By Tiarne Mitchell 

On top of running a business, employers must keep up with the many different leave types their employees are entitled to, so you may be forgiven for not knowing each type inside and out. A common question our workplace relations experts get asked via our clients via the Telephone Advisory Service is: what leave can be taken when an employee needs to take time off due to a family member being ill or passing away? In short, the answer is compassionate leave. Here I explain this leave entitlement.     

1. What is compassionate leave? 

Compassionate leave is separate from other leave entitlements, such as personal/carer’s leave and annual leave. Compassionate leave doesn’t come out of an employee’s annual leave, or personal/carer’s leave entitlement. There is no limit on how much compassionate leave can be taken in a year, rather it is dependent on the circumstances. 

2. When can compassionate leave be used? 

An employee can take up to two days of compassionate leave for each occasion when a member of their immediate family or a member of their household either contracts or develops a life-threatening illness or injury or dies.  

Compassionate leave is paid at the base rate of pay for those employees engaged on a full-time or part-time basis. Casual employees are not entitled to paid compassionate leave however, they may take unpaid compassionate leave in the circumstances outlined above.  

3. What does immediate family mean? 

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) defines the immediate family of an employee as including: 

  1. a spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling of the employee; or 
  1. a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of a spouse or de facto partner of the employee. 

This means that if the affected family member does not fall within the above definition, the employee is not technically entitled to take compassionate leave, however, employers may exercise discretion. 

4. How does compassionate leave work? –  notice and evidence requirements 

An employee must tell their employer if they intend to take compassionate leave, and this should occur as soon as possible. The employee should inform the employer of the reason for taking the leave and provide details of how long they intend to be absent from work. 

Some businesses also require evidence from the employee to support their reasons for taking leave. The obligation is on the employer to request evidence if it’s required. 

Employers need to have a comprehensive leave policy in place that outlines what you expect someone to do when they intend to take a period of leave, and what evidence if any, you require employees to provide. 

For more information on leave entitlements and what this means for your business, HR Assured clients should contact our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service. 

If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today to arrange a confidential, no-obligation chat. 

Tiarne Mitchell is a qualified Workplace Relations Consultant at FCB Group (our parent company) and HR Assured. She regularly provides advice to our clients on a wide range of employment issues and management of complex workplace matters.