Quarantine and self-isolation: pay and leave options

Published 29 May 2020 | Updated 25 November 2021

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.

Employees who can’t go to work because of coronavirus

Employees can’t go to work if they need to quarantine or self-isolate, for example, because they:

  • have been diagnosed with coronavirus
  • have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus
  • need to get tested or are waiting for a coronavirus 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's sick with 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 not to go to work because of a health condition that puts them at higher risk of getting coronavirus. See Employees who want to stay home as a precaution.

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COVID-19 tests

Employees may get tested for COVID-19 for several reasons. The current health advice is that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible.

The Department of Health provides public health advice on COVID-19 testing. See:

Find out more about:

Requirement to get a COVID-19 test

Some public health orders can require certain employees to be tested. Employees and employers have to comply with public health orders. For information about what applies in your state or territory, visit List of enforceable government directions during coronavirus.

An employer may in certain circumstances be required to direct an employee to get tested to comply with obligations under a work health and safety law. Information on work health and safety obligations is available from Safe Work Australia . Find contact information for your state or territory workplace health and safety body at Related sites – workplace health and safety.

A term of an enterprise agreement, other registered agreement or employment contract may also permit an employer to require an employee to get tested.

Where there is no requirement under a public health order, work health and safety law, registered agreement or employment contract, an employer may still be able to direct an employee to get tested in some circumstances. Requirements, or directions, need to be lawful and reasonable.

An employer’s direction is more likely to be lawful and reasonable where the current public health advice is for the employee to get tested.  

Rapid antigen testing

Rapid antigen testing is a type of COVID-19 test used in Australia. Some employers have started implementing rapid antigen testing in the workplace.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has information and guidance to help businesses understand how to implement COVID-19 rapid antigen testing in the workplace. This includes a checklist. Learn more at TGA – COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests – Guidance and checklist for businesses .

Business.gov.au also has guidance for employers on rights and responsibilities when using rapid antigen tests. Go to Business.gov.au – COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for business owners external-icon.png.

Payment when getting a COVID-19 test

If an employee is required to get tested for COVID-19 by their employer (but it isn’t required under a public health order), they’re entitled to get tested on work time and be paid for the time as if they had worked. 

An employee usually isn’t entitled to be paid for time spent getting a COVID-19 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.  

Full-time and part-time employees may be able to take paid sick leave if they’re unable to work at the time of being tested because they’re sick or injured. 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:

The Australian Government and some Australian states are providing payments to some workers during coronavirus, including when they need to get tested and isolate until they have a negative result. Learn more at Government payments.

Employers should consider any award, agreement, employment contract or workplace policy that applies because they could be more generous.

COVID-19 test results

Some states and territories have issued public health orders that require workers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering a workplace. For information about what applies in your state or territory, visit List of enforceable government directions during coronavirus.

An employer that has lawfully and reasonably directed an employee to get tested for COVID-19, can usually ask the employee to show evidence of the test result. 

For employers regulated by the Privacy Act 1988, they can only collect (record or keep a copy of) the test results if:

  • the employee gives informed consent (involving no threat of disciplinary action or dismissal) and the collection is reasonably necessary for the business’s functions or activities, or 
  • collection is authorised by law (for example, a public health order requires the information to be collected or where collection is necessary for the employer to meet their obligations under workplace health and safety laws). 

For more information, visit Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website:

General information about workplace privacy is available at Best practice guide – Workplace privacy.

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When an employee is sick with COVID-19

Employees who have COVID-19 must not attend the workplace. They are required to isolate and can’t go to work until they are formally released.

Any sick employee 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’re sick with coronavirus. 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.

The Australian Government and some Australian states and territories are providing payments to some workers during coronavirus. Learn more at Government payments.

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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.

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Unpaid pandemic leave during quarantine and self-isolation

Some employees have access to unpaid pandemic leave.

Employees who are employed under one of the affected awards can access up to 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave (or more by agreement with their employer) if they can’t work:

  • because they need to self-isolate in line with government or medical authorities, or on the advice of a medical practitioner, or
  • because of measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic (for example, an enforceable government direction closing non-essential businesses).

The leave is available to full-time, part-time and casual employees in full immediately. They don’t have to accrue it.

Employees don’t have to use all their paid leave before accessing unpaid pandemic leave.

All eligible employees can take the 2 weeks’ leave. It is not pro-rated for employees who don't work full-time.

Go to Unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave changes to awards to find out which awards have unpaid pandemic leave, and the rules about when and how it can be taken.

Interaction with other entitlements

Unpaid pandemic leave doesn’t affect other paid or unpaid leave entitlements and counts as service for entitlements under:

  • awards
  • the National Employment Standards.

Notice and evidence

An employee has to tell their employer, as soon as possible after the unpaid pandemic leave starts:

  • that they’re taking unpaid pandemic leave
  • the reason for taking the leave.

They should also say how long they expect to be off work.

An employer can ask their employee to give evidence that shows why they took the leave.

An employer can’t dismiss an employee or take any other adverse action against the employee because the employee is entitled to unpaid pandemic leave. Find out more about protections at work.

Example: Taking unpaid pandemic leave

Gerson is a casual shop assistant employed under the Retail Award. He’s received advice from a state government public health official that he needs to self-isolate because he was in close contact with someone who had coronavirus.

He calls his employer to let them know his situation.

Gerson's employer discusses the different kinds of leave options he has while he’s away from work. After talking about it, Gerson decides he’ll take unpaid pandemic leave. On his employer’s request, Gerson emails his employer his medical certificate.

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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 aren’t sick with coronavirus
  • 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-quarantine,
  • government-imposed travel restrictions are in place (for example, they’re stuck overseas), or
  • they’re sick with coronavirus.

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.

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.

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Government payments

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is available to eligible workers who don’t have appropriate leave entitlements and can’t earn an income because they:

  • have to self-isolate or quarantine due to a positive coronavirus case, or
  • are caring for someone with coronavirus.

For more information about the payment, eligibility requirements and how to claim it, visit Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment  on Services Australia's website.

COVID-19 hardship payments

Some Australian states and territories are also providing hardship payments for certain workers during the pandemic. Eligible workers include those who don’t have access to certain paid leave entitlements and can’t work because they are waiting for coronavirus test results. Go to:

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