Published 18 February 2022 | Updated 23 June 2022
The following guidance does not replace any obligations regarding rapid antigen testing that apply through enforceable government directions. Employers and employees must comply with any public health orders or directions made by state and territory governments.
There are now many places in Australia where there is significant community transmission of COVID-19. In these circumstances, some employers may be considering whether and how rapid antigen testing should be incorporated into their workplaces.
Safe Work Australia has published guidance about obligations under work health and safety (WHS) laws on rapid antigen testing of workers: Safe Work Australia .
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved a number of rapid antigen testing kits for use in Australia. See Therapeutic Goods Administration .
Unless rapid antigen testing is required under a specific law such as a public health order or to comply with obligations under WHS laws, there is otherwise no general requirement for employers to implement a rapid antigen testing program into their workplaces.
It is important for employers to understand all of their legal and consultation obligations before implementing testing requirements for their employees. Employers should consider whether to get their own legal advice to help them decide what is the best approach for their workplace.
On this page:
In this section:
Employers can require their employees to undertake rapid antigen testing where:
- a specific law (such as a state or territory public health order) requires it
- the requirement is permitted by an enterprise agreement, other registered agreement or employment contract, or
- it would be lawful and reasonable for an employer to give their employees a direction to undertake rapid antigen testing.
There are a range of factors that may be relevant when determining whether employers can require their employees to undertake rapid antigen testing, including:
- WHS obligations
- the nature of each workplace and the employees’ duties
- the extent of community transmission of COVID-19 in the location where the employees work
- test availability
- the content of any relevant official public health advice
- whether employees would incur any costs to undertake the testing.
An employer may also need to implement rapid antigen testing in the workplace to comply with their obligations under a WHS law. Information on WHS obligations is available from Safe Work Australia . To learn what WHS laws apply, go to Commonwealth, state or territory workplace health and safety regulators.
Employers should also ensure that any process for implementing rapid antigen workplace testing is consistent with all legal requirements, including WHS, privacy and anti-discrimination obligations.
Learn more about WHS, workplace privacy and discrimination at:
- Safe Work Australia - Rapid antigen testing
- Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – COVID-19 advice and guidance
- Australian Human Rights Commission – COVID-19 information
- Best practice guide – Workplace privacy.
Employers should consider getting their own legal advice to ensure they comply with all their legal obligations before deciding to implement testing.
There are no specific rules in the Fair Work Act regarding workplace rapid antigen testing. However, before implementing rapid antigen testing requirements, employers should consider what consultation obligations apply, including under WHS laws and industrial instruments.
Under WHS laws, employers have to consult with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) about possible control measures to address WHS risks. For example, new or updated requirements about COVID-19 rapid antigen testing.
Employers must also provide employees and any HSRs a reasonable opportunity to express their views about any proposed changes. Employers need to take these views into account when making a decision and advise employees and HSRs of their decision.
Modern awards and enterprise agreements also have a consultation clauses requiring employers to consult with employees and any representatives when an employer intends to implement significant workplace changes. Employment contracts or existing workplace policies may also require employers to consult.
A requirement for employees to undertake rapid antigen testing may not be reasonable if the employer has not complied with all their consultation obligations.
Learn about consultation and cooperation in the workplace by reading our Consultation and cooperation in the workplace best practice guide. You can learn more about specific COVID-19 WHS consultation obligations under WHS laws from Safe Work Australia .
Safe Work Australia’s guidance about obligations under WHS laws on rapid antigen testing of workers also contains information about paying for testing kits. Where an employer determines that rapid antigen testing in the workplace is necessary to comply with their obligations under a WHS law, then the employer must provide the tests at no cost to employees. Learn more at Safe Work Australia - Can I require my workers to purchase their own rapid antigen tests? .
Rules about paying for rapid antigen testing kits might be affected by the terms of any relevant law (such as a public health order). Employers and employees should also check the terms of any agreement or contract because these may contain specific rules about paying for rapid antigen testing kits.
If an employee is required to take a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 by their employer:
- before attending the workplace – the employee will generally not be entitled to be paid for the time spent taking the test.
- while at the workplace – the employee will generally be entitled to be paid for time spent taking the test.
Some Australian states are providing payments to some workers during coronavirus, including when they need to take a rapid antigen test and isolate. Learn more at Government payments.