Return to work checklist for small businesses
Our Return to work checklist helps small business employers make sure they’ve got key issues covered when bringing employees back to the workplace.
Our easy-to-use checklist helps small business employers:
- check the COVID-19 restrictions or public health orders that apply
- find guidance on how best to talk with employees
- change employees’ working arrangements if needed.
Access the checklist now at Tools and resources during coronavirus.
Part of being the boss is managing requests from your employees about taking leave, having flexible working arrangements or changing their type of employment. It’s important to know how (and how quickly) to respond, especially when you have a legal obligation to do so. Get more information on:
- Annual leave
- Sick and carer’s leave
- Parental leave
- Other leave
- Flexibility in the workplace
- Becoming a permanent employee
Annual leave (also known as holiday pay) starts accruing for full and part-time employees from when they start work and any unused leave rolls over from year to year. Full and part-time employees are entitled to 4 weeks of paid annual leave a year based on their ordinary hours of work. Casual employees aren’t entitled to annual leave.
You can use our Leave Calculator to work out an employee’s leave balance.
It’s a good idea to have a policy that makes it clear to employees how and when they can make a request for annual leave. You can only refuse a leave request if the refusal is reasonable.
You might be able to direct an employee to take annual leave in certain circumstances if it’s in your award or agreement (eg. a Christmas shutdown).
Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to 10 days of paid sick and carer’s leave a year (pro rata for part-time employees), based on their ordinary hours of work. The entitlement to 10 days of sick and carer’s leave can be calculated as 1/26th of an employee’s ordinary hours of work in a year. This leave starts accruing from the first day of work and rolls over from year to year.
Full-time and part-time employees can use this paid leave if they’re sick or if they need to provide care for an immediate family or household member.
Casual employees aren’t entitled to paid sick and carer’s leave. However, casual employees can take 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion.
You can request evidence from your employee if they are using their sick or carer’s leave. Medical certificates and statutory declarations are generally acceptable forms of evidence.
Having a baby is a wonderful moment in a person’s life – but it’s also time-consuming! If an employee has worked for you for at least 12 months, they’re eligible for 12 months of unpaid parental leave if they have, or adopt, a child. If you have an employee planning to take parental leave, they need to:
- give 10 weeks’ notice
- reconfirm their dates with 4 weeks’ notice
- provide evidence (if you ask for it).
There are a few things that you and your employee need to consider for parental leave, including the rules around extending parental leave and going back to work early. Learn more in our Maternity and parental leave section.
Other types of leave include:
For more information on these types of leave, see the Leave section of our website.
Allowing your employees to have flexible workplace arrangements shows you respect the balance between their work and their personal lives, and can boost morale and staff retention. Your employees might be legally entitled to ask for flexible working arrangements, such as changes to:
- their hours of work (eg. start and finish times)
- the way they work (eg. split shifts or job sharing)
- where they work (eg. working from home).
If you get a request, you have to respond in writing within 21 days saying whether it’s approved or refused. If an award applies, before responding in writing, you must have a discussion with the employee to try to reach an agreement about the changes an employee has requested to their work conditions. You can only refuse on reasonable business grounds and if you do, you need to include the reasons for the refusal in your written response.
Read about eligibility and reasonable business grounds on our Flexible working arrangements page.
Employees can also request to enter into an Individual flexibility arrangement (IFA) to vary the terms of their award or registered agreement. The employee must be better off overall and both parties must genuinely agree in writing.
Your eligible casual employees can request to convert their casual employment to full-time or part-time employment at any time on or after their 12-month anniversary. Any eligible existing casuals working for a small business employer on 27 March 2021 can make a request to convert to permanent at any time.
Small business employers don’t have to offer to convert their casual employees to permanent employment.
You need to respond to these types of requests within 21 days, and you can only refuse the request on ‘reasonable grounds’. For eligibility requirements and more information on how to respond to the request, and to find out what ‘reasonable grounds’ include, see Becoming a permanent employee.
Resources for handling leave and other employee requests
- Leave application form (DOC 68KB) (PDF 177.9KB)
- Notice of requirement to take annual leave for close down (DOC 113KB) (PDF 322KB)
- Direction to take excessive annual leave (DOCX 51.9KB) (PDF 427.3KB)
- Agreement to cash out annual leave (DOCX 25KB) (PDF 27.8KB)
- Agreement to take annual leave in advance (DOCX 20.6KB) (PDF 349.4KB)
- Application to vary parental leave within initial 12 months template (DOCX 56.6KB) (PDF 248KB)
- Application to extend parental leave beyond initial 12 months template (DOCX 55.1KB) (PDF 308.6KB)
- Parental leave extension - approval template (DOC 62.5KB) (PDF 354.2KB)
- Parental leave extension - refusal template (DOCX 47.5KB) (PDF 427.3KB)
- Parental leave - employer checklist (DOCX 44.8KB) (PDF 260.6KB)
- Parental leave - employee checklist (DOCX 43.2KB) (PDF 248KB)
- Response to a request for flexible working arrangements template (DOCX 38.8KB) (PDF 201.6KB)
- Use of individual flexibility arrangements best practice guide