Everything You Need to Know About Personal Leave and Annual Leave
Updated 21 May 2023
A leave of absence is the right that employers grant to their employees to be away from work for a specified period. As an employee, you might request a leave of absence for family, personal or health problems. In this article, we take a look at two types of leave of absence (personal leave and annual leave), discuss how to request a leave of absence and answer frequently asked questions regarding it.
What is personal leave?
Personal leave is an entitlement in Australian employment law. You are entitled to a personal leave of absence irrespective of any employment contract. This kind of leave is categorised under carer/personal leave entitlement. It includes paid or unpaid compassionate leave, unpaid carer's leave and paid leave. These leave options are intended to help employees deal with crises, to attend to a family death or recover from an illness. A casual employee may take two days of unpaid compassionate leave per occasion.
A carer's or personal leave typically covers both your carer's leave and sick leave. You may decide to take personal leave if:
You need to provide support or care to a member of your household or an immediate family member due to an emergency, injury or illness.
You are unfit for work due to your personal injury or illness.
A permanent employee who's unable to work due to injury or temporary illness may take advantage of personal leave. To be eligible for personal leave, you need to notify your employer or HR manager. When necessary, you may need to provide evidence to justify the need for personal leave.
Compassionate leave is, in essence, a different type of entitlement to carer's or personal leave. If a member of your household or immediate family has an injury, contracts a life-threatening illness or dies, you can take compassionate leave. While casual employees only have access to unpaid compassionate leave, part-time and full-time employees receive paid compassionate leave.
What is annual leave?
Annual leave refers to paid time off of work that employers grant to their employees. You can use this period to pursue anything you like. Differing numbers of days may be offered to employees depending on the policies of the employer. Employees are expected to give advanced notice when they intend to go on annual leave. The employee may also need to coordinate with the employer to ensure that there is appropriate staffing. It's important that your duties are well taken care of during your absence.
In Australia, annual leave is typically among the ten National Employment Standards (NES) that apply equally to all employees under the national workforce relations system. The NES determines your minimum entitlements to annual leave. This includes pay rates, and when and how an employee can take leave. What happens with your leave in case of a transfer of employment is also covered.
Save for the casuals, all other employees are entitled to four weeks of annual leave each year. This leave, however, accrues over time, beginning on the first day of employment. The accumulation of annual leave continues when an employee goes for a paid, personal or annual leave. However, it doesn't accrue during unpaid leave. If you are a shift worker, you are entitled to a minimum of five weeks of annual leave. If you still have annual leave left upon termination, your employer has to pay it out as though you had taken the leave.
In some agreements and awards, you're allowed to take an annual break in advance. Most of the agreements and awards that allow advanced payments have agreements that must be signed in writing. These agreements make it clear that your employer is free to deduct your leave amount from your final paycheck. If you take advance leave and never accrue it back before the end of your employment, it's gone.
How to ask for personal or annual leave of absence
Here are a few steps to help you ask for a personal or annual leave of absence:
1. Check your company's schedule
Unless it's an emergency, make sure to review your department or company schedule for the days you plan to be absent. Check any important presentations or deadlines that may require someone to step in for you. If it's possible, consider adjusting the timing of your leave before or after those important dates.
2. Give advanced notice
Make sure to notify your employer about your leave request ahead of time. It would be best if you let them know what is transpiring in your life. This way, they can prepare themselves and plan appropriately. A timely request can sustain a positive relationship with your employer.
3. Ask your fellow employees for help
Whether you plan to take a personal or annual leave of absence, make sure to contact your fellow employees in advance. Ask them for help in performing your duties and responsibilities while you are away. Knowing that one of your fellow employees is willing to step in for you can be very helpful when asking your HR manager or employer for the days you want off.
4. Speak to your direct supervisor
Your absence from work may have a huge impact on your company, so you should speak to your immediate supervisor when possible. You may schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your plan for a leave of absence. Be sure to send a follow-up email or submit a letter after a formal meeting to confirm the details of your leave.
5. Submit a formal email or letter
It's acceptable to ask for a personal or annual leave of absence in person, but submitting a formal email or letter to your supervisor can maintain a professional record of your request. Your letter or email must indicate the type of leave you need and how much time you will take based on a specific return date. Ask if there are any steps you need to complete to make your leave official. It's also a good idea to disclose any reasons why you need to take a leave of absence.
6. Express your gratitude
Once you return back to work, thank your coworkers for any duties or responsibilities they performed on your behalf. If they did something significant, such as boosting your sales, consider giving them a cup of coffee, a thank-you card or a small gift.
Frequently asked questions about personal and annual leave
Here are some questions and answers to help you gain a better understanding of personal and annual leave:
What are some invalid reasons for taking leave?
A few invalid reasons for taking personal or annual leave include the following:
Feeling tired: Not feeling well-rested can be uncomfortable, as it decreases your level of motivation. However, this should not be a reason that you provide for taking leave. Doing so can make you appear unreliable and irresponsible.
Poor planning: Your employer may forgive a one-time mistake like missing a meeting or arriving late because you ran out of gas. However, if you constantly oversleep or forget your scheduled shift, your employer may think you are unreliable, unorganised or simply unmotivated.
Job dissatisfaction: Using dissatisfaction as your reason for taking leave may affect your relationship with your employer and can lead to disciplinary actions.
What are some valid reasons for taking leave?
As an employee, there are those personal moments that you may need to celebrate with time off. For instance, you might request leave for a honeymoon abroad, further your studies or take a short sabbatical. Sometimes, a crisis is what propels you into your leave. If such situations do not have legal protection, you should check with your employer what policies they have to help you deal with your situation.
What happens if an employee moves from one type of leave to another?
When an employee moves from one type of leave to another, they may have to acquire a second leave letter to continue their absence. They should, however, acquaint themselves with policies regarding each leave they take, which includes those regarding remunerations.
What payments are you entitled to when you go on annual leave?
When you go on annual leave, you are often paid your base rate of pay for the typical hours you would have worked during a leave period. Your base rate is exclusive of penalty rates, overtime, allowances, loadings and bonuses.
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