What happens when employees are COVID-19 positive?
Many workplaces have been impacted by the rapid increase of COVID-19 Omicron cases and the associated isolation periods.
The federal government has subsequently released the COVID-19 Test and Isolate National protocols, which include a summary of the action that people need to take if they think they have been exposed to COVID-19.
Master Electricians Australia said that if a worker tests positive, even where their symptoms are extremely mild, they are considered ‘sick’ for the purposes of being able to access their personal/carer’s leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act.
Sick leave is not applicable for periods of isolation or quarantine. Section 97 of the Fair Work Act deals with a situation where the worker is ill or injured and therefore unfit for work. If the worker is experiencing some ‘illness’ at the same time (maybe they get a cold in any event) then they can access sick leave.
These workers can apply for annual leave or use RDOs (if available). Leave without pay is also an option for workers who don’t want to access paid leave entitlements or who are able to access an Isolation Payment scheme.
MEA said that a significant issue that electrical contractors face is casual or part-time employees not isolating due to reduced income.
If employees can’t earn an income due to being directed to self-isolate by a health official, they may eligible for the Australian Government Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.
Additionally, the NSW and Victorian Governments have implemented Testing Isolation Payments for workers, to encourage workers to get tested and isolate. This should reduce the chance of a workplace becoming a close contact zone.
It is not the employer’s responsibility to pay for the isolation period — the isolation period is a government health directive, not the employer’s.
MEA has written to the Queensland, South Australian, Tasmanian, and Western Australian Governments, urging them to implement Test and Isolate payments for workers. These payments are essential to ensuring as many people as possible get tested and isolate.
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