Carer’s leave was introduced as an employee entitlement in the Australian workplace as part of the Fair Work Act. Under Section 97 of the Act:
An employee may take paid personal/carer's leave if the leave is taken:
(a) because the employee is not fit for work because of a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the employee; or
(b) to provide care or support to a member of the employee's immediate family, or a member of the employee's household, who requires care or support because of:
(i) a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the member; or
(ii) an unexpected emergency affecting the member.
Carer’s leave is considered separate from sick leave and is occasionally misinterpreted by employers, and employees, when considering entitlements.
Because misinterpretation by either party can cause workplace disharmony, I discussed this with Martin Reid, an industrial relations, safety and employment law specialist with Coulter Roache Lawyers. We explored a specific case where an employer’s interpretation of the Act was deemed by the courts as being ‘too narrow’ and hence the decision to terminate employment was seen as unreasonable.
The key takeaway here is for employers and managers to first look at the intent behind any piece of employment legislation rather than taking the wording in any Act too literally. If an any doubt, consult with a qualified employment law specialist.
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