Published 18 February 2022 | Updated 23 June 2022
PCR testing is one of the methods to test for COVID-19. Learn more about PCR testing.
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Some public health orders can require certain employees to take a PCR test. Employees and employers have to comply with public health orders. For information about what applies in your state or territory, visit Orders and directions during coronavirus.
If no public health order requires an employee to take a PCR test, an employer may still be able to require an employee to take a PCR test. This includes:
- where a term of an enterprise agreement, other registered agreement or employment contract permits it
- by directing the employee to take a PCR test. Any direction needs to be lawful and reasonable.
Employers should also consider whether an employee is eligible to access a PCR test, which is determined by state or territory health departments.
In many circumstances, where an employer is considering requiring employees to be tested for COVID-19, the most practicable option may be to require employees to undertake rapid antigen testing, not PCR testing.
Employers should also ensure that any process for requiring PCR testing of employees is consistent with all legal requirements, including WHS, privacy and anti-discrimination obligations.
Learn more about workplace privacy and discrimination at:
- Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – COVID-19 advice and guidance
- Australian Human Rights Commission – COVID-19 information
- Best practice guide – Workplace privacy.
If an employee is required to take a PCR test for COVID-19 by their employer (but it isn’t required under a public health order), they’re generally entitled to get tested on work time and be paid for the time as if they had worked.
An employee may not be entitled to be paid for time spent getting a PCR test if it is to comply with a public health order or if they’re getting tested at their own discretion, unless they take paid leave.
A full-time or part-time employee may be able to take paid sick leave if they can’t work at the time of taking a PCR test because of a personal illness or injury. The usual rules about giving notice and evidence to their employer apply. Get more information at Paid sick and carer’s leave.
If paid sick leave isn’t available, employees can discuss other arrangements with their employer. These could include:
Some Australian states are providing payments to some workers during coronavirus, including when they need to take a PCR test and isolate. Learn more at Government payments.
Employers should consider any award, agreement, employment contract or workplace policy that applies because they could be more generous.