Sick leave Australia: What you’re entitled to and when
Full-time employees are entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave in Australia – but you might be eligible for other benefits too.
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If you work part-time or full-time, you're entitled to paid sick leave in Australia. You get 10 days of paid sick leave per year if you work full-time, and if you don't use your days, they can carry over into the following year. You could be eligible for other benefits as well, like carer's leave and compassionate and bereavement leave. Read on to find out about your entitlements.
What are sick leave entitlements in Australia?
If you are unable to work due to illness or injury, your sick leave entitlements are the amount of time you are legally allowed to take off without repercussions. There are a few different types of sick leave entitlements in Australia; some are paid, others are not. Here's an overview of what you are entitled to:
Paid sick and carer's leave – 10 days
Sick and carer's leave fall under the same leave entitlement. Full-time employees are entitled to 10 days of leave each year. The balance of leave you acquire each year also carries over into the next year. Part-time employees get pro rata of 10 days each year based on how many hours they work.
Unpaid sick leave – 3 months
Once you've run out of paid sick leave, if you're still unable to work due to illness or injury you can take unpaid sick leave for up to three months. You can't be fired for taking unpaid sick leave provided you've been off work for less than three months and you can supply evidence of your illness or injury.
Unpaid carer's leave – 2 days
If you don't have any paid sick and carer's leave left, you get two days of unpaid carer's leave each time you need to provide care for a family or household member.
Compassionate and bereavement leave – 2 days
All employees are entitled to two days of compassionate and bereavement leave each time a member of their immediate family or household dies or suffers a life-threatening illness or injury.
Do I need income protection if I have sick leave?
This is a common question for Australian employees. If you were to suffer a serious illness or injury, would you have enough sick leave to cover your time off work until you recover?
While you might have enough paid sick leave to let you take a few days off when you're struck down by a stomach bug, what would happen if you were seriously injured in a car accident or suffered a heart attack and couldn't work for six months or more? In cases like these, you may find that you are forced to take unpaid sick leave. That's where income protection insurance can come in.
By having income protection you could feel comfortable knowing that if you were unable to work because of a long term sickness or injury, you would still have an income to help you with your living expenses. You can use the table below to look at your income protection options and see how they can help in addition to your sick leave entitlements.
Look at income protection insurance options
How to calculate sick leave
The easiest way to calculate sick leave in Australia is to use the government's Leave Calculator.
In Australia, sick and carer's leave comes under the same entitlement. If you work full-time, you get 10 days off and pro rate for part-time employees. This works out as 1/26 of your working hours in a year. For example, if you work 38 hours a week, you'll get 76 hours of paid sick leave per year. If you work 19 hours a week, you'll get 38 hours of paid sick leave per year.
Here's an example of what this looks like:
Suzanne is a full-time employee who works 38 hours, 5 days a week. Rebecca is a part-time employee who works an average of 19 hours per week, working a 5-day fortnight. Suzanne gets 76 hours of paid sick and carer's leave per year. Rebecca gets half of Suzanne's paid sick and carer's leave (38 hours) per year as she works half the hours Suzanne works.
Keep in mind that this paid leave isn't automatic; rather, it starts accumulating from your first day of work and is based on your ordinary hours of work. The balance at the end of each year carries over, so you could be entitled to more days off depending on whether you've taken time off in the past.
What are the sick leave entitlements in Victoria, NSW and other states?
Sick leave entitlements are set by the National Employment Standards (NES) so are the same across states. All full-time employees – except for casuals – are entitled to a minimum of 10 days paid leave per year.
Coronavirus sick leave Australia entitlements
Full-time and part-time workers can take paid sick leave if they're unable to work because they have coronavirus. You can take unpaid sick leave if you don't have any paid sick days left. Employers can't make you use your accumulated sick leave and you can't be dismissed if you're required to quarantine or self-isolate.
You're also allowed to take paid or unpaid carer's leave if you need to look after a family or household member who's sick with coronavirus. Casual employees get 2 days of unpaid carer's leave per occasion.
What other types of leave am I entitled to?
There are a few types of sick leave in Australia that you may be entitled to:
- Sick and carer's leave: If you're an employee, you can take carer's leave if you need to take time off work to care for a member of your immediate family or household who is sick, injured or experiences an unexpected emergency. Keep in mind that this is considered the same as sick leave.
- Compassionate and bereavement leave: All employees are entitled to compassionate and bereavement leave when a member of their immediate family or household dies or suffers a life-threatening illness or injury.
- Unpaid sick leave: Once you have run out of paid sick leave, you can take unpaid leave if you are still unable to work due to illness or injury.
- Unpaid carer's leave: You can take unpaid carer's leave when an immediate family member or household member is sick, injured or experiences an unexpected emergency. This type of leave is used if you have run out of paid sick and carer's leave.
Carer's leave and who it applies to
To qualify for paid or unpaid carer's leave, you'll need to be taking time off work to care for or support an immediate family member or a member of your household. A member of your household is anyone who lives with you, while an immediate family member is a:
- Former spouse
- De facto partner
- Former de facto partner
- Child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of your spouse or de facto partner, or former spouse or de facto partner
Please note that step-relations and adoptive relations are also included in the above definition.
How this compares globally
Compared to other countries, sick leave is quite good in Australia. For example, in the UK, you only get £94.25 per week for statutory sick pay (SSP) if you're too ill to work. While it's paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks, it's well below the average income and you need to have been off work sick for 4 or more days in a row to be eligible. Similarly, there's no national requirement in the US to offer paid sick leave, although several states have their own laws. It's a federal law in Australia, which means the eligibility and entitlements are the same throughout Australia.
What to do if you need long term sick leave
If you need long term sick leave in Australia, you have a few options. These include:
- Know your rights and responsibilities. You can take as much paid sick leave as you have accumulated if you are not fit for work because you are ill or injured. The total time off must be less than 3 consecutive months, or a total of less than 3 months off over a 12 month period. You're no longer protected from being dismissed if you are off for longer than this.
- Speak to your employer. It's important to keep your employer informed about your situation. This is the best way to ensure that you keep your job if you are off for longer than 3 months.
- Get income protection. In most cases, you won't have enough paid sick leave to cover your bills and daily living expenses for long term leave. Income protection is a sure-fire way to prevent any unwanted financial stress should you need to take a long time off work for a number of reasons. It can also pay you for up to 5 years.
- Medical evidence. It's a good idea to keep a hold of any evidence that supports your need to be off from work. This can come in handy if you need to provide medical information before you can return to work after an extended period of sick leave. It's also usually necessary to provide evidence that you cannot work to your income protection insurer when you make a claim.
In fact, a 2017 finder.com.au survey found that in the past 5 years, almost half a million Australians were forced to take unpaid leave in order to recover from a sporting injury, while 178,000 had to leave the workforce completely due to their injuries.
While the sick leave you've accumulated might seem like a lot, you might be surprised just how quickly you can use it all up. When that happens, you'll need to find some other way to provide financial support for your family.
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