the year, it just rolls over to the next year.
Compassionate leave does not accumulate over time like sick and carer’s leave does. Instead, you get two days of leave each time a member of your immediate family or household dies or contracts a life-threatening illness or injury.
When you take compassionate leave, the days do not get subtracted from any other leave balance and there is no maximum amount that you can take each year.
When you leave your job, you cannot cash out sick and carer’s leave or compassionate leave, so make sure take your leave when you need to.
Funding for this factsheet was provided by:
- the Victorian Government as part of the uTech project; and
- the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Please note that the information given here is general information only and is not legal advice. For further assistance, it is recommended you speak to your union.