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Compassionate Leave – What Is It and When Does It Apply?

Compassionate leave (sometimes referred to as ‘bereavement leave’), is a leave entitlement provided by the Fair Work Act 2009. Compassionate leave applies to all employees, including award/agreement free employees. Casual employees are entitled to unpaid compassionate leave.

Is compassionate leave the same as personal leave?


Compassionate leave is a distinctly separate entitlement to personal/carer’s leave.

Both leave types are mutually exclusive and are subject to separate entitlements and eligibility requirements. 

Absence on compassionate leave is not deducted from an employee’s paid personal/carer’s leave entitlement.

What is compassionate leave?

A full-time or part-time employee is entitled to two paid days compassionate leave (including separate periods of up to 2 days) for each permissible occasion:

-  to spend time with a member of their immediate family or household who has contracted a serious illness or the serious injury; or

- following the death of a member of the employee's immediate family or household.

A casual employee will be entitled to two days unpaid compassionate leave for each permissible occasion.

If the reason for an employee taking compassionate leave is due to an immediate family or household member having developed or sustained a serious personal illness or injury, the employee may take their compassionate leave entitlement for that occasion at any time while the illness or injury persists. A separate period of compassionate leave may then be taken by the employee should the same immediate family or household member subsequently pass away.

There is no annual cap to the amount of compassionate leave an employee may take during the period of employment. 

Who is considered “immediate family”?

For the purposes of compassionate leave, ‘Immediate family member’ means:

- a spouse or former spouse,

- de facto partner or former de facto partner,

- parent,

- child,

- sibling,

- grandparent or

- grandchild of the employee,

or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of a spouse or de facto partner of the employee (or former spouse or de facto partner).

The definition of ‘immediate family’ includes step-relations (such as step-parents and step-children) as well as adoptive relations.

An employee will be entitled to take compassionate leave for other relatives (such as cousins, aunts and uncles) if they are a member of the employee's household.

How can compassionate leave be taken?

Compassionate leave can be taken as:

  • a single continuous 2 day period, or
  • 2 separate periods of 1 day each, or
  • any separate periods the employee and the employer agree.

Compassionate leave can be taken any time an employee needs it.

An employee is required to provide their employer with notice of the requirement to take compassionate leave as soon as they can. It is important to note that this may be after the leave has started.

The employee may be requested to provide evidence to support the requirement to take compassionate leave (such as a funeral notice or statutory declaration). The request for evidence from the employer has to be reasonable.

How is Compassionate Leave Paid?
The Fair Work Act 2009 provides that an employee is to be paid at the base rate of pay for the ordinary hours of work during a period of compassionate leave.

If you require assistance with interpreting or applying leave entitlements, or if you require HR Advice on any matter, please contact the team at HR Advice Online on 1300 720 004.

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such

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