Your rights around Personal/Sick Leave

Imagine seeing this text on your work noticeboard or being told this in a team meeting:



Recently the SDA has been made aware of an area manager of a large supermarket rolling out a new policy to staff around sick leave. The policy was of particular concern to the SDA as it put unreasonable expectations on employees around notification requirements and also told staff that if they were sick then they “must attend your shift” until their employer could find a replacement.


The policy was quite frankly, outrageous!


The SDA was pleased, that once we raised this issue with the business, they were quick to resolve it, however the SDA is concerned that similar practices may be tried out or are being used elsewhere by other companies.


We thought it appropriate to remind members of your rights around responsibilities around notifying your employer of you inability to attend shifts due to personal injury/illness or caring responsibilities:


  • You should phone your employer and notify them as early as practicable of the reason and estimated duration of the absence

Some Enterprise Agreements or Modern Awards state procedures in relation to notification of sick leave. You should refer to your Award or Agreement to ensure compliance.

The SDA recommends as a matter of courtesy that you notify your employer at least an hour before to enable the employer to fill the shift but this isn’t always possible and is dependent on the nature of the illness or injury. For example, if you had a car accident on the way to work and cannot attend your shift then you might not be able to phone your employer till after your shift commencement. Similarly, people may be aware that they will be unfit for their shift the day/evening before in some circumstances, if you know then phone as early as you can. Giving your employer as much notice as practicable/possible will assist them in filling your shift or making other arrangements.


  • Reasonable evidence may be required

Enterprise Agreements and Modern Awards may include terms relating to the kind of evidence required, you should check these to ensure compliance. Generally, reasonable evidence includes Doctor’s certificates and Statutory Declarations.

It is not always possible to get in to see your Doctor, or the nature of the illness may not require a consultation with a GP e.g. the common cold or a headache. In these circumstances a statutory declaration witnessed by a Justice of the Peace is sufficient to evidence the reason for your absence. If your illness is more serious or you are concerned then naturally seek medical assistance from a Doctor.


  • When you return to work

Some time ago the SDA assisted in a case where managers were holding ‘return to work meetings’ when sick or injured employees returned from a period of absence. Members stated they felt as if they were being ‘grilled’. This appeared to be an isolated practice, however if this does happen to you the requirement that you provide the ‘reason’ for the absence means that you just need to state that you were unfit for work due to an illness injury which you may or may not want to divulge. Some illnesses or injuries are fine to speak about, for example a virus or a migraine, however some are embarrassing or distressing and if this is the case then you do not have to divulge in-depth personal details to your manager. Once you have notified your manager of the general reason and provided reasonable evidence that should be the end of it.


Should you have any questions about your employer’s notification requirements around personal/sick leave or any other employment matter please contact us so that we can provide advice and assistance on 02 4961 4694 or

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