With the introduction of Modern Awards and the National Employment Standards (NES), it can be confusing for businesses to understand their requirements when it comes to employees’ leave entitlements. It can be especially difficult to establish what leave entitlement applies to each circumstance. In particular, it can be hard to differentiate between personal/carer’s leave and compassionate leave in certain situations.

Difference between personal leave and compassionate leave

‘Personal/carer’s leave’ is an accrued entitlement by employees  of 10 days per year that refers to occasions when an employee needs to provide care or support for a member of their immediate family or household, or if they are personally unfit for work.

On the other hand, ‘compassionate leave’ is available to employees where they wish to spend time with an immediate family member or member of their household who has a personal injury or illness that is serious or life-threatening. Employees are also entitled to take compassionate leave after the death of a member of their immediate family or household.

Compassionate leave is a provision under the National Employment Standards (NES) which prescribe ten (10) minimum entitlements for employees, as part of the Federal Fair Work Act 2009. It is a stand-alone entitlement that is not deducted from any other leave entitlement.

Full-time and part-time permanent employees are entitled to take up to two days of compassionate leave per occasion. There is no limit on how often compassionate leave can be taken, as it is dependent on circumstances. Employees can choose to take the leave as one, unbroken period of two days or take two separate periods of one day each.

Casuals receive the same compassionate leave entitlement except it is unpaid.

Employers can request evidence when an employee takes compassionate leave. For example, employees can be asked to provide proof of the illness, injury or death. It is recommended that businesses implement policies and procedures to ensure that employees understand what is required of them when they take leave, such as an obligation to provide certain types of evidence.

Need more help?
There is a team of dedicated and experienced Business Advisers that can assist you with any queries. The service is free for members and provides unlimited access to free verbal advice. Call the Telephone Advisory Service on 08 8300 0101.

Want more information?
Business SA has a publication available that can help you with understanding your legal requirements in relation to leave entitlements. The Employers’ Handbook is an invaluable resource tool for businesses, containing an overview of day-to-day employment, workplace relations and general human resource issues affecting your business. It contains essential information regarding leave entitlements regarding notice periods, minimum entitlements and documentation requirements.Order the Employers’ Handbook online.

Business SA also has a comprehensive package to help you establish and implement your own specific human resource policy documentation. The HR Policy Package - 3rd Edition provides you with a comprehensive set of policies and procedures regarding standards of behaviour, conditions of employment and rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. The policies are ready to tailor to your business’ specific requirements to help you cover legislative compliance requirements as well as best practice. Order the HR Policy Package - 3rd Edition online.

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