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When does compassionate leave apply?

Hi Bare Bones Consulting, one of my employees is seeking to take time off as her partner is in intensive care with COVID. When does compassionate leave apply?

Hi there and I’m sorry to read about your team member’s situation. Let’s get right to a reply so you can help her out in this difficult time. 

Personal/carer’s leave, compassionate leave and family and domestic violence leave form part of the National Employment Standards (NES) in the Fair Work Act 2009. The NES apply to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system.

These forms of leave are designed to help an employee deal with things like personal illness or injury, caring responsibilities, family emergencies, family and domestic violence, and the death or life-threatening illness or injury of close family members.

Your enquiry states the employee’s partner is in intensive care. I’ll assume from this that their condition is serious so compassionate leave may be one option for her.

An employee (including a casual employee) is entitled to 2 days of compassionate leave to spend time with a member of their immediate family or household who suffers a life-threatening illness or injury. An employee is also entitled to take this leave:

  • after the death of a member of the employee’s immediate family or household
  • if a child who would have been part of the employee’s immediate family or household, is stillborn, or
  • if an employee, or the employee’s current spouse or de facto partner, has a miscarriage.

An employee may take compassionate leave for each occasion as:

  • a single continuous 2-day period or
  • 2 separate periods of one day each or
  • any separate periods to which the employee and their employer agree.

If an employee (other than a casual employee) takes a period of compassionate leave, the employer must pay the employee at the employee’s base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked during the period.

Casual employees are not entitled to any paid personal/carer’s leave or compassionate leave. Casual employees do have the entitlement to unpaid carer’s leave and compassionate leave.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s “Leave” page contains detailed information on the various types of leave available to employees. 

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.