The five types of employee leave
If you’re hiring your first full-time employees, it’s important to know what your legal obligations are to your staff. When it comes to leave, here are five types of leave you need to be aware of:
1. Annual leave
Under the National Employment Standards (NES), all employees other than casual employees are entitled to four weeks’ leave each year. Some shift workers are entitled to five weeks’ leave. In some workplaces employees sacrifice a portion of their pay for longer periods of leave or apply for unpaid leave. Annual leave does not have to be taken in a 12 month period, as it will just accumulate.
Part-time employees get a pro rata proportion of this annual provision depending on how much they work.
Paid annual leave may be taken at a time agreed between you and your employee. However, the employer must not unreasonably refuse an employee’s request to take paid annual leave.
In assessing reasonableness, the following factors are relevant, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman:
- The employee’s needs versus the employer’s needs;
- any prior agreement with the employee;
- practice and custom of the business;
- how long was the period of notice given.
It is also important to take note of what the relevant award or agreement says about annual leave as it may have specific conditions which need to be followed.
2. Parental leave
All Australian employees are eligible for unpaid parental leave after working with an employer for 12 months.
Employees may also be entitled to paid parental leave on top of their unpaid leave entitlements. However, this is generally paid for by the government, unless a person’s employer has a parent leave policy that provides better benefits or the parent is not eligible for the government scheme. The government scheme changes so you should check the latest scheme to see whether it applies to you.
3. Personal/carer's leave and compassionate leave
Full-time, non-casual workers are allowed 10 days’ paid personal/carer’s leave each year.
An employee may take paid personal/carer’s leave:
- if they are not fit for work because they have a personal illness or injury (including pregnancy-related illness); or
- they need to provide care or support to a member of their immediate family or household, due to a personal illness, injury or unexpected emergency affecting that person. A member of the employee’s immediate family is defined as spouse, de facto partner, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of an employee.
Workers are also allowed two days’ paid compassionate leave when a member of the employee’s immediate family or household sustains a serious injury or illness, or dies.
Workers are also entitled to two days of compassionate leave so they can spend time with a member of their immediate family or household who has sustained a life-threatening illness or injury. Compassionate leave is also allowed after the death of a member of the employee’s immediate family or household.
4. Community service leave
The right to community service leave is for employees undertaking eligible community service activities including jury service or activities dealing with an emergency or natural disaster.
5. Long service leave
Long service leave is usually governed by state and territory laws. In most cases it can be taken after 10 years continuous service, it cannot be cashed out (except on termination) and is usually paid at the employee’s ordinary rate of pay.