Compassionate and Bereavement Leave in Australia: Rights & Entitlements

Written by

Raja Abbas

Bereavement (Compassionate) Leave

Have you experiences the death of a loved one and want to know your rights and entitlements in relation to the time you can take off work? We’re here to help you. Navigating what you are entitled to can be difficult. This article will explain what bereavement leave is, how many days you are entitled to, and what classifies as an experience that allows you to claim bereavement leave.

What is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave or ‘compassionate leave’ refers to paid time off of employees so that they can cope with grief or loss due to an immediate family member passing away.

Reasons employees may claim bereavement leave include:

  • When an employee’s immediate family member or household member dies/contracts a life threatening illness or injury.
  • When an employee has to attend or plan a funeral.
  • The employee or partner of the employee experiences a miscarriage.

How Long is Bereavement Leave in Australia?.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 employees are entitled to 2 days of bereavement (compassionate) leave when a member of their immediate family or household member dies. This also includes if the employee or employee’s partner has a miscarriage. 

Some businesses can and do offer more days. Offering at least two days or bereavement is compulsory. 
It is important for businesses to have a compassionate leave policy which provides clarity to employees regarding their entitlements available. Lawpath offers documents and templates, including a template for Compassionate Leave Policies which are required from businesses.

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How is Bereavement Leave Paid?

Bereavement leave is paid for both part-time and full time employees. It is paid at the base pay rate for ordinary hours they would have worked during their time off when using their bereavement leave. Entitlements such as penalty rates or overtime are not included. Casual employees are entitled to two days of unpaid bereavement leave. Employees need to request for permission prior to taking annual leave. If you are an employer and want a formal method for your employees to claim annual leave, we have a template of an Annual Leave Application Form

What Happens in an Employee Doesn’t Have Enough Bereavement Leave? 

There is no limitation on the amount of times an employee can claim bereavement leave in a year. There is however, a 2 day limit on the amount of days an employee can take off when claiming bereavement leave. If you use up your two days, we recommend speaking to your employer about options such as using your mental health leave.

Does My Bereavement Leave Accumulate?

No. Bereavement leave does not accumulate and will not roll into the next year if you do not claim bereavement leave on year. Bereavement leave is circumstantial and does not operate the way annual leave does. You can only claim bereavement leave per occasion.

Do I Have to Show Proof of Death & Can an Employer Dispute or Decline Bereavement Leave? 

Employers will be discretionary in asking for proof of events from an employee. Employers do have the right to decline your bereavement leave if you cannot satisfy the requirements of compassionate leave. Employers must be considerate and contextualise the event in which the employee is claiming for bereavement leave. Evidence employees may provide to their employers include death certificates, medical documents, funeral notices or statutory declarations

FAQs

Can Days of Bereavement Leave be Taken Separately?

Employees may use their two days of bereavement leave on separate days or together. Bereavement leave can be taken as 2 single day periods or on 2 separate days. Employers and employees can discuss the possibility of structuring bereavement leave differently. 

Can Bereavement Leave be Extended?

If employees require more than 2 days off, they can talk to their employer about potential routes they may take to take more time off. Often, this includes the employee taking annual leave or using their mental health days off.  

Are Casual Workers Eligible for Bereavement Leave?

Casual employees are eligible for a minimum of two days of bereavement leave. However, casual employees are not paid for their bereavement leave they take.  

Can I Claim Bereavement Leave on a Friend?

Whilst bereavement leave primarily applies to immediate family or household members, companies will often grant compassionate leave for individuals who have experienced the loss of close friends, extended family members and potentially pets. Employees are allowed to claim bereavement leave in relation to an individual’s death that has occurred overseas. 

Conclusion

Overall, employees are entitled to 2 days of bereavement leave when undergoing grief of a family member, immediate household member, or experiences a miscarriage. Businesses will often contextualise the experience the employee is claiming to use their bereavement leave, but are entitled to ask employees for proof such as a death certificate or funeral notice. If you require more than two days of bereavement leave, we recommend speaking to your employer about different routes you may take in navigating your grief.

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