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Obscure leave rule many employers may not know

Maze, question mark, puzzle

A little-known workplace relations rule may have seen many businesses shelling out for employee sick leave when they aren’t required to.

My Business often receives comments from exasperated business owners and employers struggling to make sense of our overly complex industrial relations system. Among this tangled web is a fairly obscure rule governing the use of employee sick leave.

Many people believe that attending medical appointments is a legitimate reason for taking sick leave from work. However, from a legal point of view, that is not the case.

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“Medical appointments and elective surgeries that are pre-arranged can only be covered by sick leave if an employee is not able to work because of a personal illness or injury. It will depend on each individual circumstance,” the Fair Work Ombudsman website points out.

“An employer can ask for evidence from an employee to confirm that they were unfit for work. This can help decide if an employee should be paid sick leave or be paid a different type of leave or entitlement.”

As such, despite most medical specialists only seeing patients during standard office hours, employees cannot claim sick leave for this purpose. The same goes for elective surgery.

That leaves the ball firmly in the employer’s court. Employees can be required to cover the time off through annual leave, or by using time-in-lieu where relevant.

Alternatively, the employer can opt for a more flexible approach to work hours “as long as the work gets done”.

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

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The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Obscure leave rule many employers may not know
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