Aging parents and personal leave

With the Australian population aging at a never before experienced rate – a question many of your staff may be asking is ‘does personal leave cover looking after aging parents?’

The facts

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 census found that increased life expectancy paired with low fertility has moved Australia’s median age from 34 to 37 over the last two decades. From 1996 to 2016 Australia also saw an increase in the percentage of +65s rise from 12 per cent in 1996 to 15.3 per cent in 2016, with the population of under 15s reducing significantly in the same time frame.

Notably, the most significant case of age growth experienced in Australia was the over 85s, with a 141.3 per cent increase from 1996 to 2016 which is set to continue growing as life expectancy in Australia increases.

So, what does it mean?

WCA Solutions Principal Heather Warner said the aging population has a range of implications for Australia.

“Firstly, we will see a continued need for well managed health and aged care, as well as ongoing support for aging Australians from the government, and support from employers to allow employees to take time off to care for family members,” she said.

“The aging population will also create a dent in the size of the working-age population (15-64), meaning we may see a significant rise in the necessity of skilled labour and trade skills for young Australians. As for our 85+ year old Australians, this will put stress on the health care system and require skilled health care providers and aged carers as this population continues to grow exponentially.”

What if I want to care for my parents myself?

For many, the overwhelmed health and aged care systems may not suit their situation and your staff may need to care for aging parents themselves. But there the question lies, what rights do your staff have in this area? In Australia there are a range of options your employees can pursue to ensure they can continue working while caring for aging loved ones.

“Personal/carers leave and compassionate leave forms part of the National Employment Standards (NES) and every working Australian is entitled to this regardless of their position,” Heather explains.

“The NES has established minimum entitlements permanent employees can receive, which include paid personal or carers leave, unpaid carers leave and paid or unpaid compassionate leave.”

Full-time and part-time employed individuals are entitled a minimum of 10 days personal/carers leave per year, with time owing accumulating progressively throughout the year based on number of hours worked. An employee can also take unpaid carers leave for a single continuous period of up to two days, or any separate periods to which the employee and his or her employer agrees.

All employees, even casuals, are rightfully entitled to two days of compassionate leave to spend time with a member of their immediate family or household member who has sustained a life-threatening illness, injury, or death.

“It is also worth remembering staff do have the option of flexible work hours, which can be negotiated with their employer,” Heather said.

“If someone has worked for the same employer for more than 12 months, they have the right to request flexible work arrangements including part-time work, flexi-time, job sharing, working from home or staggered hours.”

For more information or advice on this topic contact WCA Solutions on 08 9383 3293 or at