​Compassionate leave: must you attend a funeral?

​Compassionate leave: must you attend a funeral?

By Paul Munro on 30 August 2018 Is an employee entitled to compassionate leave if she doesn't attend the overseas funeral of her brother?

This question was recently sent to our Ask an Expert service.

Q We have an employee whose brother has died overseas. however, because of the expense involved, she has decided not to attend the funeral. She has requested two days of paid compassionate leave.  

The compassionate leave provisions under the National Employment Standards (NES) state that a full-time employee is entitled to two days of paid compassionate leave for a particular permissible occasion.  

The death of her brother is a permissible occasion however the previous applicable award referred to the death ‘in Australia’ of a specified relative. It is also our understanding that compassionate leave is granted to allow the employee to attend her brother's funeral.
  
Does an employee still have an entitlement to paid compassionate leave under the NES when the death occurs outside Australia and the employee does not attend the funeral? 

A The answer is yes – there is still an entitlement to two days of paid compassionate leave.  

The entitlement occurs because the leave is being taken ‘after the death of the member of the employee’s immediate family’ (s105(1)(b) of the Fair Work Act 2009).  

An entitlement to paid compassionate leave is then subject to the employee providing reasonable evidence of her brother’s death, if so requested by the employer. 

An entitlement to paid compassionate leave under the NES is not predicated on an employee’s attendance at the funeral of an immediate family or household member, nor is an entitlement subject to the death of a member of the employee’s immediate family or household occurring in Australia. 

Compassionate leave is legislated for the purpose of allowing an employee to be absent from work as a period of bereavement, not necessarily for attendance at a funeral.

The bottom line: The death of a member of an employee’s immediate family does not need to happen in Australia. It also includes death outside of Australia.
 

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