There have been a lot of changes to employment law over the last few years and it has come to our attention that many people are not aware of all of their leave entitlements. It is important that you know exactly what you are entitled to within your workplace and that you are not treated unfairly. Generally speaking all employees within Australia are covered by national workplace laws, included in the National Employment Standards (NES). The minimum entitlements in the NES apply to you regardless of your industrial instrument or contract of employment. Together with pay rates in modern awards and minimum wage orders, the NES makes up the safety net that cannot be altered to the disadvantage of the employee.

The NES include minimum entitlements to leave, public holidays, notice of termination and redundancy pay. In addition to the NES, generally an employee’s terms and conditions of employment can come from a modern award, agreement, pre-modern award and state or federal laws. It should be noted that employees can be given entitlements above that of the NES; the NES is the minimum.

Annual leave: Under the NES, all employees (except casual employees) get paid annual leave based on their ordinary hours of work. Your entitlement to annual leave accrues progressively during a year of service and accumulates from year to year. On termination of employment an employer must pay an employee for any untaken annual leave which has accrued.

An annual leave entitlement that comes from an award or agreement may be different from that provided for in the NES, but cannot be less than the NES entitlement. You are entitled to:

•   4 weeks annual leave for each 12 months of service; or
•   5 weeks annual leave for some shift workers for each 12 months of service.

Sick leave: This is a type of personal leave that you can take when you can’t attend work because of sickness or injury. Under the NES, if you are a full time employee, you are entitled to 10 days’ paid personal leave (for sick and paid carer’s leave) per year. As a part-time employee you will receive a pro-rata entitlement to sick leave based on the number of hours you work. Paid personal leave entitlements accumulate from year to year.

Personal, carer’s and compassionate leave: An entitlement to personal/carer’s leave that comes from an award or agreement may be different, but cannot be less than the entitlement under the NES.

•   Paid personal/carer’s leave = 10 days each year.
•   Unpaid carer’s leave = 2 days per occasion (for casual employees or if paid leave has been used).
•   Paid compassionate leave = 2 days per occasion.
•   Unpaid compassionate leave (casual employees only) = 2 days per occasion.

Your entitlement to paid personal/carer’s leave accrues progressively during a year of service according to the number of ordinary hours worked, and accumulates from year to year. Entitlements for these types of leave under the NES are:

Personal/carer’s leave

This is for all employees, except casual workers, and can be taken as paid leave when you are sick or injured or when you need to care for an immediate family or household member who is sick, injured or has an unexpected emergency.  Every employee is entitled to unpaid personal/carer’s leave, however if you are a full or part-time employee you can only use this when you have used up all of your paid personal/carer’s leave.

Compassionate leave

This can be taken as paid leave for all employees, except casual workers, when an immediate family or household member gets an injury or illness that threatens their life or dies. It can also be taken as unpaid leave if you are a casual or have already used up your paid leave.

When taking personal leave (including carer’s and compassionate leave), you must let your employer know as soon as possible that you’re unable to work. You must also let him or her know the period of leave, or expected period of leave. An employer is entitled to request evidence that would substantiate the reason for leave. You are not entitled to the leave if you fail to provide notice (as soon as practicable), or evidence (when requested) that would satisfy a reasonable person. An award or agreement (including transitional award or agreement based instruments) may include terms relating to the kind of evidence that an employee must provide in order to be entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave, unpaid carer’s leave or compassionate leave.

If you feel you are being treated unfairly in the workplace or deprived of your entitlements it is important that you seek professional advice. Here at The Quinn Group our experienced team of lawyers can assist you with all of your employment law enquiries. For more information on leave entitlements or for any other information please submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or no +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.