What is Compassionate (Bereavement) Leave

Compassionate (Bereavement) leave differs between the two Australian industrial relations systems. Please refer to the relevant section below that applies to your workplace.

National System

What is Compassionate Leave?
An employee (including a casual employee) is entitled to two days of compassionate leave to spend time with a member of their immediate family or household who has sustained a life-threatening illness or injury. Compassionate leave may also be taken after the death of a member of the employee’s immediate family or household.

Who is included in an employee’s ‘immediate family’?
Under the federal system, the following are members of an employee’s immediate family:
  • A spouse or former spouse, de facto partner or former de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee; and
  • A child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee’s spouse or de facto partner (or former spouse or former de facto partner)
How can compassionate leave be taken?
An employee may take compassionate leave for each occasion as:
  • A single continuous two day period; or
  • Two separate periods of one day each; or
  • Any separate periods to which the employee and his or her employer agree.
How much is the employee paid?
If an employee (other than a casual employee) takes a period of compassionate leave, the employer must pay the employee at the employee’s base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked during the period. This does not include separate entitlements such as incentive-based payments and bonuses, loadings, monetary allowances, overtime or penalty rates.
Casual employees are entitled to unpaid compassionate leave.

Taking compassionate leave
For all periods of compassionate leave, an employee must give his or her employer notice of the taking of such leave. The notice must be given to the employer as soon as practicable (which may be a time after the leave has started).  The employee must also inform their employer of the period, or expected period, of the leave.

Does an employee need to provide any evidence?
An employer is entitled to request evidence that would substantiate the reason for leave. An award or agreement may include terms relating to the kind of evidence that an employee must provide in order to be entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave, unpaid carer’s leave or compassionate leave. For example, an employer may request that the employee provide a medical/death certificate.

What happens if an employee fails to provide notice or evidence?
If the employee fails to either provide notice or, if required, evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person to substantiate the reasons for the leave, the employee would not be entitled to the leave (or the payment for the leave). We recommend that all businesses have a specific policy to indicate the way that notice should be provided (e.g. phone call to manager, no SMS) and the requirement, if any, of the employee to provide evidence requirements.

Does taking compassionate leave decrease an employee’s annual or personal/carers leave entitlement?
No. Compassionate leave is an entirely separate entitlement to any other type of leave. An employer must not decrease an employee’s annual leave, personal/carers leave or long service leave entitlement, or penalise an employee for taking compassionate leave.

Is there a limit to the amount of Compassionate leave an employee can use in a year?
Compassionate leave is not an entitlement that accrues.  Rather it is available to an employee if it is ever required and the provisions such as notice and evidence are met. As such there is no limit to the amount of compassionate leave an employee can access in a year.
Text Box: Note: If an award/agreement applies to your employment, please check any specific requirements in your award about compassionate leave

On each occasion, however the amount of leave is limited to two days.

State System

How much bereavement leave is an employee entitled to?
Under the WA system, full time, part time and casual employees are entitled to up to two days of paid bereavement leave on the death of a member of their family or household.
The following are members of an employee’s immediate family:
  • The employee’s spouse or de facto partner
  • A child, stepchild or grandchild of the employee (including an adult child, stepchild or grandchild)
  • A parent, step-parent or grandparent of the employee
  • A sibling of the employee
  • Any other person who, at or immediately before the relevant time lived with the employee as a member of the employee’s household. 
    Award-free employees who are paid solely by commission or piece rate are not entitled to paid bereavement leave.
Notice and evidence required for bereavement leave
An employer has the right to reasonably request proof of the death and the relationship the employee had with the deceased person prior to granting bereavement leave.

Is there a restriction on the amount of bereavement leave an employee can have?
No. Bereavement leave can be taken on the occasion of the death of a member of their family or household. 

Can an employee be refused bereavement leave?
In most circumstances, whereby an employee satisfies the criteria for bereavement leave (as above) then the employer is unlikely to refuse their request.

Can an employee take more than two days off?
With approval as required, other forms of paid leave may be taken (e.g. annual leave or sick leave) or taking unpaid leave if more time is required.

Does bereavement leave accrue or is paid out on termination?
Bereavement leave will not accrue year to year or get paid out when an employee terminates their employment as it is an entitlement given only at the time of the death of a family or household member.
Text Box: Note: If a WA award/agreement applies to your employment, please check any specific requirements in your award about bereavement leave

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This document does not constitute human resource or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should contact the HR Help Desk or seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content. © Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd 2017