Can an employee use their paid personal leave for elective surgery?

Most of us know, as a permanent employee, we are entitled to 10 working days of paid personal/carer’s leave for each year of employment. We also tend to be clear that we can ask for evidence that our employees required this leave because they;

  • couldn’t work due to illness or injury, or
  • needed to provide care or support to an immediate family or household member (because of an illness, injury, or emergency affecting said family member).

What you may be a little unclear on is whether your employee can use their personal leave for their upcoming elective surgery? You are not alone in your fog. This is a common question we have from many of our clients, and the answer is ……. Yes and No!

Confused? It can be confusing, and we always recommend you consider each individual circumstance on its own merit. As a general rule personal leave can only be used when an employee’s sickness or injury prevents them from carrying out their normal work duties. This means your employee is unfit for work. Therefore, it is only after an elective procedure that an employee can access their personal leave entitlements. This means they are accessing their sick leave during their period of recovering (or personal illness), when they are unfit for work.

So, leading up to a procedure, when your employee is attending consultations and any pre-surgery appointments, they are not entitled to use their personal leave.  Basically, they are still fit for work. In these instances, you can support your employee to access a different type of leave or entitlement, such as annual leave.

If your employee requires time off for an elective surgery, ask them to provide you with a medical certificate from their doctor or surgeon that includes how many days of recovery they will need and when they are expected to be fit to return to work. This period of post-operative recovery time is arguably covered by personal/carer’s leave.

The Seed in this story: An employee is not entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave to attend a medical appointment related to elective surgery, but may be entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave as a consequence of attending the medical appointment, particularly if the medical appointment results in them being unfit for work (such as surgery). 

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