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.
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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.
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.