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Australia has strict rules and regulations about the treatment of employees. The National Employment Standards (NES) and the Fair Work Act provide the legal basis for employment law in Australia. One type of leave that is available for employees is carer’s leave. This leave aims to assist those who balance their caring responsibilities, personal sickness, or disability with their employment. To help you better understand carer’s leave, this article will guide you through what carer’s leave is and in what limited circumstances an employer can refuse carer’s leave.

What is Carer’s Leave? 

Carer’s leave, or personal leave, is a type of leave that employees can request to take time off work. This leave is relevant when you have an employee who needs to be at home to care for someone. Likewise, an employee might request time off if they themselves are unfit for work due to illness or injury or if an immediate family member or household member needs care.

Your permanent full-time and part-time workers have entitlements to carer’s leave. Those with benefits to carer’s leave receive a minimum of 10 days paid carer’s leave per year. For part-time employees, they accrue their leave based on their hours of work. Any part of this leave that they do not use should roll over to the following year. 

Additionally, all of your employees can receive a minimum of two days unpaid carer’s leave. Indeed, this includes your casual employees. However, it will ultimately be up to you and your business whether to grant any additional unpaid carer’s leave.

Payments Required

When your staff member takes carer’s leave, you must pay their base rate of pay for the hours they would have worked during that period. This means that you do not need to pay:

  • bonuses;
  • loadings (such as casual loading);
  • overtime/penalty rates; or
  • monetary allowances.

Instead, you only pay the employee’s base rate.

However, it is important to note that modern awards, enterprise agreements or even employment contracts might provide additional carer’s leave entitlements. Indeed, you will need to follow these carefully. 

Providing Notice and Evidence

There is no set period of notice that your employee must provide before taking carer’s leave. However, it is good practice to inform your staff that they should provide notice as soon as possible. Further, your employee should notify you how long they anticipate being absent from work.

Likewise, as an employer, you have the right to request evidence demonstrating the need for carer’s leave. This might include a:

  • medical certificate;
  • doctor’s note; or 
  • statutory declaration. 

However, your request for evidence will be at your discretion. It might be the case that you do not require evidence from your staff. 

To remove any ambiguity about leave requirements, it is an excellent idea to establish procedures around the evidence required to take carer’s leave. For example, this might include a standard method to notify of absence and any documentary evidence needed.

Refusing Carer’s Leave

It is unlawful for an employer to refuse an employee carer’s leave if they take leave in line with the requirements. Only in very few circumstances can an employer deny carer’s leave.

For example, an employee might request leave for someone who is not an immediate member of their family or household. In that case, you might refuse their request for paid carer’s leave. Further, if an employee does not provide documentary evidence, it might be a reason to refuse their leave request. 

It is also important to note that where you request evidence, your employee should provide this within a reasonable time frame. 

Rejecting Evidence

As an employer, you must usually accept a medical certificate or the contents of a statutory declaration as legitimate on the face of it.

However, you might reject this evidence, and therefore the request for leave, if you consider that the evidence is fraudulent. If you have concerns that documentary evidence is fraudulent, you can request additional information to confirm this. However, there must be a legitimate cause for suspicion for rejecting a carer’s leave request on this basis.

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Key Takeaways

Australia has strict rules and regulations about the treatment of employees. One type of leave available for employees is carer’s leave, also called sick leave or personal leave. As an employer, you can only refuse a request for carer’s leave if:

  • an employee is requesting leave for someone who is not an immediate member of their family or household; or
  • the documentary evidence your employee provides is fraudulent.

If you need assistance establishing fair work practices for your employees, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is carer’s leave?

Carer’s leave, also commonly referred to as personal leave or sick leave, is one type of leave that allows an employee to take time off work to care for someone if they are sick or in need of care. This includes taking time off if they are unfit for work due to illness or injury, or if an immediate family member or household member needs care.

Can an employer refuse carer’s leave?

Australia has strict rules regulations about the treatment of employees. This means that it is unlawful for an employer to refuse an employee carer’s leave if the leave is taken in line with the requirements. There are very few circumstances under which an employer can deny carer’s leave. This includes if an employee requests leave for someone who is not an immediate member of their family or household, or the documentary evidence they provide is fraudulent.

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