Sick Leave

Know what your employees are entitled to

All employees (including part-time and casual employees) are entitled to 10 days’ sick leave per year if:

  • they have six months’ current continuous employment with the same employer, or
  • they have worked for the employer for six months for:
    • an average of 10 hours per week, and
    • at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month

Frequently asked questions

If an employee has no sick leave left, or is not yet entitled to sick leave, an employer and employee can agree that the employee:

  • use sick leave in advance
  • use some of their annual holidays (if available), or
  • take unpaid leave

You may ask an employee for proof of sickness or injury. Usually proof is a medical certificate from a doctor saying that the employee is sick or injured (or their spouse, partner or dependant) and isn’t able to work. You can’t tell an employee which doctor or practice they have to go to.

If an employee is sick or injured, or cannot attend work because their spouse, partner or dependant is sick or injured, for:

  • less than three days, and if you ask for proof of sickness or injury, you must ask as soon as possible and pay the employee back for the cost of getting the proof, e.g., a visit to the doctor.
  • three or more calendar days in a row, even if this includes rostered days off and you ask for proof, then the employee needs to meet the cost.

Payment for sick leave is only made when it is a day that an employee would otherwise have worked if they were not sick. If it was not an otherwise working day, then the employee would not be entitled to be paid sick leave.

If an employee (or their spouse, partner or dependant) is sick before starting annual leave, they can take the portion of annual leave they’re sick for, as sick leave.

If an employee (or their spouse, partner or dependant) is sick during their annual leave, they can change the days they are sick for to sick leave days rather than annual leave but only if you as the employer agrees.

You can ask the employee to prove the sickness with a medical certificate before allowing them to change their annual leave to sick leave.

Unused sick leave at the end of a 12 month period can be carried over and added to an employees entitlement for the following year.

For example, after 6 months’ employment, an employee gets at least 10 days’ sick leave. If the employee doesn’t use any sick leave during the following 12 months, they will still get another 10 days’ sick leave on their entitlement date.

The maximum amount of sick leave that can be accumulated under the Holidays Act 2003 is 20 days. The employer and employee can agree that sick leave can accumulate to more than 20 days. This is agreed in either an employment agreement or through workplace policies.  

Unused sick leave can’t be cashed-up or be part of any final payment to the employee when they leave, unless this is in the employment agreement.

If you have any questions or would like help understanding sick leave entitlements, contact our Advice Service on 0800 472 472 (1800 128 086 from Australia) or email [email protected].

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