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Coronavirus and carer's leave: your top three questions answered

Employment lawyer Joe Murphy answers three questions you're likely to encounter.
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Coronavirus and carer

Coronavirus and carer's leave: your top three questions answered

19 March 2020

As the coronavirus crisis escalates, many employees may need to take carer's leave if schools close or family members are sick.

Employment lawyer Joe Murphy answers three questions you're likely to encounter.

Q What if an employee needs to look after their child(ren) due to school closures?

A An employee may take carer’s leave to provide care or support to an immediate family or household member, where the care or support is required because of an unexpected emergency.

At this time, the closure of a school in the current climate will amount to an unexpected emergency.  Where an employee qualifies for carer’s leave, they may access their accrued paid personal/carer’s leave.

An ‘immediate family member’ is:

  • a spouse or former spouse, de facto partner or former de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling;
  • a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee's spouse or de facto partner.

A ‘household member’ is any person who lives with the employee.

The employee should be paid as if they were taking personal (sick) leave, the minimum requirement being payment at base rate of pay for the employee's ordinary hours of work in the period.

Employers may ask for reasonable evidence to justify the absence on carer’s leave. For example, a school announcement about a shutdown.

Q What if an employee needs to look after someone that is ill? Including a child or family member who is ill or requires support due to Coronavirus?

A An employee may take carer’s leave to provide care or support to an immediate family or household member, where the care or support is required because of a personal illness, or personal injury.

Provided the family or household member is suffering from an illness, the employee would be entitled to access their accrued paid personal/carer’s leave.

The rules set out above in respect of who qualifies as a family or household member apply, as do the rules for payment and evidence.

Q What if an employee needs to look after their child(ren) due to school closures but has no personal leave left?

A You have a few options. You may decide to pay the employee as an exercise of discretion. Absent this, the employee could take leave without pay (subject to any leave without pay policy you have) or they could access another form of paid leave such as annual leave or accrued long service leave.
 
Joe Murphy is managing director – National Workplace, at Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors.

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