Compassionate leave & you
None of us are immune from sickness, ill-health or ultimately, death. It is all part of the life cycle. I know that it is not the most pleasant topic to discuss but after some recent experiences in my SDA organising role, I believe it is important for my members on the northern Gold Coast and other members to learn more about their entitlements to compassionate or bereavement leave.
In all Enterprise Agreements and Awards, full-time and part-time members are entitled to paid compassionate or bereavement leave. Please note that the duration of this leave varies from Agreement to Agreement. Also, some Agreements cover a wider range of family members and some include those who are in your immediate household.
A stressful time
We all understand that when, for example, a family member’s death is imminent, one of the last things on a person’s mind is to learn about their compassionate leave entitlements. Because of this, I strongly advise that members learn about these entitlements at a less stressful time.
It is important to have an understanding of:
- Which relatives are included in the compassionate leave clause? For example, parents will be covered but does the clause extend to one’s uncle or aunt?
- How many days am I entitled to take off on full pay?
- Am I entitled to take more days off if my mum dies as opposed to my mother-in-law?
- What happens if the funeral is held interstate?
- What happens if the funeral is held in Rockhampton and I live in Pimpama? Am I entitled to take extra time off to travel to the funeral and be paid for the travelling time?
- If my closest friend dies, am I entitled to attend the funeral and still get paid?
- I live in a house which I share with two girlfriends. What happens if one of them has a tragic accident and dies? Am I entitled to paid compassionate leave to grieve? Can I attend the funeral and still be paid?
- My ex-wife has just died. She is the mother of our two children. Can I go to the funeral with my two children and still be paid?
- What happens if a family member is in palliative care? We have been told that my uncle’s passing is very soon. My family has a 24 hour roster as we don’t want him to die alone. Will I be paid as I am ‘rostered’ on the family roster for tomorrow between 12 noon and 9pm?
- Do I need to provide proof to my employer?
I have included the above questions because these are some of the questions I have been asked since I started working for the SDA. It would be fair to say that less than half of my members would be able to answer all these questions whether they worked at, for example, Woolworths, Coles or Aldi.
I acknowledge that the Woolworths and Big W retail Enterprise Agreements are the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to Compassionate Leave. Both Agreements address all of the above questions.
For example, full-time and part-time members can access an additional two days of paid compassionate leave to spend time with a team member’s spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, grandparent, grandchild, or a child, parent, brother or sister, grandparent, grandchild of a spouse of the team member, or a member or the team member’s household, who has a personal illness or sustains a personal injury that poses a serious threat to his or her life. I know that this particular sub- clause has provided members with additional paid support in their time of need and for that, they are very grateful.
Noting that the Woolworths and Big W Agreements are the gold standard, it is equally important to recognise that Enterprise Agreements and Awards are the basic minimums which must apply. With this in mind, my Shop Stewards and I have successfully argued for roster changes to occur so members in other companies can be with their loved ones in their final moments. Of course, we can only do this if we are made aware of this scenario at the actual time. On most occasions, we have been able to talk to the store manager and work out a satisfactory arrangement for the member concerned. If needed, I have escalated the member’s concern and spoken to an area manager or head office.
Finally, I am hopeful that the reader has learned the importance of knowing their rights concerning Compassionate Leave. Please remember that Each Enterprise Agreement has its own intricacies. Therefore, I recommend that members have a chat to their Shop Steward or Delegate and they can provide you with the relevant information. Alternatively, you can access your Enterprise Agreement by logging on to https://www.sda.org.au/resources/enterprise-agreements/ or of course, contact the SDA office and speak to one of our Information Officers.
By Naomi McQuire