Dealing with employees and carer’s leave can be tricky. At times it’s a simple situation, “my kid has a cold and can’t go to school, can I take the day off?” and other times things are a lot more personal, complicated, and emotionally laden. It’s important to be aware that, although the legislation is very straightforward in this area, human relationships are a lot more complicated, and as employers it pays to be sensitive in this area.  

What is carer’s leave?

Carer’s leave is part of personal leave—the 10 days annual paid leave owing to all full time or part time employees per year to recover from their own illness or care for a family member who is ill.

The Fair Work Act defines carer’s leave as, “leave taken to provide care or support to a member of the employee’s immediate family, or a member of the employee’s household, who requires care or support because of:

         (i) a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the member; or

         (ii) an unexpected emergency affecting the member.”

Who can an employee claim carer’s leave for?

According the Fair Work Act employees can claim carer’s leave to care for members of their immediate family. This is defined as any of the following:

  • Spouse/De Facto Partner
  • Child
  • Parent or grandparent
  • Grandchild or sibling
  • A spouse or de facto partner’s child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling

Obviously families can be complicated. If an employee asks for carer’s leave to look after someone who doesn’t fit into one of those categories it’s up to you whether you grant the request or not.

If, for instance, an employee asks for time off to care for a partner’s relative, but you know this partner has only been in a relationship with your employee for a month or two, it’s up to you to have a discussion about what’s best, and what’s necessary. Every situation is different. If they have annual leave owing you can suggest they take that instead. Whatever you decide, it’s important to remember that not only are real people’s lives being affected by your decision, but also potentially your business’s reputation. Clear communication is crucial in situations such as this.

Evidence for carer’s leave

As with sick leave, you have a right to request evidence from employees requesting carer’s leave. In many cases they will be able to provide a medical certificate, but if this is not the case you can also ask them to sign a statutory declaration (stat dec) stating the reason for their absence. A blank stat dec form can be downloaded from the Attorney General’s department website. This can be witnessed and signed by a number of different people in the community, such as a pharmacist or a teacher (the list of appropriate witnesses is on the form).

Is carer’s leave likely to be exploited?

As a business owner it’s worth creating a workplace policy around the use of carer’s leave. This helps spell out what’s expected, and gives employees who may need to use such leave regularly (such as parents, or employees with ageing parents) a set of clear guidelines of what’s expected of them.

Flexible working arrangements (such as being able to work from home if an employee’s child is sick) can be very beneficial, and lead to increased productivity, employee satisfaction, less stress, and greater staff retention.

If you haven’t got a carer’s leave policy in your workplace, or have any questions regarding when an employee can take carer’s leave, call us today on 1800 577 515. Our Assurance HR team are always on hand to help.

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