Victoria Legal Aid

COVID-19, work and caring for others

Learn about your rights if you are working and need to care for others during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

If you cannot go to work because you need to care for someone affected by COVID-19 coronavirus, there are six things you need to know:

  • you can take time off work to care for family and household members who are sick
  • you can ask for flexible working arrangements to help you care for children at home
  • you may be able to work from home while you are caring for others
  • whether you can work from home or take paid leave depends on your situation
  • you should not be discriminated against because you need to care for someone
  • if you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. See Other support for COVID-19 coronavirus.

Can I take time off work to care for someone sick?

You can take time off work to care for someone in your immediate family or household if they are sick from coronavirus.

If you are a permanent full-time or part-time employee, you can use paid carer’s leave. Carer’s leave means using your personal (sick) leave to care for someone in your immediate family or household who is ill, injured or affected by an unexpected emergency. Permanent employees who work full-time or part-time get a minimum of 10 days' personal leave (sick or carer’s leave) per year. Any part of this leave that you do not use accrues (rolls over) each year.

If you run out of paid carer’s leave, you may be able to access other paid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave.

If you do not have any paid leave, you can take two days of unpaid carer's leave. You employer may also agree to let you to take more unpaid leave.

If you are employed under an enterprise agreement or modern award you might get more leave.

The Fair Work CommissionExternal Link has changed many modern awards to give employees 14 days of unpaid pandemic leave. However, some modern awards have changed again, stopping employees from taking unpaid pandemic leave.

You can visit the Fair Work OmbudsmanExternal Link website to check what your enterprise agreement or modern award says about paid and unpaid leave.

You may have to give your employer notice (tell them in advance) that you need to take carer’s leave. You might also need to prove that you are caring for someone who is sick. For example, you might need to show your employer a medical or carer’s certificate from a medical professional.

If you are caring for a child who must isolate or quarantine, but cannot get paid leave from work, you may be eligible for government payments. For more information, see Victorian government Financial and other support for COVID-19External Link and Services Australia (Centrelink) If you need a paymentExternal Link .

Can I change my hours to care for my children?

Many workers will need to care for children at home if schools or childcare centres are closed.

If you need to care for children, you can request flexible working arrangements, such as changing the times you work.

You can request flexible working arrangements if all of these apply:

  • you have children who are school-age or younger
  • you have been employed for at least 12 months with the same employer
  • you work full-time or part-time, including as a regular casual.

If you ask for flexible working arrangements, your employer can only refuse if they have reasonable business grounds. What is reasonable depends on the type of work you do. This will be different from one workplace to another.

You should ask for flexible working arrangements by writing to your employer. They should write back to you with their reply.

There may be different rules about flexible work arrangements, depending on what it says in your employment contract, enterprise agreement or modern award.

You can visit the Fair Work OmbudsmanExternal Link website to check what your enterprise agreement or modern award says about flexible working arrangements. Another option may be to work from home while caring for children.

If working from home is not possible, you may be able to access paid carer’s leave if you need to take time off work to care for children.

Your employer must not discriminate (treat you unfairly) because you have carer responsibilities. See What if I am treated badly by my employer?

Can I work from home if I need to care for someone?

Depending on the level of care you need to give and the type of work you do, it might be possible to work from home.

For more information, see COVID-19 and working from home.

Can I take time off work to help family and friends?

Some people are supporting extended family members and friends, particularly older people who are isolated.

It is unlikely that you can use paid or unpaid leave to care for someone who is not in your immediate family or household.

You can talk to your employer about this. They might agree to you taking annual leave or unpaid leave to support others.

What are my rights as a casual worker?

Different laws apply to casual jobs. If you work as a casual, you are usually paid a higher hourly rate, but do not get the same rights and entitlements as full-time and part-time employees.

If you are a casual employee and need to care for someone who is sick, you can take two days of unpaid carer’s leave. If you need more leave, talk to your employer about it. It is up to your employer whether they agree to you taking more leave. But, as a casual employee, you can choose whether to accept work from your employer when they offer it to you.

If you are caring for a child who must isolate or quarantine, but cannot get paid leave from work, you may be eligible for government payments. For more information, see Victorian government Financial and other support for COVID-19External Link and Services Australia (Centrelink) If you need a paymentExternal Link .

What if I am treated unfairly by my employer?

Your employer must not discriminate against you (treat you unfairly) because:

  • you are caring for someone with coronavirus
  • you have parenting or carer responsibilities.

Your employer must not unreasonably refuse a request for flexible working arrangements made because of your family responsibilities. They should make reasonable adjustments (changes) to accommodate your responsibilities as a parent or carer. What is reasonable depends on your situation and the type of work you do.

For more information, see COVID-19 and discrimination at work.

If you are dismissed (fired) by your employer and you think it is because of your family responsibilities, get legal advice immediately. You may only have a short time to put in a claim. See Other support for COVID-19 coronavirus.

I need help with money

If you lose some or all of your income because of coronavirus, you may be able to

There are different waiting periods and asset tests for people who lose income because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

More information

Learn where to get help with the Other support for COVID-19 coronavirus

Read our page on Employment and your rights

Fair Work Ombudsman Coronavirus and Australian workplace lawsExternal Link

Acknowledgement

We acknowledge and thank JobWatchExternal Link for allowing us to use their COVID-19: Employment rights Q&AExternal Link to prepare this information. We also thank JobWatch for reviewing this information and providing updates.

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Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 17 November 2022

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