Leave entitlements

There are several types of leave options available to help you balance work and treatment. The National Employment Standards (NES) outline the rules for several types of paid and unpaid leave, which apply under most awards or enterprise agreements in Australia.

Entitlements offered under awards or agreements may be different from those provided by the NES but can’t be less. You should check the terms of your agreement.

Leave options include:

Personal/carer’s leave

  • Can be taken when you are unwell or injured, or if you need to care for an immediate family or household member. It used to be called sick leave.
  • Permanent full-time employees receive a minimum of 10 days of paid personal leave each year.
  • Part-time employees receive a pro‑rata (proportional) amount of personal days based on the number of hours they work.
  • Paid personal leave is an entitlement for permanent employees only. Casual staff may be able to take unpaid leave.
  • This type of leave is paid at the employee’s base rate of pay.
  • An employer can ask you to provide evidence that you need to take personal leave (e.g. a medical certificate).
  • Unused leave days carry over from year to year (accumulate or accrue).
  • Employees can take as much leave as they have accumulated.

Annual leave

  • Also known as holiday pay.
  • Permanent employees receive a minimum of four weeks of paid annual leave for each year of service with their employer. Part-time staff are paid on a pro-rata (proportional) basis. Some employees, such as shiftworkers, are entitled to five weeks of paid annual leave.
  • Annual leave is paid at the employee’s base rate of pay or at an increased rate (leave loading).
  • Unused annual leave accumulates over time. Your employer can direct to use annual leave.
  • Annual leave continues to accrue when an employee takes a period of paid leave. Leave doesn’t accumulate during periods of unpaid leave.
  • An employee must apply for annual leave before taking it.
  • An employer must approve annual leave unless the request is unreasonable.

Long service leave

  • A period of paid leave after you’ve worked continuously for the same employer for an extended period of time. This leave may apply after 7–15 years.
  • Generally, long service leave is two months of paid leave after 10 years of service, and one month of paid leave for each additional five years of service.
  • Conditions may vary depending on which state or territory you live in.
  • If you have worked at least five years with your employer and you resign due to illness, you may be entitled to a pro-rata long service leave payment.
  • Long service leave is paid at the employee’s ordinary rate of pay. In some cases you may be able to take a longer period of leave at half-pay.
  • Unused long service leave is usually paid out at the end of employment.
  • Periods of unpaid leave do not count towards continuous service for the accrual of long service leave.

Unpaid leave

  • If you have used your paid personal leave or if you are a casual employee, your employer might grant you leave from work without pay. This is not an entitlement – it is up to your employer to allow it.
  • You may have to use your annual leave before your employer allows you to take leave without pay.
  • Annual leave and personal leave do not usually accumulate when you are on unpaid leave.
  • All employees are entitled to two days of unpaid carer’s leave.

Managing your leave

  • If you are a new employee, ask your manager or human resources department if there is a waiting (qualifying) period for paid personal leave.
  • Check with your employer if you can cash out your annual leave and any conditions that apply. This is only possible if your award or agreement says that cashing out is allowable.
  • Give as much notice as possible before taking leave.
  • Combine personal leave with annual leave and long service leave, if necessary.
  • If you don’t have enough paid leave, ask your manager if you can take unpaid time off.
  • Know your rights. It is generally against the law to dismiss someone for taking leave for illness.
  • If you believe your employer isn’t giving you the correct amount of personal or annual leave, check your entitlements. Contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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