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How to manage sick, personal and carer's leave

Understand sick leave and keep your cash flowing.

On this page

  • Find sick, personal and carer's leave policies
  • Understand what 'sick leave' means
  • Know your employees' entitlements
  • Secure your cash flow while staff are on leave.
All full-time employees except casuals are entitled to a minimum of 10 days paid personal leave each year (which includes sick leave and carer's leave). This is accrued progressively for a full-time employee and pro-rata for a part-timer. To calculate leave use the Fair Work Ombudsman leave calculator.

Personal leave policies

Policies should should cover all forms of personal leave, including sick, carer's and compassionate leave.

Make sure your policies are correct and clear by using our HR manual template.

HR manual template (DOCX 234.96 KB)DOCX icon

Definition of 'sick leave'

What is commonly known as 'sick leave' is personal leave and includes:

  • sick leave
  • carer's leave
  • compassionate leave.
They form part of the National Employment Standards (NES) and the NES applies to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system, so understanding your employees personal leave entitlements is important for employers.

Quick guide to managing personal leave

When can my employee take personal leave?

Your employee can take personal/carer's leave if he/she or an immediate family or household member is sick, injured or has an unexpected emergency.  An employee's immediate family member includes spouse or de facto partner and their child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling.

How much notice does my employee need to give me?

Your employee will need to give you notice as soon as practicable (which may be a time after the leave has started). They must also advise you of the period or expected period of leave.

Does my employee need to provide a medical certificate?

You can ask an employee for a medical certificate for each period of personal/carer's leave. For sick leave, the certificate must state the employee was, is or will be unfit for work because of personal illness or injury. For carer's leave, the certificate must state the person the employee cared for, has had, or will have, a personal illness or injury.

A medical certificate does not have to give exact details about the injury or illness – asking for this information might breach the employee's privacy.The employee can also supply a statutory declaration instead if it's impractical for them to provide a medical certificate. The NES requires documentary evidence 'that would satisfy a reasonable person'.

What are the minimum pay requirements for personal leave?

When paid personal/carer’s leave is taken, the minimum requirement is that an employee must be paid at their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked during the period. This does not include:

  • loadings
  • monetary allowances
  • overtime or penalty rates
  • any other separately identifiable amounts.

An employees' applicable award may provide a more favourable method of payment, in which case, that is the payment that would be used.

How much personal leave (sick leave) are my employees entitled to?

Under the National Employment Standards (NES), all full-time employees except casuals are entitled to a minimum of 10 days paid personal leave annually (which includes sick leave and carer's leave).  It starts to build up from an employee's first day of work and is based on the number of hours they work.

In addition, all employees (including casuals) are entitled to two days unpaid leave for each occasion to care for a member of their family or household who is sick or affected by an unexpected emergency.

This may be different if the employee is covered by an award or enterprise agreement, or if the employee’s common law contract contains more generous entitlements. For more information on sick leave visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Personal leave and your cash flow

Making sure your cash flow is in order is one of the most important steps in making a business successful.  Make sure you factor in your staff's personal leave into your cash flow forecasting so that you don't get caught short.  It is best to make sure that your cash flow forecast allows for the full amount of personal leave that is available to each employee.

Cashflow forecasting template (XLSX 78.26 KB)XLSX icon