In the realm of agribusiness, a firm grasp of leave entitlements is crucial for both employers and employees. Understanding your legal obligations as an employer and effectively communicating employee rights and responsibilities is the cornerstone of a harmonious workplace.
In recent years, there have been significant shifts in leave entitlements, accompanied by amendments to the National Employment Standards (NES). Furthermore, as the battle for top talent rages on, many employers are now offering unique types of leave, such as birthday leave, to entice prospective employees.
It’s crucial to ensure that your leave policies are up-to-date and adhere to current legal requirements.
All employees, excluding casual workers, are entitled to paid annual leave. For full-time and part-time employees, this translates to four weeks of annual leave based on their regular work hours. Importantly, any awards, enterprise agreements, or other registered agreements must meet or exceed the NES requirements. It’s advisable to review the relevant modern award, enterprise agreement, or registered agreement for specific clauses concerning annual leave, as there may be additional provisions. For instance, the Pastoral Award (2020) provides for a 17.5 per cent annual leave loading entitlement.
In cases where employees accumulate excessive leave, they can be directed to take their leave. Typically, an annual leave accrual is deemed “excessive” when an employee accrues more than 8 weeks of annual leave or 10 weeks if they are shift workers.
As the year draws to a close, it’s common for employers to mandate leave during shutdown periods. Employers should consult their applicable award or registered agreement for guidance.
Personal leave encompasses time off for personal illness, caring responsibilities, or family emergencies. Full-time employees are entitled to 10 sick days per year, with part-time employees receiving a pro-rata allocation. Unused sick and carer’s leave carries over to the following year.
A recurring question revolves around the notice period for taking personal leave. Employees are required to inform their employer as soon as possible when taking sick leave, even after it has commenced, such as in emergencies involving hospitalisation. Specific requirements for notice and evidence submission may vary depending on the employee’s contract, award or registered agreement. However, these requirements must always be reasonable in the given circumstances.
Changes to Parental Leave
Significant changes have taken place in the realm of parental leave, necessitating a reevaluation of your parental leave policy to ensure compliance.
All employees are eligible for unpaid parental leave after completing at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer. This includes casual employees who have worked on a regular and systematic basis for the same duration and intend to continue this arrangement if not for the birth, expected birth, or adoption of a child.
Effective July 1, 2023, parental leave can commence within 24 months following birth or placement, and flexible parental leave days have been extended to 100 days. Both parents now have access to full parental leave entitlements, irrespective of the leave taken by the other parent, and they can take this leave concurrently.
For more information on changes to Parental Leave, check out our article July 1 Changes You Need to Know for Your Agribusiness.
The Introduction of Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave
A significant development in leave entitlements is the introduction of paid family and domestic violence leave, now incorporated into the NES.
As of June 4, 2023, all employees, including casuals, are entitled to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave annually. To safeguard employee privacy and security, employers are not required to display this leave entitlement, leave taken, or leave balance on pay slips. Instead, employers can categorise it as ‘special leave.’ Employees can access this leave from their first day of employment, and it renews annually on their work anniversary.
Staying abreast of these leave entitlement changes is crucial for agribusinesses to maintain compliance, foster a positive workplace culture, and attract top talent. By comprehending the intricacies of paid annual and personal leave, understanding the evolving landscape of parental leave, and embracing the introduction of paid family and domestic violence leave, your agribusiness can navigate the complex world of leave entitlements with confidence and care.
For more information on paid family and domestic violence leave, check out our article Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave Begins 1 Feb.
For information about leave requirements and policies head to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.