Published 29 May 2020 | Updated 28 March 2023
The information on this page is under review
The rules about mandatory isolation periods are changing across Australia. This may affect the information on this page.
In the meantime, find out more at Changes to mandatory COVID-19 isolation periods.
Find out what pay and leave options are available to employees who need to quarantine or self-isolate because of coronavirus. We also have information on COVID-19 tests.
On this page:
- Employees who can’t go to work because of COVID-19
- When an employee has COVID-19
- Accessing leave during quarantine or self-isolation
- Pay during quarantine and self-isolation
- Government payments.
In this section:
Employees who can’t go to work because of COVID-19
Employees can’t go to work if they need to quarantine or self-isolate, for example, because they:
- have COVID-19
- are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19
- need to get tested or are waiting for a COVID-19 test result
- are prohibited from leaving their home because of an enforceable government direction, or
- have arrived from overseas or interstate and need to self-isolate because of an enforceable government direction.
If an employee can’t work because they have to quarantine or self-isolate, they should contact their employer immediately to discuss:
Employees may be able to use paid or unpaid carer’s leave to care for a family member or a member of their household who has COVID-19. Carer’s leave may also be available if there’s an unexpected emergency. See Sick and carer’s leave.
Employees have a responsibility, under workplace health and safety laws, to take reasonable care not to adversely affect the health and safety of others at work. This means that an employee can't be dismissed or injured in their employment if they need to quarantine or self-isolate to avoid the risk of spreading the virus in the workplace. Find out more about protections at work.
Employees can request to not go to work because of a health condition that puts them at higher risk of getting COVID-19. See Employees who want to stay home as a precaution.
When an employee has COVID-19
Employees who have COVID-19 must not attend the workplace. They are required to self-isolate and can’t go to work until they are no longer required to isolate.
Any employee with COVID-19 should let their employer know about their situation as soon as possible.
Full-time and part-time employees can take paid sick leave if they can’t work because they have COVID-19. If they have no paid sick leave left, they should arrange with their employer to take some other type of paid or unpaid leave.
Learn more about sick leave during coronavirus and what rules apply at Sick and carer’s leave.
Some Australian states are providing payments to some workers during coronavirus. Learn more at Government payments.
Accessing leave during quarantine or self-isolation
Under the National Employment Standards, employees are entitled to take paid sick leave if they can’t work because of a personal illness or injury. For more information about paid sick leave, visit Paid sick and carer’s leave.
An employee who is required to quarantine or self-isolate because of an enforceable government direction should contact their employer to discuss leave options or flexible working arrangements. This could include:
An employee who is on, or decides to take, annual leave during a quarantine or self-isolation period can instead take their accrued sick leave if they become ill or injured. The usual rules for taking sick leave apply including:
- letting their employer know as soon as possible
- providing evidence (if required by the employer).
For more information, see our Paid sick and carer’s leave page and our Library article Sick leave during annual leave.
Example: Taking paid sick leave while on annual leave
Kimberley has taken four weeks of annual leave to travel.
During her travels, Kimberley finds out that she has to self-isolate because she has been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus.
While Kimberley is self-isolating she continues to take her annual leave.
During this period, she becomes unwell with a stomach bug. Kimberley is entitled to access her paid sick leave for the time that she’s unwell because she is unfit for work. Kimberley provides her employer with notice and a medical certificate.
Pay during quarantine and self-isolation
Employees working from home during self-isolation or quarantine have to be paid for the work they’re doing.
Full-time and part-time employees should also be paid their normal pay if:
- their employer directs them to stay home
- they don't have COVID-19
- they are ready, willing and able to work.
Employees aren’t entitled to be paid (unless they use paid leave entitlements) if they can’t work because:
- an enforceable government direction requires them to self-isolate,
- government-imposed travel restrictions are in place (for example, they’re stuck overseas), or
- they have COVID-19.
Employers should consider any award, agreement, employment contracts or workplace policies that apply, because they could be more generous.
Some states are also providing payments to employees who don’t have access to paid sick leave and can’t work for reasons relating to coronavirus. See below for more information.
- Alternative work arrangements – for information about flexible work arrangements including working from home
- Pay – for information and resources about minimum pay rates and arrangements.
High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment
The High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment is available to eligible workers in selected high-risk industries who can’t earn an income because they’ve tested positive to COVID-19.
These industries include:
- aged care
- disability care
- Aboriginal healthcare
- hospital care.
For more information about the payment, eligibility requirements and how to claim it, visit Services Australia.
Victorian workers – Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee
Some casual and contract workers in Victoria may be eligible for the Sick Pay Guarantee. It’s a sick and carer’s leave payment available to some casual and contract workers in Victoria who work in certain occupations.
Eligible workers in Victoria can get up to 5 days of sick or carer’s pay at the National Minimum Wage. The payment is managed by the Victorian Government.
Learn more and check eligibility at Victorian Government – Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee.