All employees have a right to take time away from work when they, or persons in their immediate household are unwell.  This is well understood.  What is less well understood is whether employees have the right to access personal and carers leave for planned sick leave, like attending specialist appointments.

Personal and Carers Leave (also known as Sick Leave) is available to all staff to take in the even that they are unfit to work, or someone in their immediate household is unwell and needs care.

Personal and Carers Leave is available to both permanent and casual employees.  While casual staff do not receive payment when accessing this leave (except some staff in Victoria), the entitlement remains and should be appropriately recorded and tracked.

All employees have access to 10 days Personal and Carers Leave per year, that accrues year to year and that can not be cashed out or paid out on termination.

Personal and Carers Leave (Sick Leave) is for when an employee (or someone in their immediate household) is sick.

This concept is pretty well understood, that is to say that when an employee is too sick to work they stay home, or when an employees young child falls ill in the middle of the day the employee has to leave work to pick up and care for the child.

The business can request reasonable evidence of the employees illness or caring need, and this can include additional reasonable requriements set and communicated by the business, such as having a business policy that requires the presentation of a Doctors Certificate or the signing of a Statutory Declaration when the sick leave is taken before or after a weekend or before or after any planned leave or public holiday.

What is less clear to both businesses and staff is the use of Personal and Carers Leave to attend planned appointments.

The question that ACAPMA is often asked is Can staff use Personal and Carers Leave to attend a planned doctors appointment, or take a family member to a planned doctors appointment?

The answer here is simple….no.

The Fair Work Act 2009 outlines that Personal and Carers Leave is for unplanned and unforeseen absences that are due to the employee (or someone in the employees immediate family) being unwell at the time.

If the employee is fit to work then they are not able to access Personal and Carers Leave just because they are attending a doctors appointment.

This question often comes up in the context of attending specialist or dental appointments.  While employees may be under the impression that because these appointments are with doctors that they can access Personal and Carers Leave, in reality unless they are actually unwell at the time (which they could not possibly know in advance) then such instances should be recorded as either Annual Leave or Unpaid Leave.

Given the potential for confusion and frustration of both employees and the business this is one of those areas that clear communication before the incident occurs reduces conflict and is strongly suggested.  The communication of a clear message in either business policies or processes to the effect of;

Personal and Carers Leave is for instances where you are too ill to work, or when someone in your immediate household falls unexpectedly ill and requires you to care for them. It is important to note that any planned doctors/specialists/dentist or other appointments should be scheduled outside of work hours.  Planned appointments, even those with doctors, are not eligible for Personal and Carers Leave and either Annual Leave or Unpaid Leave should be applied in these instances.

ACAPMA Personal and Carers Leave Guide

ACAPMA Members can access the ACAPMA Personal and Carers (sick) Leave Guide.  This detailed Guide provides detailed review of the national and Award level leave entitlements for staff in these important areas as they apply to both permanent and casual employees in the fuel wholesale, retail and administrative areas.

“Personal and Carers Leave, or sick leave as it is more commonly called, is something that most businesses are well versed in, but what is not often understood is that Personal and Carers Leave is an entitlement for all staff, that comes from the Fair Work Act and from the Award.  Whether this leave is paid or not will depend on the employees status and the leave itself…but the entitlement exists for all staff and can be complicated by the particular conditions of the Award.  So it is vital that all businesses have a detailed working understanding of these vital areas” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

The Guide explores important elements of getting Personal and Carers Leave right such as;

  • What is a ‘day’?
  • Does the entitlement accrue with time worked or is it available on day one?
  • Can you cash out accrued leave?
  • Does the entitlement roll forward from one year to the next or does it disappear if not used?
  • Does the employee have to be sick?
  • Can this leave be used for planned doctors or dental appointments?
  • What evidence can the business request or require?
  • Does taking this leave impact continuity of employment?
  • Can this leave be used to take a ‘mental health day because I’m not feelin it today’?
  • How does unpaid leave work?

“Personal and Carers Leave may be one of the most established of the leave entitlements, but the way work is conducted, access to doctors, definitions of a family and the need to communicate expectations mean that while it is ‘familiar’ it should not be unexamined.  It really is worth the time and effort to review the requirements in the context of the business and ensure that systems and communications to staff are appropriate”,  concluded Elisha.

The Guide includes sample Policies and is complimented by a separate set of Sample Case Studies Forms, Letters and File Notes to assist with implementation in businesses of all sizes.

MORE INFORMATION

ACAPMA Members are reminded that they can access customised support and guidance on performance management by out to the professionals in the ACAPMA Employment Department on employment@acapma.com.au.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by emailing employment@acapma.com.au  its free for members.

ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $860 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR and IR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/ for more information.

 

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM & IR)

ACAPMA

 

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