What is personal leave?

Personal leave is paid leave taken for personal and compassionate reasons. It includes:

  • sick leave
  • carer's leave
  • compassionate leave

What does personal leave cover?

Employees can take personal leave if they:

  • are sick or injured
  • need to care for someone in their immediate family or household
  • have an unexpected emergency

An employee's immediate family member includes their spouse or de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling.

Read more about personal leave on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

How much personal leave do staff get?

Personal leave can be paid or unpaid. Paid and unpaid personal leave is covered under the National Employment Standards (NES), which sets the minimum conditions for most employees in Australia.

Under the NES, full-time and part-time employees are entitled to at least 10 days of paid personal leave each year. For part-timers, this is accrued pro rata.

Personal leave accrues progressively, which means that employees start earning leave on their first day and accumulate it based on time worked.

Casual employees don't get paid personal leave under the NES. But all employees including casuals are entitled to 2 days at a time of unpaid leave for personal emergencies or to care for someone in their family or household who is sick. For full-time and part-time staff, their 2 days of unpaid leave is in addition to their paid leave entitlements.

These entitlements might be different if the employee is covered by an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract that allows for more leave.

Pay requirements for personal leave

When an employee takes paid personal or carer's leave, they must at least be paid their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked during the period. But their award or employment contract can require additional entitlements, including:

  • loadings
  • monetary allowances
  • overtime or penalty rates
  • any other separately identifiable amounts

Required notice for personal leave

Your employee must give you notice as soon as practicable. Depending on the situation, this might be after the leave has started.

They must also tell you how long they expect the period of leave to last.

Evidence for personal leave

You can ask an employee for a medical certificate for each period of personal or carer's leave.

Depending on whether the employee is taking sick or carer's leave, the certificate must state that:

  • the employee was, is or will be unfit for work because of personal illness or injury, or
  • the person the employee cared for has had or will have a personal illness or injury

The medical certificate doesn't have to give exact details about the injury or illness – asking for this information might breach the employee's privacy.

If it's not practical to provide a medical certificate, the employee can supply a statutory declaration instead. The NES only requires evidence 'that would satisfy a reasonable person'.

Creating a personal leave policy

Make sure your leave policies are clear and correct and cover all forms of personal leave, including sick, carer's and compassionate leave.

Ensure your staff are aware of your policies by including them in your HR policies and procedures manual.

Note that the standards referred to in our HR manual template are taken from the Fair Work Act 2009.