“Under the Fair Work Act, there is no obligation to pay employees when they are off work to attend such events. Most employers would ask their employees to take these days as annual leave. Some might allow staff to take unpaid time off, but that would be up to the employer,” said Gabrielle O’Brien, senior employment relations adviser at Employsure.
However, while some employers may be unenthused at the prospect of additional entitlements for their staff, Ms O’Brien pointed out that such leave is already standard practice in other countries.
She said that in France, for instance, employees are entitled to a minimum of four days paid ‘marriage leave’ when they get married. Over the border in Spain, that entitlement more than triples to 15 days’ paid leave.
“For life events such as weddings, religious ceremonies, school sports days, graduation ceremonies and children’s birthday parties it is up to the discretion of the employer and a sign of goodwill towards the employee whether to grant time off with pay.”
According to Ms O’Brien, employees may be left “grumbling” if they are denied any form of leave for such important social and family occasions – particularly if they have provided lots of advanced notice.
However, she said that as well as keeping employees happy, there can be knock-on benefits to the business of taking a more flexible approach to leave.
“It is good practice to offer flexible working arrangements. Your business is more likely to hold onto employees, see better productivity and job satisfaction, and reduce absenteeism. Your employees can potentially find a better balance between work and their personal lives for key events,” she said.