Published 29 May 2020 | Updated 20 April 2022
Updated COVID-19 testing information
We've updated and moved our information about COVID-19 testing and the workplace. This includes rapid antigen testing.
For more information go to:
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:
In this section:
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 (as defined by the Department of Health – COVID-19 Test and Isolate National Protocols ) 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.
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.
The Australian Government and some Australian states and territories are providing payments to some workers during coronavirus. Learn more at Government payments.
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).
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.
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 in 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:
- 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.
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.
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:
- ACT: ACT COVID-19 Hardship Isolation Payment
- SA: SA COVID-19 Cluster Isolation Payment
- Tasmania: Tasmania Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grants
- WA: WA COVID-19 coronavirus: Test Isolation Payment