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Do You Know Your Rights And Obligations When It Comes To Sick Leave?

Do you know your rights and obligations when it comes to sick leave?

It’s that time of year when many workers catch a dreaded cold, or even worse, influenza, and need to take time off to lie on the couch and watch Netflix and recover.

But do you know your rights and obligations when it comes to sick leave?

The law says that an employee can take sick leave when they are ill, or if they are injured, and it can be paid or unpaid.

Full time employees are entitled to 10 paid sick days a year, while part-time employees are entitled to pro rata of 10 days each year, depending on their hours of work.

Workers have an obligation to tell their employer when they are sick according to industrial relations expert Miles Heffernan from Discrimination Claims.

“If you are unwell, you must notify your boss as soon as possible, and also give them an indication of when you are likely to return to work,” he said.

Medical certificates

If you do take sick leave, you may be asked for proof of your illness in the form a medical certificate from a doctor or pharmacist.

Depending on your workplace, you may need to provide a medical certificate even for taking just one day off.

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Does sick leave carry over year to year?

Yes.

Full-time and part-time employees accumulate sick leave as they work during the year.

It starts to build up from the first day of a worker’s employment, and is calculated on the number of hours they work.

The balance at the end of each year carries over to the next year.

When should you stay home from work?

Many workers feel pressure to keep working when they’re sick, because they have run out of paid leave, or they fear a backlog of work when they return, or because they don’t want to let the team down.

General Practitioner Doctor Miriam Brooks told ABC Life there are a number of reasons to stay home when you have a cold or flu.

“One is to rest and recover, in which case people should be guided by their symptoms — fatigue, fever, feeling unwell,” she says. 

Another reason to stay home is to avoid making your co-workers sick.

And doctors warn that if you keep working when you’re sick, it is likely to take you longer to recover.

“It’s just more efficient for everyone to have a proper rest and recover more quickly,” Doctor Brooks said.

“If people force themselves to work when they are really unwell, they may end being sicker for a lot longer.

“It’s just more efficient for everyone to have a proper rest and recover more quickly.”

Doctors recommend always staying home if you have a cold or flu – so you don’t pass it on to your workmates, and it will help you recover more quickly too.

Carer’s leave

An employee can take paid carer’s leave to care for or support a member of their immediate family or household who is sick, injured or has an unexpected emergency.

Sick and carer’s leave comes under the same leave entitlement.

It’s also known as personal / carer’s leave.


If you have been dismissed for taking sick leave, you may be entitled to compensation or reinstatement.

For help and advice, please call our specialist team at Industrial Relations Claims on

1300 853 837

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