Leave options for isolated employees, and what businesses need to know

Leave options for isolated employees, and what businesses need to know

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that Omicron has well and truly swept through the country in recent weeks.

With many employees either forced to isolate themselves at home for testing positive to Covid-19 or being a close contact, it’s placed businesses under enormous pressure to operate effectively.

This has also resulted in many employees seeking to access their accrued personal/sick leave entitlements for the period of their isolation.

Can employees access their accrued personal leave entitlements while isolating?

All full-time and part-time employees accrue paid personal / carer’s leave, which includes both personal (sick) leave and carer’s leave.

It’s important to highlight that personal (sick leave) is only available if your employee is unfit for work due to personal illness or injury. This means, if your employee tests positive to Covid-19, they are entitled to access their accrued sick leave entitlements, even when they have no symptoms.

Before providing payment for this personal leave, you are entitled to request reasonable evidence that the employee has tested positive – e.g. an image of the test result.

What about if my employee tested positive during annual leave?

The employee can request to convert the absence to personal leave.

When is carer’s leave available?

Carer’s leave is available to an employee so they can provide care or support to a member of their immediate family or household who needs care or support because that person is ill or injured or due to an unexpected emergency affecting the member (such as testing positive to Covid-19).

Can employees access their accrued annual leave entitlements?

Put simply, if your employee cannot attend work simply because they need to isolate due to being a close contact, strictly speaking, they are not entitled to paid personal leave. This is because the employee is not ill or injured (so would otherwise be fit for work) and is not absent from work to provide care or support to a member of their immediate family or household.

In the instance where your employee has exhausted or is not eligible to access accrued personal leave entitlements for their isolation period, that employee can request access to any accrued annual leave entitlements they may have.

As a general rule, you cannot unreasonably refuse such a request.

It’s also important to highlight that you cannot unilaterally decide to treat any absence from work by an employee who is isolated as annual leave. It is the decision of the employee whether they wish to access their annual leave and should complete a leave form to that effect.

What happens if a person has no entitlements to use?

If your employee is required to isolate, cannot earn income as result, and has no accrued leave entitlements or is not eligible to access those entitlements; that employee may be eligible for the Federal Government’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

An employee who is eligible for this payment may be paid up to $750 gross for each 7-day period they must isolate. Further information and claim forms can be found on the Services Australia website.

Akyra’s advice for employers

Let’s face it, the reality is, we’re unfortunately stuck with Covid-19 for quite some time, and case numbers are expected to continue to rise in Australia for some time.

Akyra advises that you should be open and transparent with your employees about their entitlements and/or support when they are forced to isolate themselves.

You can do this by issuing a workplace policy or other type of communication to employees.

By doing so, it will help avoid any potential confusion or disputes if staff do need to isolate.

NEED FURTHER SUPPORT?

Akyra can work with your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to employee entitlements. 

Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.


Disclaimer – Reliance on Content

The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not and is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation. 

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