Assisting an employee who is battling a serious illness.

Posted on 04 June 2012

Personal/Carers leave is a type of leave an employee can take when they cannot attend work because they are sick, have been injured or need time to care for a sick relative. Full time employees, under the NES, are entitled to 10 days paid personal/carers leave per year. However, how does an employer handle the requirements of an employee who is battling a serious illness such as cancer, which may necessitate them taking more time off than the annual allocation of personal/carers leave allows and what can an employee expect from their employer?

From the employer’s perspective, considering what action can be taken with regards to an employee who will be facing a prolonged period of illness, you must be aware of the obligations covered by anti-discrimination law and must be reasonable to the employee’s needs with regard to their illness or injury. Research in the UK shows that employees whose employers failed to make reasonable adjustments for them during the time of treatment, were up to 15 times more likely to experience significant financial difficulties.

Points to consider by the Employer:

Ensure your employee is comfortable speaking to you about their illness.
Ask them for an outline of their treatment and consequences of that treatment to help you understand the health implications and time requirements involved when they will be away from the work place.

Is the employee comfortable with colleagues knowing about their illness? If not, ask them how they would like you do deal with questions about absences.
How much time off is likely to be required and how will their role be covered during that time?

How will you handle the time off financially for both the business and the employee?
Check their entitlements re: personal/carers leave, annual leave and long service leave.
Can the role be job shared or can the employee work from home prior to or following treatments?

Is there a parking space closer to work they could use or could someone from work assist with transportation if the sick employee has difficulty driving?
Schedule regular meetings with your employee to check on working arrangements and adjust their workload as need be.

Points to consider by the Employee:

Communicate with your manager giving enough details of your illness so that they understand what you will be going through.
Provide information from your doctor or specialist which outlines the treatment plan you will be undertaking.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Check your entitlements including annual leave accrued, personal/carers leave available or long service leave you may be able to use.

Communication is the first important step to establishing a relationship which will assist the employee and the employer.

Should you need further assistance with aspects of employment law relating to the issue above, please contact Dooley and Associates to assist you in knowing your rights and responsibilities. 

Research from:

Fair Work Australia - Cope Incorporated