Long periods of sick leave

An employee can take as much paid sick leave as they’ve accumulated if they aren't fit for work because they’re sick or injured.

Protection from dismissal while on sick leave

Employees who are away from work temporarily because they're sick or injured may be protected from being dismissed.

To be protected from dismissal during a temporary absence from work:

  • the total time away due to illness or injury must be less than 3 consecutive months, or a total of less than 3 months over a 12 month period
  • employees can be taking paid, unpaid or a combination of paid and unpaid sick leave during their absence
  • employees need to provide evidence of their illness or injury.

When an employee is away for longer than 3 months

An employee is no longer protected from being dismissed (even if they provide evidence) if:

  • the total length of their absence due to illness or injury is more than 3 consecutive months, or a total of more than 3 months over a 12 month period
  • over that period they’ve only taken unpaid leave, or they’ve taken a combination of paid and unpaid leave.

Employees who take a period of sick leave that is paid the whole time are protected from dismissal regardless of how long they're on leave.

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
  • making a general protections claim if the reason for the dismissal is another protected reason, or
  • making a claim under a state or federal anti-discrimination law.

Source reference:

Tools and resources

Related information

Have a workplace problem?

Problems can happen in any workplace. If you have a workplace problem, we have tools and information to help you resolve it.

Check out our Fixing a workplace problem section for practical information about:

  • working out if there is a problem
  • speaking with your employer or employee about fixing the problem
  • getting help from us if you can't fix the problem.

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