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Know Your Rights: Sick Leave

Feeling terrible? Turned into a snot monster - or maybe your tonsils are so inflamed that you can hardly swallow? Don't even try to drag your sick self in to work. Times like this is why we have sick leave as one of our basic workplace rights. 

What is “sick leave”?

Sick leave is one of your basic workplace rights under the National Employment Standards.  

There’s two types of sick leave: paid sick leave and unpaid sick leave. No matter which type of sick leave you’re taking, you must notify your employer as soon as possible that you are unable to work.

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What's the difference between paid sick leave and unpaid sick leave? 

Part-time and full-time workers are entitled to access both paid and unpaid sick leave. Full time workers get 10 days of paid sick leave per year. Part time workers get access to paid sick leave on a pro-rata basis – so if you work only half the number of hours of a full time workers (a 0.5. position), you’ll only be eligible for 5 days paid sick leave.

Your employer can ask you to produce a medical certificate from your doctor or a statutory declaration stating that you were unfit to work in order for you to access paid sick leave.

If you are a casual worker, you are only able to access unpaid sick leave. Part-time and full-time workers are also able to access unpaid sick leave if they have used up their paid sick leave entitlement.

My employer wants to come to the doctor with me/contact my doctor to confirm that I was sick/visit a doctor of my employers’ choosing. Can they do that?

No. Your employer can’t stop you from seeing your preferred doctor. Fair Work Australia has also indicated that they do not consider it “reasonable” for your employer to attend a medical appoint with a worker unless the worker has requested it, or for your employer to contact your doctor for further information.

Can my employer make me come in to work when I’m sick? Can my employer make me find my own replacement?

Nope. If you’re too sick to work, you’re too sick to work – that includes coming in to work or having to find another staff member to cover your shift.

Can my employer fire me for taking sick leave?

Your employer cannot fire you for taking sick leave in relation to a temporary illness.

Got another question about sick leave that we haven’t covered here? Give the Young Workers Centre a call on 1800 714 754.

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