Put simply, annual leave loading is an extra payment that some employees receive when taking annual leave. While not everyone has access to it, leave loading can be a handy top-up and incentive to use up all your leave throughout the year.

Most of the time, full-time workers in Australia are entitled to four weeks' (or 20 business days) annual leave per year, to be paid at their usual daily rate. Shift workers are usually entitled to five weeks. Leave loading means in some jobs when you take your leave, you're paid a little extra. Read on to find out more about leave loading and how it works.

What is leave loading and how is it calculated?

Leave loading is an extra payment - usually calculated at 17.5% - on top of your normal or base wage while taking leave. Superannuation is also payable on annual leave loading, offering a strong incentive to take a holiday. It is most common in industry award-salaried jobs throughout Australia, but still, not everyone is entitled to it.

Be sure to check with your employer to see if you are eligible - chances are if you are on an enterprise agreement then you may not be, but it can pay to check anyway.

Who is entitled to leave loading?

Usually, leave loading applies to those on an award agreement. An award agreement is a legal document setting out minimum rates of pay for a particular industry. According to Fair Work Australia, there are more than 100 industry or occupation awards. These cover everything from construction to clerical work, journalism and hospitality workers.

How do I get leave loading?

If your position receives leave loading, it will be added onto your regular wage. However, the method in which it delivers varies by employer/organisation. It may be paid before, during or after your time away, either as part of your pay or as a separate sum.

Leave loading is commonly delivered 'pro-rata', and will be added to your earnings for the applicable pay period and taxed accordingly. 

If you have taken leave, it pays to check your next payslip to see how it’s broken down. In some cases, it may be pooled together at the end of a certain period and delivered to you in one sum, even if you have taken multiple trips in that time frame.

What should I do with my leave loading?

It’s all too easy to take a trip, check your payslip, see that you’ve got some leave loading on top of your regular wage and chalk it up as a win. However, if you are savvy you can take that money and use it in a variety of productive ways. Some ways could include:

Of course, we’re all about saving at Savings.com.au, but no matter how you decide to stash that leave loading sum, it pays to do your research and find out what method is right for you.

How much you're better off - a case study

Case Study

Lee Villowdin is a public servant in Queensland and ordinarily receives $1,000 gross per week. She takes a week of leave to visit her pen pal in Casablanca - that’s a long way to go for a week, Lee!

In her week of leave, she gets 17.5% on top of her usual wage ($1,175 in total), thanks to leave loading. Being on $52,000 a year places her in the 32.5% marginal tax bracket.

  • This means that on $1,000 per week, she’d receive $838 after tax, while with leave loading she earns $953 - a difference of $115.

The extra $115 per week over four weeks' leave (plus any amount you get back as part of your tax return at the end of the financial year) could add up to a tidy sum.

Lee adds her leave loading bonus to her savings account because she’s saving for her next trip to Morocco, rather than squandering the top-up on wine and cheese.

This graph is indicative only, and doesn’t take into account your own financial circumstances. Check with your employer and your award to find out what you can expect when you take leave.

Do you get leave loading as a payout when you leave your job?

By law, when your current employment comes to an end, your employer is required to pay out the balance of any unused leave. Historically, leave loading was not part of this equation, however according to the Fair Work Act of 2009, leave loading should now be paid out on modern awards, as the provision states that if an employee is terminated they must be paid out what they would have been paid had they taken leave while employed. To be sure, check with your employer and your relevant award.

Saving.com.au’s two cents

Leave loading can certainly be a handy top-up, and a strong incentive to take your leave. There is a chance it may equate to a couple hundred dollars on top of your wage, even if you only take a week of leave. This all depends on your wage of course, and various other factors such as how much you are taxed, including degree repayments (HELP/HECS), the Medicare levy and more. It pays to check with your employer and award with what you can expect when it comes to leave loading.

Of course, with an employer, there’s a lot more to consider than just leave loading - your wage is a big one, along with other benefits professionally, financially and culturally.

Article first published 14 January 2020, last updated 13 December 2021.

Photo by Chen Mizrach on Unsplash