A permanent employee is entitled to personal/sick leave where they are unfit for work due to a personal illness or injury. If an employee tests positive to COVID-19, they are unable to attend work without exposing other employees to potential harm. Therefore, such an employee can apply for personal/sick leave.
If an employee is suffering from no symptoms (ie. ‘asymptomatic’) and is required by the government’s mandate to isolate because they are a close contact (or for another reason), that employee is not entitled to personal/sick leave.
This is because the employee’s inability to work is not because of ‘personal illness or injury’ as set out in Section 97 of the Fair Work Act.
Accordingly, a close contact who is asymptomatic and required to isolate whilst waiting for the result of a COVID-19 test would have to:
Working from home options should also be considered where appropriate.
An employer may choose to allow an employee to access personal/sick leave entitlements during mandatory isolation. However, this is not obligatory and is at the employer’s absolute discretion.
There have been no changes to evidence requirements when accessing personal leave.If requested, the evidence provided must satisfy a reasonable person that the employee was not fit for work. This is usually satisfied with a medical certificate or statutory declaration. Emails or text messages from testing centres confirming the employee has tested positive to COVID-19 or a copy of a positive RAT or PCR result could also be accepted.
If an employee has been directed to quarantine while awaiting a COVID-19 test result, but is unable to work from home and cannot access paid leave or other income, the employee can apply for a $320 COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment. This Isolation Payment is available from 5 February 2022.
Beyond this, if an employee cannot work on account of quarantine requirements, they may apply for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment with Services Australia. For information on eligibility, the application process and how much can be claimed, refer to the Services Australia website.
Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. Also, the information contained in this summary is subject to change, given the daily (sometimes hourly) changes in respect to government responses to COVID-19. For more information, call NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on (08) 6241 6129 or email email@example.com