Personal leave: what about part-day absences?

Personal leave: what about part-day absences?

By Paul Munro on 5 September 2018 If employees leave work early because they are ill, is the entire day considered an absence on personal leave?

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

Q In the past few months we've had several employees attend work but then go home because they feel ill. Management is not sure whether such an absence should be considered paid personal leave as the employees were not absent for the whole day.

Is it a requirement under the National Employment Standards that an employee must be absent for the entire working day before the absence is considered to be paid personal leave?
A You are permitted to deduct the period of absence from an employee’s balance of personal/carer’s leave. The Fair Work Act (s97) provides the conditions under which paid personal leave may be taken. It does not specify any minimum period of absence before an employee is deemed to be absent on paid personal leave. It simply refers to the period claimed as paid personal leave.

An employee accrues the equivalent of 10 days’ paid personal leave each year, which is based on continuous service and an employee’s ordinary hours of work.

This means personal/carer’s leave can be taken for any period claimed, including a period of less than a day. Consequently, an employee who is ill and unable to perform work is eligible to take personal leave provided an employee has sufficient accrued leave.
A company’s personal/carer’s leave policy may waive paid personal/carer’s leave for a part-day absence by an employee, although this would usually be at the discretion of the employer.  

Reasonable evidence

The question of an employee providing reasonable evidence would probably not be an issue in this instance: it would be quite easy for the employer to verify from work colleagues the condition of the employee before leaving work.  

Annual leave

A similar situation would also apply to annual leave; that is, an employee is not required to take a whole day as paid annual leave. The Fair Work Act (s88) states that paid annual leave may be taken for a period agreed between an employee and an employer.

For example, an employee could take half a day’s leave if agreed to by an employer, with time off deducted from the balance of accrued annual leave. Terms in modern awards do not prescribe a minimum period an employee must take when requesting annual leave.
The bottom line: The National Employment Standards do not require an employee to be absent for a minimum period before being eligible for paid personal leave or paid annual leave.

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