Sick Leave Over the Christmas & New Year Period

Attention:  All Human Resource Advisors, Officers, Coordinators, Managers, Professionals, Supervisors, Assistants!

What to do if an employee takes sick leave over the Christmas & New Year period (or at any time of the year really…)?

What is Sick Leave?

Personal/carer’s leave (also known as “sick leave”) may be used when an employee is absent:

– due to personal illness or injury and require time off from work to recover; or

– to care for members of your immediate family or household members that are ill or injured or are subject to an unexpected emergency affecting them, and the immediate family member or household member requires care and support.

Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to paid sick leave whereas casual employees are entitled to unpaid sick leave.

Paid sick leave comes out of an employees’ personal/carer’s leave accruals.

At law, full-time employees accrue a minimum of 10 days of personal/carer’s leave per year whereas part-time employees accrue a pro-rata amount based on their ordinary hours of work.  Unused accrued sick leave is rolled over each year.

HRBA’s Tips

Where an employee wants to take a period of personal/carer’s leave, an employer may request the employee to provide sufficient evidence (i.e. a medical certificate from a qualified medical practitioner) to support their absence.  This request may be made in accordance with the company’s Policies and Procedures.

Note:  Ensure you have appropriate Company Policies and Procedures in place.  

If an employee does not provide evidence upon request by the employer, the employee may not be entitled to paid sick leave.  Therefore, the employee’s leave could be processed as unpaid sick leave.

Clarification:  If an employee provides a medical certificate for their absence, the employee is entitled to their accrued sick leave.

We recommend seeking advice if you are concerned about falsified information/documentation.  

Be mindful that employees may request to be paid from their annual leave accrual instead of receiving unpaid sick leave.  For example, this may occur:

– where an employee is unable to access their sick leave accrual because they have not provided an appropriate medical certificate on request by their employer; or

– where an employee does not have enough sick leave accrued to cover the period of sick leave.

If an employee makes this request, an employer may either agree to or refuse the request.

Where an employer refuses such a request, the refusal must be reasonable and communicated to the employee.

For example, the Leave Policy may provide that an employee must give sufficient notice of their request to take annual leave.  In the above circumstances, an employer may refuse such a request for annual leave where an employee fails to provide the appropriate notice.

Alternatively, if an employer agrees to the request, ensure a written record of the employee’s authorisation to access their annual leave accrual is formed and placed on their personnel file.

Important Note:  Adverse action must not be taken in connection with an employee taking sick leave, as this may pose other significant risks for the business.  Keep in mind that an employee has the right to privacy and that an employer should not ask the employee for information about their sickness.

HR Business Assist 

For more information, contact the HR Business Assist Team.

P 1300 138 551


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