While COVID-19 continues to pose a major challenge, National Cabinet recently decided to end both mandatory isolation periods and the Pandemic Leave Disaster payments, with these changes coming into effect as of Friday October 14.
With the assistance of our trusted partner Onyx Legal, we break down these latest developments and what they mean for employers.
Mandatory Isolation Periods
As of October 14, all Australian states and territories have ended mandatory isolation periods for those who test positive to COVID-19.
This means that if you test positive for COVID-19, you are no longer required to isolate at home unless you work in a high-risk industry such as health and aged care.
If an employee working in these industries tests positive, they are still required to isolate.
Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
In addition to mandatory isolation periods, Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments have also ended as of October 14.
This means that those who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer entitled to receive these payments. There will be some exceptions here, with targeted financial support continuing for “casual workers in a range of high-risk settings.”
What does this mean for employers?
While these changes might seem fairly clear-cut, there are still several points that employers will need clarity on in order to avoid any confusion surrounding COVID-19 in the workplace.
We’ve provided some answers to key questions that employers may have:
Q1: Can I ask an employee to stay home if they test positive?
A1: Yes. While mandatory isolation periods have ended, an employee should not come to work if they are unwell – for any reason, including testing positive for COVID-19.
Q2: Do I have to pay an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 if they stay home?
A2: If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they may choose to take personal leave (if any is available). Alternatively, they make take annual leave or unpaid leave if no personal leave is available.
Q3: Can an employee be made to wear a mask at work?
A3: While mask mandates were relaxed earlier this year (with some exceptions), workplaces are still entitled to make rules in accordance with their own assessment of workplace health and safety.
Jeanette Jifkins (Director and Commercial Lawyer from Onyx Legal) explains that due to the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, an employer can prescribe a standard in the workplace for the wearing of masks consistent with their assessment of the risk – e.g. where people have to work in close contact with each other, share small or enclosed workspaces with poor ventilation, or deal frequently with the public.
As such, businesses may assess that they require mask wearing for people who are unless, or positive for COVID even without apparent symptoms.
Q4: Can I refuse to allow an employee into the workplace if they have tested positive, in order to ensure the safety of others?
A4: Workplaces can make rules having regard to their own assessment of workplace health and safety. This can include requiring people to not attend the workplace if they have tested positive to COVID-19, with or without symptoms.
If an employee feels that they are able to work because they have no symptoms but are testing positive, then the employer should investigate the viability of working from home for that week.
Akyra’s key takeaways
- As of October 14, Australian workers will no longer be required to isolate at home if they test positive for COVID-19 – unless they work in high-risk industries such as health and aged care
- Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments will also end on October 14. Employers are only required to pay an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 and does not come to work only if they have personal leave or request to use annual leave.
- Despite the relaxation of mask mandates, employers are still entitled to make rules in accordance with their own assessment of workplace health and safety
- Employers may refuse to allow an employee to enter the workplace if they have tested positive for COVID-19. If an employee feels that they are well enough to work, work-from-home arrangements should be explored.
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to COVID-19 and the workplace. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.