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Workplace issues for carers
Many people who care for someone with cancer are also employed. Sometimes people find it difficult to balance their working role with their caring role. You may need to take time off work or to stop working for some time.
For more on this, see Cancer, work and you.
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All full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 10 days of paid personal leave a year. This can be used if you are caring for a member of your immediate family or household who is sick. Personal leave for part-time employees is calculated on a pro rata basis. Employees can take as much personal leave as they have built up (accumulated), though employers can ask for evidence about why time off is needed (e.g. a medical certificate or a statutory declaration).
In addition, full-time and part-time employees are entitled to 2 days of paid compassionate or bereavement leave when an immediate family or household member is seriously ill or injured, or dies. Casual employees are also entitled to this leave, but it is unpaid.
If you’ve used all of your paid personal leave, or you are a casual employee, you are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave for each time a member of your immediate family or household requires care or support because of illness. If you need to take more time off work, you may be able to use annual leave or long service leave, or apply for leave without pay (if your employer allows this). For more information, visit Fair Work Ombudsman.
You may have the right to ask your employer to change your work arrangements to help you manage your work and caring responsibilities. The request must be made in writing. Employers can only refuse to provide these arrangements on reasonable business grounds. Examples of possible flexible working arrangements include:
- allowing you to work from home some or all of your working hours
- changing your start, finish or break times
- allowing you to vary your hours, work part-time or job share.
It is generally unlawful for your employer, or a prospective employer, to discriminate against you because of your caring responsibilities. You have the right to the same opportunities for promotion, transfer or training, and the same benefits as other employees, despite your caring responsibilities.
If you feel you have been discriminated against or treated unfairly because of your caring responsibilities, you may have the right to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Fair Work Commission, or the human rights, equal opportunity or anti-discrimination agency in your state or territory. See Workplace issues for more information on making a complaint about discrimination in the workplace.
Prof Sarah Lewis, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, NSW; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Danielle Curnoe, Consumer; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Gastro-Intestinal Cancers, Cancer Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Hall & Wilcox (law firm); Johanna Jordaan, Consumer; Dr Deme Karikios, Medical Oncologist, Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre, Nepean Hospital, NSW; Melissa Lawrie, Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse, Cancer Services, Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Jacqueline Lesage, Consumer Reviewer, Cancer Voices NSW; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Louise Pellerade, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Andrew Potter, Consumer; Siân Slade, PhD Candidate, Nossal Institute for Global Health and Non-Executive Director (health, disability sectors), VIC; Paula Watt, Clinical Psychologist, WOMEN Centre, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.