What leave, when?

We understand there are lots of questions about leave arrangements and what leave we should be using for different situations.

This page outlines the advice for each leave scenario and what leave you or members of your team may be eligible for. Please click the below option that applies to you to take you to the information you need to know.

If you have an urgent requirement, please discuss with your manager or your People and Culture representative.

Employees in self-isolation or quarantine

Employees who are required to self-isolate should work from home where possible. Managers are asked to explore all options for work that could be done at home prior to approving special leave. Employees who cannot work from home, can access up to 20 days special leave on the relevant evidence being provided. NSW Health have given guidance on what documentation should be provided based on the following circumstances:

  • Close contacts: Employees who have been advised by NSW Health that they are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be asked by NSW Health to self-isolate. The employee should request written confirmation of the need to self-isolate from NSW Health.
  • Workplace contacts: Employees who have been advised by their employer that they are required to isolate for a specified period in accordance with NSW Health guidelines due to a positive case in their workplace are eligible for special leave during this period.
  • Employees tested for COVID-19: All people tested for COVID-19 need to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Where testing due to symptoms, normal sick leave arrangements apply, for example provision of a medical leave certificate.
  • Employees advised to self-isolate by NSW Health:
    • If an employee has been to a confirmed case location and are advised to self-isolate by NSW Health and cannot work from home, they must declare this to their manager in writing and must include the date they were at the location. Managers may request other reasonable evidence (such as a screenshot of a text message from NSW Health) to support the employee’s request for special leave. Where an employee has not received notification from NSW Health but has identified that they have attended a confirmed case location, a screenshot of the employee’s check-in on the Service NSW app is sufficient evidence.
    • Employees who have been to a confirmed case location and have developed symptoms requiring them to get tested and self-isolate must declare this to their manager in writing, including the date were at the location, and must provide a medical evidence that they are experiencing symptoms (see Sick or Carers Leave below for evidence requirements). Sick leave should be approved for the period the employee is unfit for work, as stated on the medical certificate. The remainder of the self-isolation period should be approved as special leave if the employee cannot work from home. Managers may request other reasonable evidence to confirm the employee was at the location on the date stated.
    • For other instances of self-isolation, including if an employee has been advised remotely to isolate, for example after contacting the health direct hotline, they should request written confirmation from the place or health care professional who provided the advice.

Choosing to isolate from the workplace

We understand these are very uncertain times that can cause fear and anxiety. Employees are encouraged to work from home if they can, however offices remain open for employees who cannot work from home. If an employee is unable to work from home, but chooses to isolate from the workforce, they are able to utilise accrued leave entitlements so they can stay at home.

Confirmed cases

If an employee has tested positive for Coronavirus they should take sick leave supported by appropriate evidence.

If you are advised of a confirmed COVID-19 case affecting an employee or contractor please immediately complete the COVID-19 Positive Case Report form (24 hours).

For next steps follow the Positive Employee flowchart and use the Risk Matrix for TfNSW Exposure to guide you. These can all be found in the quick reference guide to reporting and communicating cases.

The following procedure gives further guidance on managing and reporting suspected and confirmed cases of Coronavirus across the Transport cluster.

COVID-19 - Managing and reporting cases procedure

Returning to work

An employee’s return to work after testing positive to Coronavirus is dependent on the severity of the case and the treatment they received. Regardless of the situation, an isolation period will be determined by NSW Health.

Employees will receive a text message (SMS) or email which confirms the end of the isolation period. This is called a medical clearance notice. Employees are required to show this clearance notice to their employer before returning to the workplace.

Caring for people who have tested positive for Coronavirus

If an employee is the primary person responsible for providing care for a person who has tested positive to Coronavirus, special leave is available. Special leave is capped at 20 days. If the period of care exceeds 20 days employees can apply for leave using existing leave entitlements. Evidence will need to be provided to state that the employee is the primary person responsible for providing care, as well as evidence for the confirmed case.

Employees with school children

Official school closures

In the event of an official school closure, employees should work from home if they can.If working from home isn’t possible, special leave is available. Special leave is capped at 20 days for school closures, in line with the Department Premier and Cabinet Circular 2020-01. This does not apply where online learning is in place and schools remain open.

The below evidence will need to be provided by employees to support their special leave application:

  • Official advice of the school closure
  • Evidence that the employee is the primary person responsible for providing care to avoid cases of case of a fraudulent assertion. This can be in the form of email, text etc.

Choosing to isolate children from school

Employees are not entitled to special leave if schools are open and they choose not to send their child to school. If an employee chooses to remove their child from school, they are able to utilise other accrued leave entitlements at the discretion of their manager.

Based on the advice from Department of Education, special leave will only be applicable if your child’s school has officially closed and evidence can be provided to support the leave application.

School Holiday Care

Given schools are always closed during planned periods of school holidays, special leave is not available during the school holidays. Employees should work from home where possible during school holidays and discuss flexible arrangements with their managers to help accommodate the care of children during the pandemic.

As an essential worker in the Transport cluster, a range of holiday care options are available, but some services may require notice for bookings and have restricted places available due to current restrictions. Similarly alternative care arrangements such as friends or grandparents helping out with childcare during the holidays may not be possible during the pandemic.

If an employee is having trouble accessing suitable childcare services that they are entitled to, they should speak with their manager or People and Culture partner for further support.

Special leave

In most circumstances special leave is provided as a total of 20 days. Special leave can be taken in a minimum period of one day, the full 20 days does not need to be accessed in one block. Special leave is paid at base pay, in line with any relevant industrial instruments and is not calculated on pro rata. For special leave applications the delegation of approval for up to 20 days special leave is the one up manager. The delegation of approval for beyond 20 days is the following delegate (role 60);

  • TfNSW, Sydney Trains and NSW Trains - Executive Director, Business Partnering
  • STA – Executive Director People & Culture
  • Sydney Metro – Director People and Culture

Applying for Special Leave

Reason codes are available that make it clear and easy to apply for special leave if you are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. Use the leave form in Equip to request special leave, then select the reason code that applies. Where you are not using Equip, ensure you note the reason on your leave application form.

Close contactThis applies to employees who have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive to Coronavirus, and who are unable to work from home. You may be a close contact if someone in your household or immediate workspace has tested positive. If you are identified as a close contact, you will be contacted by your local NSW Health public health unit and asked to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of your test result.
Casual contactThis applies to employees who have been identified as a casual contact of someone who has tested positive to Coronavirus, and who are unable to work from home. If you are identified as a casual contact, you will be contacted by your local NSW Health public health unit and will usually be asked to self-isolate until you receive a negative test result.
School closureThis applies in the case that your children’s school has been officially closed (students cannot attend) and where you are unable to work from home.
Workplace closureThis applies where your work location is closed and where suitable duties are not possible or you are unable to work from home.
CaregiverThis applies when you are unable to work from home and you are required to care for a family member who is at risk and cannot attend their usual caring facility.
Special leave does not apply where an employee is providing general support to at risk people, such as shopping for elderly parents.
At risk

If you are at risk and have been vaccinated, you should feel safe to come to work.

For our at risk people who are waiting to have their vaccination, safe alternative duties should be provided if the risk can’t be managed in their usual role because of the current outbreak. All efforts should be taken to do this.

If alternative duties are not possible, access to 20 days Special Leave can be provided while an at risk employee waits for vaccination. Evidence of the booked appointment should be provided to support this claim.

Travel DisruptionThis may apply where you are travelling interstate when state borders are closed and you are unable to return home or work remotely from your location.

You should discuss your personal circumstances with your manager before applying for special leave. You may be required to provide appropriate evidence that you meet the above requirements.

Annual leave

Employees with planned annual or flex leave

When it comes to leave, we’re focused on making sure everyone maintains a work/life balance. We recognise the uncertainty that the Coronavirus outbreak brings, but it is important that we all take time for ourselves and get the rest we need outside of the demands of our busy work lives, especially during this challenging time.

People leaders should refer to the Principles for requests to amend planned leave: Coronavirus context to assist them in dealing with requests from employees to cancel or postpone planned leave.

We understand that this is a difficult uncertain time for our employees and their families, Transport is committed to supporting our staff where possible to increase stability. Employees have the option to cash out excess annual leave balances based on the relevant industrial instrument.

In applicable circumstances annual leave can be re-credited for special leave. This practice was adopted during the recent bushfires and will be replicated in the situation of Coronavirus in reasonable circumstances, For example, if a person was on approved leave and is then required to self-isolate.

Sick or carers leave

Employees who require sick leave unrelated to Coronavirus

If you are unwell and cannot work, the circumstances which require a medical certificate continue to apply. However, the options available for providing evidence are now more flexible. To take pressure off the health system during the Coronavirus outbreak, evidence can be provided as one of the following:

  • evidence of a phone consultation with your doctor
  • a note and/or certificate from a pharmacist
  • other medical record or report that details the condition
  • a medical certificate (either hard copy or emailed from the doctor)

If you have COVID symptoms such as a sore throat, you should get a COVID test. You must self-isolate while awaiting the test result. If you are unable to work during self-isolation you need to apply for sick leave. Most people receive their COVID test results within 24 hours, but in some cases it can be longer.

Some GPs and medical centres will not allow you to attend their practice with cold or flu symptoms until you have received a negative COVID test result.

In most cases the negative COVID test text message you receive is not sufficient evidence to support a sick leave application.

If you’re wondering how to get a medical certificate in these situations please see the options above. The most practical and safest solution is for you to have a telehealth consultation with your doctor.

Check the requirements for providing medical certificates and remember that a negative COVID test text message on its own is not a medical certificate.

Please note that these arrangements are only in place for the duration of the outbreak. Transport will revert to the normal requirements set by each agency once we return to business as usual.

Employees with caring responsibilities

Special leave will be provided to employees who are required to be the primary person responsible for providing care for a person ‘at risk’ who cannot attend their usual caring facility, a family member who is confirmed to have coronavirus, or a child who cannot attend school due to official closures. Evidence in writing stating the employee is the primary person responsible for providing care will need to be provided to support the special leave application.

If an employee is required to take carer’s leave for a situation that is not stated above and not related to Coronavirus, then normal arrangements for carer’s leave apply.

If you are a casual worker

Casual workers who have been working on a regular and systematic basis for the past six months will be eligible for special leave. Indicators that the staff member has been working on a regular and systematic basis include:

  • there is a reasonable mutual expectation of continued employment;
  • there is a reasonable expectation that continued work would be available;
  • the employee is working according to a roster that is published in advance;
  • there is largely consistent start and finishing times;
  • notice is required by the employer prior to the employee being absent on leave.

In determining the payment, where possible managers should use the agreed or accepted shifts for the period of the leave, e.g. the roster for that period. In the absence of a roster, the employee’s hours over the previous two pay periods immediately before the employee commenced the leave should be averaged.

We understand there are lots of questions about leave arrangements and what leave we should be using for different situations.

This page outlines the advice for each leave scenario and what leave you or members of your team may be eligible for. Please click the below option that applies to you to take you to the information you need to know.

If you have an urgent requirement, please discuss with your manager or your People and Culture representative.

Employees in self-isolation or quarantine

Employees who are required to self-isolate should work from home where possible. Managers are asked to explore all options for work that could be done at home prior to approving special leave. Employees who cannot work from home, can access up to 20 days special leave on the relevant evidence being provided. NSW Health have given guidance on what documentation should be provided based on the following circumstances:

  • Close contacts: Employees who have been advised by NSW Health that they are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be asked by NSW Health to self-isolate. The employee should request written confirmation of the need to self-isolate from NSW Health.
  • Workplace contacts: Employees who have been advised by their employer that they are required to isolate for a specified period in accordance with NSW Health guidelines due to a positive case in their workplace are eligible for special leave during this period.
  • Employees tested for COVID-19: All people tested for COVID-19 need to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Where testing due to symptoms, normal sick leave arrangements apply, for example provision of a medical leave certificate.
  • Employees advised to self-isolate by NSW Health:
    • If an employee has been to a confirmed case location and are advised to self-isolate by NSW Health and cannot work from home, they must declare this to their manager in writing and must include the date they were at the location. Managers may request other reasonable evidence (such as a screenshot of a text message from NSW Health) to support the employee’s request for special leave. Where an employee has not received notification from NSW Health but has identified that they have attended a confirmed case location, a screenshot of the employee’s check-in on the Service NSW app is sufficient evidence.
    • Employees who have been to a confirmed case location and have developed symptoms requiring them to get tested and self-isolate must declare this to their manager in writing, including the date were at the location, and must provide a medical evidence that they are experiencing symptoms (see Sick or Carers Leave below for evidence requirements). Sick leave should be approved for the period the employee is unfit for work, as stated on the medical certificate. The remainder of the self-isolation period should be approved as special leave if the employee cannot work from home. Managers may request other reasonable evidence to confirm the employee was at the location on the date stated.
    • For other instances of self-isolation, including if an employee has been advised remotely to isolate, for example after contacting the health direct hotline, they should request written confirmation from the place or health care professional who provided the advice.

Choosing to isolate from the workplace

We understand these are very uncertain times that can cause fear and anxiety. Employees are encouraged to work from home if they can, however offices remain open for employees who cannot work from home. If an employee is unable to work from home, but chooses to isolate from the workforce, they are able to utilise accrued leave entitlements so they can stay at home.

Confirmed cases

If an employee has tested positive for Coronavirus they should take sick leave supported by appropriate evidence.

If you are advised of a confirmed COVID-19 case affecting an employee or contractor please immediately complete the COVID-19 Positive Case Report form (24 hours).

For next steps follow the Positive Employee flowchart and use the Risk Matrix for TfNSW Exposure to guide you. These can all be found in the quick reference guide to reporting and communicating cases.

The following procedure gives further guidance on managing and reporting suspected and confirmed cases of Coronavirus across the Transport cluster.

COVID-19 - Managing and reporting cases procedure

Returning to work

An employee’s return to work after testing positive to Coronavirus is dependent on the severity of the case and the treatment they received. Regardless of the situation, an isolation period will be determined by NSW Health.

Employees will receive a text message (SMS) or email which confirms the end of the isolation period. This is called a medical clearance notice. Employees are required to show this clearance notice to their employer before returning to the workplace.

Caring for people who have tested positive for Coronavirus

If an employee is the primary person responsible for providing care for a person who has tested positive to Coronavirus, special leave is available. Special leave is capped at 20 days. If the period of care exceeds 20 days employees can apply for leave using existing leave entitlements. Evidence will need to be provided to state that the employee is the primary person responsible for providing care, as well as evidence for the confirmed case.

Employees with school children

Official school closures

In the event of an official school closure, employees should work from home if they can.If working from home isn’t possible, special leave is available. Special leave is capped at 20 days for school closures, in line with the Department Premier and Cabinet Circular 2020-01. This does not apply where online learning is in place and schools remain open.

The below evidence will need to be provided by employees to support their special leave application:

  • Official advice of the school closure
  • Evidence that the employee is the primary person responsible for providing care to avoid cases of case of a fraudulent assertion. This can be in the form of email, text etc.

Choosing to isolate children from school

Employees are not entitled to special leave if schools are open and they choose not to send their child to school. If an employee chooses to remove their child from school, they are able to utilise other accrued leave entitlements at the discretion of their manager.

Based on the advice from Department of Education, special leave will only be applicable if your child’s school has officially closed and evidence can be provided to support the leave application.

School Holiday Care

Given schools are always closed during planned periods of school holidays, special leave is not available during the school holidays. Employees should work from home where possible during school holidays and discuss flexible arrangements with their managers to help accommodate the care of children during the pandemic.

As an essential worker in the Transport cluster, a range of holiday care options are available, but some services may require notice for bookings and have restricted places available due to current restrictions. Similarly alternative care arrangements such as friends or grandparents helping out with childcare during the holidays may not be possible during the pandemic.

If an employee is having trouble accessing suitable childcare services that they are entitled to, they should speak with their manager or People and Culture partner for further support.

Special leave

In most circumstances special leave is provided as a total of 20 days. Special leave can be taken in a minimum period of one day, the full 20 days does not need to be accessed in one block. Special leave is paid at base pay, in line with any relevant industrial instruments and is not calculated on pro rata. For special leave applications the delegation of approval for up to 20 days special leave is the one up manager. The delegation of approval for beyond 20 days is the following delegate (role 60);

  • TfNSW, Sydney Trains and NSW Trains - Executive Director, Business Partnering
  • STA – Executive Director People & Culture
  • Sydney Metro – Director People and Culture

Applying for Special Leave

Reason codes are available that make it clear and easy to apply for special leave if you are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. Use the leave form in Equip to request special leave, then select the reason code that applies. Where you are not using Equip, ensure you note the reason on your leave application form.

Close contactThis applies to employees who have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive to Coronavirus, and who are unable to work from home. You may be a close contact if someone in your household or immediate workspace has tested positive. If you are identified as a close contact, you will be contacted by your local NSW Health public health unit and asked to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of your test result.
Casual contactThis applies to employees who have been identified as a casual contact of someone who has tested positive to Coronavirus, and who are unable to work from home. If you are identified as a casual contact, you will be contacted by your local NSW Health public health unit and will usually be asked to self-isolate until you receive a negative test result.
School closureThis applies in the case that your children’s school has been officially closed (students cannot attend) and where you are unable to work from home.
Workplace closureThis applies where your work location is closed and where suitable duties are not possible or you are unable to work from home.
CaregiverThis applies when you are unable to work from home and you are required to care for a family member who is at risk and cannot attend their usual caring facility.
Special leave does not apply where an employee is providing general support to at risk people, such as shopping for elderly parents.
At risk

If you are at risk and have been vaccinated, you should feel safe to come to work.

For our at risk people who are waiting to have their vaccination, safe alternative duties should be provided if the risk can’t be managed in their usual role because of the current outbreak. All efforts should be taken to do this.

If alternative duties are not possible, access to 20 days Special Leave can be provided while an at risk employee waits for vaccination. Evidence of the booked appointment should be provided to support this claim.

Travel DisruptionThis may apply where you are travelling interstate when state borders are closed and you are unable to return home or work remotely from your location.

You should discuss your personal circumstances with your manager before applying for special leave. You may be required to provide appropriate evidence that you meet the above requirements.

Annual leave

Employees with planned annual or flex leave

When it comes to leave, we’re focused on making sure everyone maintains a work/life balance. We recognise the uncertainty that the Coronavirus outbreak brings, but it is important that we all take time for ourselves and get the rest we need outside of the demands of our busy work lives, especially during this challenging time.

People leaders should refer to the Principles for requests to amend planned leave: Coronavirus context to assist them in dealing with requests from employees to cancel or postpone planned leave.

We understand that this is a difficult uncertain time for our employees and their families, Transport is committed to supporting our staff where possible to increase stability. Employees have the option to cash out excess annual leave balances based on the relevant industrial instrument.

In applicable circumstances annual leave can be re-credited for special leave. This practice was adopted during the recent bushfires and will be replicated in the situation of Coronavirus in reasonable circumstances, For example, if a person was on approved leave and is then required to self-isolate.

Sick or carers leave

Employees who require sick leave unrelated to Coronavirus

If you are unwell and cannot work, the circumstances which require a medical certificate continue to apply. However, the options available for providing evidence are now more flexible. To take pressure off the health system during the Coronavirus outbreak, evidence can be provided as one of the following:

  • evidence of a phone consultation with your doctor
  • a note and/or certificate from a pharmacist
  • other medical record or report that details the condition
  • a medical certificate (either hard copy or emailed from the doctor)

If you have COVID symptoms such as a sore throat, you should get a COVID test. You must self-isolate while awaiting the test result. If you are unable to work during self-isolation you need to apply for sick leave. Most people receive their COVID test results within 24 hours, but in some cases it can be longer.

Some GPs and medical centres will not allow you to attend their practice with cold or flu symptoms until you have received a negative COVID test result.

In most cases the negative COVID test text message you receive is not sufficient evidence to support a sick leave application.

If you’re wondering how to get a medical certificate in these situations please see the options above. The most practical and safest solution is for you to have a telehealth consultation with your doctor.

Check the requirements for providing medical certificates and remember that a negative COVID test text message on its own is not a medical certificate.

Please note that these arrangements are only in place for the duration of the outbreak. Transport will revert to the normal requirements set by each agency once we return to business as usual.

Employees with caring responsibilities

Special leave will be provided to employees who are required to be the primary person responsible for providing care for a person ‘at risk’ who cannot attend their usual caring facility, a family member who is confirmed to have coronavirus, or a child who cannot attend school due to official closures. Evidence in writing stating the employee is the primary person responsible for providing care will need to be provided to support the special leave application.

If an employee is required to take carer’s leave for a situation that is not stated above and not related to Coronavirus, then normal arrangements for carer’s leave apply.

If you are a casual worker

Casual workers who have been working on a regular and systematic basis for the past six months will be eligible for special leave. Indicators that the staff member has been working on a regular and systematic basis include:

  • there is a reasonable mutual expectation of continued employment;
  • there is a reasonable expectation that continued work would be available;
  • the employee is working according to a roster that is published in advance;
  • there is largely consistent start and finishing times;
  • notice is required by the employer prior to the employee being absent on leave.

In determining the payment, where possible managers should use the agreed or accepted shifts for the period of the leave, e.g. the roster for that period. In the absence of a roster, the employee’s hours over the previous two pay periods immediately before the employee commenced the leave should be averaged.

Page last updated: 25 November 2021, 11:37