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Compassionate leave

Last updated August 2023

This chapter explains when your employees are entitled to compassionate leave and your pay obligations.

Entitlements to compassionate leave

All employees are entitled to compassionate leave.

Definition: Compassionate Leave

Compassionate leave is paid leave to which an employee is entitled in the event of the death or serious illness or injury of a member of their immediate family or household.

Your employees’ entitlements may be set out in:

  • the National Employment Standards (NES) in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act);
  • a modern award or enterprise agreement; or
  • an employment contract.

The NES will not apply if a modern award, enterprise agreement or employment contract includes a more generous provision for compassionate leave. If this is the case, the relevant provision will apply in place of the NES.

Caution: You cannot undercut the NES, regardless of what is provided in an applicable modern award, enterprise agreement or employment contract. Contravention of the NES exposes you to a penalty of up to $93,900 for a body corporate or $18,780 for an individual.
Important: The information in this chapter predominantly applies to national system employers. 
Definition: National System Employer

A national system employer is an employer that is:
- a constitutional corporation;
- the Commonwealth;
- a Commonwealth authority;
- a body corporate incorporated in a territory; or
- a person who carries on an activity (whether of a commercial, governmental or other nature) in a territory in Australia.