What you should know about Annual Leave

All employees, except casual workers, are entitled to a minimum of four weeks of paid annual leave, or holidays, for every year they work. Some industry awards, enterprise agreements or contracts of employment provide for more than four weeks annual leave – and shift workers may be entitled to a minimum of five weeks.


When do you get annual leave?

Annual leave begins accruing (building up) from your first day of employment, regardless of whether you are still on probation.

And you don’t have to work a full year before you are entitled to annual leave. It is accrued on a pro-rata basis, so if you work half a year you are entitled to half your annual leave.

Annual leave also accrues when an employee takes:

  • Paid leave such as annual leave, sick leave, or carer’s leave.
  • Community service leave such as jury duty.
  • Long-service leave.

Annual leave also accrues if you are unable to work due to a natural disaster (i.e. a bushfire, flood or pandemic).

Annual leave does not accrue when an employee takes:

  • Unpaid leave such as unpaid annual leave or sick leave.
  • Unpaid parental leave.
  • Unpaid family and domestic violence leave.

If all your annual leave is not taken, it can be accumulated and rolled over to the next year.

If you are not getting annual leave, or are not getting everything, you’re owed, contact your AWU delegate or join the union!


When can I take my annual leave?

You are entitled to take as much annual leave as you have accumulated. There is no minimum amount, and you can take it as soon as you like, including while you’re on probation.

Most employers need you to submit a written request before taking annual leave. And you and your employer must agree on when you will take your leave.

Your employer can’t refuse permission unreasonably. Valid reasons could include:

  • Other staff are on leave at the same time.
  • You’re asking for leave during a busy time.
  • You haven’t provided sufficient notice.

Some awards and enterprise agreements give you extra options for taking annual leave, such as taking leave in advance, taking extra leave in exchange for pay, or cashing it out.

Public holidays or any other scheduled days off that fall while you are on annual leave do not count as part of your leave. You get these days off the same as you normally would.


Can I be forced to take annual leave?

Your employer can ask you to take annual leave if you have too much owing to you, or if their business needs to be closed over a certain period, say Christmas.

But any request that you take annual leave should be reasonable and you should be given reasonable notice.

If your employer is not letting you take annual leave, or is unreasonably forcing you to take it, contact your AWU delegate or join the union!


How much is my annual leave pay?

You must be paid at least your base rate of pay while on annual leave, excluding extra payments such as allowances, penalty rates and overtime. This includes if your leave is being paid out.

Most awards and agreements require your employer to pay you leave loading, an extra amount on top of your base pay, usually 17.5%.

Your employer also must provide leave loading details, as well as how much leave you have accumulated, on your pay slip.

To check your leave pay or find out if you should get a loading, contact your AWU delegate or join the union!


Why do we get annual leave?

Australian unions fought hard for your right to have annual leave, starting with a campaign by printing workers in 1936.

By 1941, workers across the nation had won one week annual leave. This grew to two weeks in 1945 and three by 1963.

Then in 1973, union workers won the first annual leave loading allowance of 17.5%, and four weeks annual leave became the national standard.


Why should I take my annual leave?

Whatever your job, annual leave is often a crucial part of it. Our minds and our bodies need regular, proper breaks from work.

It’s your chance to recover from the demands of the workplace and recharge your batteries – and you have earned it.

If you have more questions on annual leave, contact your AWU delegate or join the union!

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