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Sick, personal and other leave

Information about sick leave, compassionate, community service and other leave entitlements.

This page has information about the following types of leave:

Sick or personal leave

Sick leave is called 'personal' leave in the Act. Personal leave includes leave taken to care for a dependent. Employees are able to take a minimum of 10 days of paid personal or carer's leave each year. This leave is one of the minimum employee entitlements, called 'national employment standards' (NES), in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). See 'Minimum employment conditions' (link below) for other standard workplace rights.

Leave adds up progressively through the year. It is paid according to an employee's 'ordinary hours' of work and at their base rate of pay. Modern awards prescribe 38 ordinary hours of work per week and employees accrue leave in relation to ordinary hours worked. For example, even though an employee may always work extra overtime hours on the day that they are sick, their sick leave will not include this overtime amount.

If personal leave has not been taken

If this leave is not taken it accrues (keeps growing) from year to year.

Leave during a public holiday

If a public holiday falls during a period of personal/carers leave that day will not be treated as personal/carers leave.

See ss. 96, 98, 99—Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)(opens in a new window) and Annual leave (links below)

When can an employee apply for personal or carer's leave?

Personal leave

An employee is entitled to personal leave if they are not fit for work because of personal illness or personal injury.

Carer leave

An employee is entitled to carer leave if they need to provide care or support to:

  • a member of the employee's immediate family
  • a member of the employee's household.

The person who is being cared for has to be in need of care or support because of personal illness or personal injury or who needs care or support due to an unexpected emergency.

Unpaid carer leave

Where no paid leave is available an employee can take up to two days unpaid carers leave for each occasion a member of the employees immediate family or household requires care or support.

Casual staff may take unpaid leave

Casual staff do not accrue paid sick or carer leave, however they are able to apply for up to 2 days of unpaid leave referred to above.

See Casual employees (link below)

Cashing out personal or carer leave

An employee may be able to 'cash out' some of their entitlement to personal or carer leave. They can only do this if their modern award agreement expressly says they can. Cashing out refers to payment in lieu of actual leave thereby reducing the employees leave entitlements.

Cashing out can only occur in circumstances where:

  • the employees remaining leave is not less than 15 days
  • each cashing out is agreed in writing, and
  • the employee receives at least the full amount that would have been paid had the leave actually been taken

See s. 100, 101—Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

Compassionate leave

An employee is entitled to up to 2 days of paid compassionate leave when a member of their immediate family or household:

  • contracts or develops a personal illness or sustains a personal injury, that poses a serious threat to his or her life
  • dies.

The leave may be taken as two continuous days, two single days or such other periods as an employer and employee agree.

Casual staff

Casual staff may take unpaid compassionate leave.

Giving notice to an employer

An employee taking compassionate leave must give notice to an employer but such notice may be given after the commencement of the leave. An employer is entitled to ask for evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the leave is properly taken.

See ss. 104-107—Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

Community service leave

An employee, engaged in an eligible community service activity is entitled to be absent from employment if:

  • the employee is engaged in community activity (including reasonable travel or rest time)
  • the absence is reasonable (except where it involves jury service).

What is community service?

Eligible community services include:

  • jury service required by law
  • a voluntary emergency management activity or
  • any activity prescribed in the regulations (no activities have yet been prescribed).

Such activities are defined to include volunteering to help after a natural disaster or emergency that has been organised by a recognised emergency management service. The employee must have a membership-like relationship with the organisation. The organisation must have asked for the employee to help (or would have asked if there had been time). Notice to the employer is required although this may be given after the commencement of the absence. An example of this might be an employee who is a member of the volunteer fire fighter.

See ss. 109, 110—Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

Jury service

Jury service leave is protected by law. If an employee has been summonsed or instructed to perform jury service, they are eligible to up to 10 days paid leave. Casual employees do not have to be paid for time spent in jury service.

Who pays for the leave?

The employer has to pay for the first 10 days of jury service. They do not have to pay until they get evidence of the jury service. An employee must provide evidence that they have taken all reasonable steps to obtain any other payments available for the period of jury service. If this information is not provided the employee may not be paid and the employer is entitled to deduct any money paid.

If the employee has been paid 'jury service pay' from the relevant state or territory, the employer is entitled to deduct such payment from the community service payments that would otherwise be payable. Jury service pay does not include any related expenses associated with their attendance as jurors, such as travel expenses.

See s. 111—Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

More information

Legislation

Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

  • Part 2 Div 7 Sub Div A—Paid personal or carer's leaves
  • s. 96—entitlement to paid carer/ personal leave
  • s. 97—circumstances when an employee may take paid personal or carer leave
  • s. 98—employee is not to be paid out of leave on a public holiday
  • s. 100—cashing out is only permissible in terms included in a modern award or enterprise agreement
  • s. 101—modern awards may allow cashing out of personal or carer leave
  • ss. 102-3—taking unpaid carer leave
  • ss. 104-7—compassionate leave
  • s. 108—entitlement to community service leave
  • ss. 109—meaning of eligible community service activity and entitlement
  • s. 111—payment of employees for jury service

See Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

References

Fair Work Ombudsman

See Fair Work Ombudsman—Leave(opens in a new window)

Updated