Long periods of sick leave
Sometimes employees can't work for longer periods of time because of an illness or injury. There are protections for employees when this happens.
On this page:
Employees who are absent from work because they're sick or injured may be protected from being dismissed.
Employees who can provide evidence of their illness or injury are protected from being dismissed because of their absence if they’re:
- away for less than 3 consecutive months or less than 3 months in total over the last 12 months, or
- still using their paid sick leave.
An employee is no longer protected from being dismissed because of their absence (even if they provide evidence) if:
- their absence is more than 3 consecutive months or more than 3 months in total over the last 12 months, and
- they've used all of their paid sick leave.
Employees who use paid sick leave the whole time can’t be dismissed by their employer because of their absence, regardless of how long they're on leave.
Even after an employee has been absent for more than 3 months and used all of their paid sick leave, they may still be protected from dismissal for other reasons. For example, additional protections may apply under state and territory workers compensation and rehabilitation laws.
Employers must still follow the appropriate rules for carrying out a dismissal and employees may challenge the termination of their employment by making:
- an unfair dismissal application if the reason for the dismissal is harsh, unjust or unreasonable
- a general protections claim if the reason for the dismissal is another protected reason
- an unlawful termination claim
- a claim under a state or federal anti-discrimination law.