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Australia’s National Employment Standards (NES) provide minimum standards for employees’ entitlements. These standards, which apply Australia-wide, include provisions for different leave entitlements. One such entitlement is the right to carer’s leave. This leave exists to assist employees in balancing their responsibilities as a carer with their employment role. 

This article will take you through everything you need to know about a carer’s leave to help you understand your rights and obligations as an employer.

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What is Carer’s Leave?

Carer’s leave allows your employees to take time off work to care for someone who suffers a sickness or an injury. Additionally, an employee may take this time off to help out during a family emergency. Furthermore, this leave forms part of an employee’s leave entitlement. 

Full-time and part-time employees have a right to a minimum of 10 days of paid, and 2 days unpaid, personal/carers leave annually. For part-time workers, entitlements will accrue overtime based on work hours. On the other hand, casual employees may only receive a minimum of two days’ unpaid leave.

Immediate Family Members and Household Members

The NES limits carer’s leave to the care of immediate family members or household members. Although, employment contracts and internal company policies may expand on the employee’s right to take leave. A household member of the employee refers to any person who lives with the employee. Meanwhile, an immediate family member is someone related to the employee by way of being their:

  • spouse or de facto partner (or former spouse);
  • former spouse or de facto partner;
  • child;
  • parent;
  • grandparent;
  • grandchild; or 
  • sibling.

Furthermore, the immediate family member of an employee’s former or current spouse or de facto partner is the employee’s immediate family member for these purposes only. The definition of immediate family also includes step and adoptive relations. 

Paying Carer’s Leave

When an employee takes carer’s leave, you must pay your employee their base pay rate for hours they would have been working during that period. This means that you do not have to pay your employees the following:

  • bonuses;
  • loadings (e.g., casual loading);
  • overtime rates; or
  • penalty rates.

Please note that enterprise agreements, modern awards or employment contracts might provide additional leave entitlements, so it is crucial to refer to any relevant documents. 

Requesting Evidence

There is no set period of notice that an employee must provide before taking carer’s leave. However, an employee should provide as much notice as possible and aim to estimate how long they anticipate being absent from work.

As an employer, you have the right to request evidence to demonstrate the need for time off. Your employee might provide this evidence in the form of a: 

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

Refusing Carer’s Leave

There are only a few circumstances in which you can refuse carer’s leave as an employer. For example, you might refuse an employee’s request if they cannot provide evidence attesting to the need for it. In addition, you may refuse the employee’s requests if it is for someone who is not an immediate member of their family or household.

However, if an employee requests leave in line with the NES requirements, it is unlawful for you to refuse their request. 

Paying Out Carer’s Leave

There are certain circumstances in which an employee may cash out their carer’s leave. Although, this only applies to employees if specific awards or enterprise agreements cover them. If an award does not cover an employee, they cannot cash out their leave. To allow an employee to cash out their time off, the following must apply:

  • the relevant award or enterprise agreement allows for this; 
  • the employee will retain a balance of at least 15 days of carer’s leave upon cashing out; and
  • you pay the employee the total amount that would have been payable had they taken the leave they will cash out.

Where an employee chooses to cash out, there must be a separate agreement in writing on each occasion. Furthermore, it is unlawful for you to force or attempt to coerce an employee into cashing out their leave of absence.

Key Takeaways

In short, the NES outlines carer’s leave to assist employees with balancing their responsibilities as a carer with their role as an employee. Some key things to remember include:

  • it is usually limited to the care for immediate family members or household members;
  • permanent full-time and part-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 10 days’ paid carers leave; and
  • there are certain circumstances in which an employee can cash out their time off.

If you need assistance understanding your employees’ leave entitlements, 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 is a type of leave that enables employees to take time off work to care for someone if they are sick or suffer from an injury. It limits employees to the care of an immediate family member or household member.

What are the minimum carer’s leave entitlements? 

Permanent full-time and part-time employees may receive 10 days’ paid, and two days of unpaid, carer’s leave annually. For part-time workers, entitlements will be accrued based on hours of work. On the other hand, casual employees may only receive a minimum of two days’ unpaid carer’s leave.

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