Supporting Living Organ Donors Program
A living organ donor is someone who donates a kidney or partial liver to another person – usually a relative or close friend – who has end-stage kidney disease or liver failure. This program helps with the financial stress of recovering from donating an organ.
About the program
This program supports people who have donated a kidney or partial liver to someone who needs it.
Being a living organ donor means undergoing tests and having major surgery, which comes with certain risks and long recovery times.
All these responsibilities mean extra time off work, dipping into leave entitlements or using leave without pay.
Under the program, donors can access:
- reimbursement of up to 342 hours of paid leave at the national minimum wage
- reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses associated with donating.
The program reimburses the donor’s employer, so they can support their staff member to donate without financial stress.
Payment to the employer can be either to:
- re-credit the donor’s leave – if the employee has taken sick or annual leave for donating purposes
- reimburse the employer – if the employee did not have sick or annual leave to take, but the employer still compensated them
- a combination of both.
This program is not an incentive to donate. Reimbursing leave and out-of-pocket expenses meets the World Health Organization’s guiding principles on human cell, tissue and organ transplantation.
Goals of the program
Organ and tissue donation transforms lives.
The goals of the Supporting Living Organ Donors Program are to:
- raise the profile of living organ donors
- encourage employers to support donors
- remove cost as a barrier for living organ donors.
Most living organ donors donate because a loved one is very sick, either in end-stage kidney disease or liver failure. This program helps people who want to donate, but are not sure they can cope with the financial impact.
Meeting these goals
The program pays a living donor’s employer, to either:
- replenish an employee’s leave
- contribute towards reimbursing an employer who has made a payment to their employee in place of income lost due to organ donation.
It also applies to people who are self-employed.
Donors who are not employed can also claim reimbursement for some out-of-pocket expenses related to travel and accommodation.
Who we work with
It also supports the Australian and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange (ANZKX) Program, a partnership that increases the chance of finding a match for a kidney transplant.
The ANZKX Program occurs with the collaboration and support of many Australian and New Zealand clinicians and transplant hospitals, including the ANZKX team at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Apply for the program
You can only apply for this program if a hospital transplant coordinator has facilitated your work-up testing, surgery and recuperation.
You must also be:
- 18 years or older
- an Australian resident with a valid Medicare card
- have donated a kidney or partial liver
- donated in Australia
- employed by a registered Australian business with an active ABN, with an employer who is willing to participate in the program (or self-employed with an active ABN).
Australian citizens donating in another country are not eligible for this program. However, you can check whether the country you’re donating in has a similar program. For example, New Zealand has the Live Organ Donor Assistance Scheme.
If you are participating in the ANZKX Program, you may also be eligible for this program if you meet other eligibility criteria.
Before registering for the Supporting Living Organ Donors Program:
- If you intend to participate in the Supporting Living Organ Donors Program you must read the program guidelines.
Talking to your employer
If you are claiming for reimbursement of leave, the Department of Health recommends that you have a conversation with your employer prior to surgery to ensure that you both understand the Program, and that your employer agrees to participate and pay you for your time off work. You cannot claim reimbursement for leave if your employer does not agree. To assist with the conversation, you should provide them your employer with a copy of the Program Guidelines and the ‘How to pay your donor employee’ fact sheet. Once your employer has completed Part B of the registration Application form, this confirms your employer’s agreement to participate. . You cannot claim reimbursement for leave if your employer does not agree. It’s important you talk to your employer before presenting them with the Application form.
Some key points to talk to your employer about are:
- there may be some out-of-pocket administrative costs – such as tax and superannuation – but these are likely to be minimal
- they must have id you for your leave, and the organisation will then be reimbursed by the program when you return to work
- the program will reimburse up to 342 hours of leave at the national minimal wage, unless you are paid less than the national minimum wage
- they will need to sign the application form and provide evidence that you were paid for your time off, such as payslips
If you employer needs more information, they can contact us.
How to claim
You will need to submit a Application form to us within 90 calendar days following your surgery.
To claim, you will need to provide the completed Application form and supporting documents, where they apply:
- a medical certificate to verify the dates of work-up testing, appointments and surgery
- payslips to confirm you were paid for time off
- receipts to show out-of-pocket expenses on and around the dates you were at testing, appointments and surgery (or a statutory declaration where a receipt isn’t available)
- out-of-pocket expenses tracker
- appointment sign-off sheet.
You will need to submit one Application form per employer, if you have more than one.
Only the donor can claim leave and expenses, and only for their own leave and expenses. Expenses for family members or carers cannot be claimed.
The payment for leave reimbursement will go to your employer (or you, if you’re self-employed), to reimburse the leave you’ve already been paid for.
Out-of-pocket expense payments will go directly to you, the donor.
How much you can claim
The maximum payment is equal to 342 hours of leave at the minimum wage.
For a full-time worker working 38 hours per week, earning minimum wage, that equates to 9 weeks of leave. A part-time or casual person can spread that time over a longer period, depending on how many hours you would normally work per week and how many hours you are paid for your leave.
If you earn more than the minimum wage, you will not get an hour-for-hour reimbursement of leave credits.
For example, the 2019–20 national minimum wage is $19.49 per hour, or $740.80 per 38-hour week, the maximum payment your employer can claim is $6,667.20 (equal to 9x 38-hour weeks).
What you can claim
You can only claim for leave that has been paid by your employer. You cannot claim for leave covered by income protection insurance unpaid leave hours.
Donors who aren’t working, including jobseekers and retirees, can claim a maximum of $1,000 for eligible out-of-pocket travel and accommodation expenses relating to donating.
For a full list of what you can and cannot claim, see section 4.1.1 of the program guidelines.
If you are also participating in a state travel assistance scheme, you cannot claim for expenses that you have claimed under your state scheme.
Claiming work-up testing time only
If you have been through work-up tests but will not proceed to surgery, you can still claim for:
- up to 76 hours of leave taken during testing appointments
- eligible out-of-pocket expenses associated with work-up testing appointments.
You will need to provide:
- the completed Application form
- a medical certificate to verify the dates of testing appointments
- payslips to confirm you were paid for time off
- a completed appointment sign-off sheet
- receipts to show any expenses to be reimbursed, or a statutory declaration if a receipt isn’t available.
Donors can only participate in this program once in their lifetime. If you claim for work-up testing time and expenses this time, you will not be eligible to claim under the program again.
Requesting a review
You have 28 days to request a review if you’re unhappy with the decision about your eligibility.
Send your request to the Supporting Living Organ Donors Program team.
A team member who was not involved in the original decision will review your case and let you know the outcome within 21 days.
If you are still not satisfied with the review outcome, you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
It’s important to be fully informed of the risks and benefits of being a living donor before you decide to be one. If you’re interested in finding out more:
- Kidney Health Australia has more information on living kidney donation
- talk to a medical professional, such as your GP or a hospital transplant unit.
Kidney Health Australia
A not-for-profit organisation and voice for kidney disease in Australia. Contact Kidney Health Australia for information about kidney health, including kidney disease, cancer and living kidney donation.