Winter is in full swing and has bought with it the cold and flu. So what do employers need to do when their employees are too sick to work? Here is everything employers need to know when it comes to sick leave.

What is sick leave? 

Sick/carer’s leave, also called personal/carer’s leave, allows employees to take time off when they are unwell or caring for family members. Sick leave can be taken when an employee is dealing with a personal illness, if they need to care for a family member with an illness or attend to a family emergency.

What are sick leave entitlements? 

All employees, except casuals, are entitled to paid sick leave. Permanent employees are entitled to 10 days of sick leave per year for full time, pro-rata for part-time. Employee entitlements are based on ordinary hours of work, for example, if an employee works 19 hours per week, they are entitled to 38 hours of paid sick/carer’s leave per year. This can be calculated as 1/26th of an employee’s ordinary hours of work in a year.

Employees accumulate sick leave during the year, beginning on their first day of work based on their ordinary hours of work. Sick leave balance carries over year on year. Sick/carer’s leave is also accumulated when an employee is on paid leave, community service leave or long service leave, but not during periods of unpaid leave.

What about unpaid sick leave? 

Employees can take unpaid sick leave if they are not fit for work due to illness or injury. Casual employees can access two days of unpaid carer’s leave each time an immediate family member needs support. Permanent employees can only access unpaid sick/carer’s leave if they don’t have any paid leave left.

Keep in mind, employees who are away from work due to injury or illness are protected from dismissal, doing so could be a General Protections issue. If an employee has been away from work for an extended period (e.g. several months) and it is negatively impacting your business get in touch with us and we can help you work through the issue.

Can employers ask for proof of illness or injury? 

As an employer, you can request your employees provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the leave being taken was genuine, as stated in the Fair Work Act (2009). Commonly, employers require employees to provide evidence if they have taken more than two days of sick leave or the leave coincides with the weekends or public holidays, to satisfy that the leave taken is genuine. Types of evidence requested can include a medical certificate, pharmacists’ certificate or statutory declaration. What is reasonable can vary between employers and depend on the patterns of absences. For this reason, having a Leave policy outlining the acceptable use of personal leave and expectations of employees to provide evidence is important.

ProcessWorx HR Advisors have experience helping employers navigate leave and other employment issues. If you have queries about employees taking sick leave and want advice personalised to your business, contact us on (08) 9316 9896, or email

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Written by Danielle McNamee


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