Understanding Sick Leave: A Comprehensive Guide for Employers and HR Professionals

If you’re responsible for managing employees, you must know about sick leave. This guide will walk you through the essentials of sick leave, its benefits, and how to handle it effectively within your organization.

What is Sick Leave?

Sick leave allows employees to take time off work when they feel unwell or injured. It’s essential for maintaining a healthy workforce and ensuring that employees can recover fully before returning to work. Sick leave certificates are legal documents provided by healthcare professionals like doctors, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners to confirm the need for leave.

Sick Leave Certificates Explained

A sick leave certificate typically includes the healthcare provider’s details, the recommended duration for the employee’s absence, and the examination date. This documentation is crucial for both the employee and the employer to ensure proper leave management.

National Employment Standards (NES)

In Australia, sick leave is part of the National Employment Standards (NES), which sets minimum employment standards for all workers under the Fair Work system. Governed by the Fair Work Act 2009, the NES outlines rules for various types of leave, including annual, personal/carer’s, and parental leave.

How to Apply for a Sick Leave Certificate

Knowing how to obtain and provide a sick leave certificate is critical for employees who need to take sick leave. Employers can request evidence demonstrating that the leave was due to an illness or injury that prevented the employee from working.

Online Sick Leave Certificates

Online sick leave certificates from healthcare providers are commonly accepted in many workplaces. This convenient service helps employees meet standard requirements and avoid the risk of having their leave rejected.

Sick Leave Accumulation

Employees with unused sick leave can carry it over to the following year. According to the NES, full-time employees are entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave annually, while part-time employees receive a pro-rata amount.

Does Unused Sick Leave Expire?

Unused sick leave accrues over the years and does not expire. This accumulation starts on the first day of work and is based on regular working hours. Sick leave continues to accrue during paid leave, community service leave, and long service leave but does not accrue during unpaid leave periods.

Payment for Sick Leave

Employees are paid at their base pay rate for each hour of sick leave taken. This compensation excludes overtime, bonuses, loadings, allowances, and penalty rates.

Understanding Base Pay Rate

The base pay rate is the standard hourly wage an employee earns, not including additional payments like incentives or bonuses. For more detailed information, refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Long Periods of Sick Leave

Sometimes, employees may be unable to work for extended periods due to illness or injury. They are protected from dismissal under certain conditions if they can provide evidence of their condition.

Protection Against Dismissal

Employees are protected if they have been away for less than three consecutive months or less than three months over the past 12 months and are still using their paid sick leave. If their absence exceeds these limits and they have exhausted all paid sick leave, they lose this protection.

Why You Should Utilize Your Paid Sick Leave

Using paid sick leave is crucial for recovery, productivity, and maintaining a healthy work environment. It ensures that employees rest and recover quickly, return to work energized, and prevent the spread of illness to colleagues.

The Benefits of Taking Sick Leave

  • Better Recovery: Staying home allows for quicker recovery and reduces the risk of prolonged illness.
  • Increased Productivity: Fully recovered employees are more energized and productive.
  • Healthier Workplace: Taking sick leave prevents the spread of illness, promoting a healthier work environment for everyone.
  • Work-Life Balance: Utilizing sick leave helps maintain a better balance between personal health and professional responsibilities.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sick Leave

What Type of Evidence is Required for Sick Leave?

Employers may request evidence such as a medical certificate to confirm the need for sick leave. This requirement applies even for short absences of one day or less.

Can Sick Leave Be Used for Medical Appointments or Elective Surgeries?

Yes, sick leave can be used for medical appointments and elective surgeries if they prevent the employee from working.

When Should Employees Notify Their Employer About Taking Sick Leave?

Employees should notify their employer as soon as possible, ideally before the start of their shift or within the first few hours of absence.

Is It Legal to Take Sick Leave from a Telehealth Physician?

Yes, sick leave certificates from telehealth physicians are valid and commonly accepted by employers.

How Many Days of Sick Leave Are Employees Entitled To?

Full-time employees are generally entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave annually, while part-time employees receive a pro-rata amount.

Can an Employer Refuse a Sick Certificate as Evidence for Taking Sick Leave?

Employers can only refuse a sick certificate if they have reasonable grounds to believe it is not genuine. However, this is rare, and most certificates are accepted.

How Can I Get a Sick Certificate from OnCare Health?

OnCare Health offers online sick leave certificates for $12.99, providing a convenient and reliable way to secure necessary documentation.

Is It Possible to Get a Backdated Sick Certificate?

Yes, some healthcare providers may issue backdated sick certificates if they can reasonably confirm that the illness or injury began earlier than the consultation date.

Can You Take Multiple Days of Sick Leave at Once?

Yes, employees can take multiple days of sick leave if needed, provided they have sufficient leave accrued and can provide appropriate evidence.

Is My Data Secure If I Use OnCare Health for My Sick Leave?

Yes, OnCare Health ensures that all personal data is securely handled and protected according to strict privacy policies.

Why Are the AMA/PGoA/PSA Guidelines Important for Sick Leave Certificates?

These guidelines ensure that sick leave certificates are issued correctly and ethically, maintaining the integrity of the process and protecting both employees and employers.


Understanding and effectively managing sick leave is crucial for creating a healthy, productive workplace. By following best practices and ensuring that employees utilize their paid sick leave, employers can foster a supportive environment that prioritizes well-being and efficiency.

For more information on sick leave policies and to secure your sick leave certificate online, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website or contact OnCare Health today.

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