Employers guide to employee leave when unable to work due to COVID-19

Employers guide to leave when unable to work due to COVID-19

Now we're in the midst of the biggest wave of the pandemic yet, more employees than ever are going to be impacted by COVID-19. We've compiled a summary of the key scenarios and what type of leave should be used in each.

How do I pay an employee that has received a positive COVID-19 result?

If an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, either through a PCR test or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT test), the employee will be able to access their accrued personal/carer’s leave for the period of absence. An employer may request evidence of an absence due to a positive COVID-19 test. Acceptable evidence is that which would satisfy a ‘reasonable person', such as a medical certificate or their positive COVID-19 test result. If the affected employee does not have enough accrued personal/carer’s leave to cover the period of absence, the absence should be treated as leave without pay. In such circumstances, the employee may request to use their accrued annual leave during this period and employers should agree to such a request.

 

How do I pay someone that is waiting for a PCR test result?

In circumstances where an employee is waiting for a PCR test result because, for example, they have been a close contact or have been directed by the Health Department to be tested, the period of absence should be treated as leave without pay or alternatively, the employee may request to use accrued annual leave. The exception to this would be a scenario where the employee is unwell while waiting for their PCR test result. In this scenario (& because the employee is actually unwell), the employee could access their accrued personal/carer’s leave. In circumstances however where the employer has directed the employee to take a PCR test and stay away from work pending the result, the employee is entitled to be paid ordinary time earnings during the period of absence.

 

How do I pay someone that is required to isolate due to being a ‘close contact’?

If an employee has been declared a close contact in accordance with a Public Health Order or Direction, the period of isolation should be treated as leave without pay (or taken as annual leave if requested by the employee). The exception to this would be a scenario where the employee is or becomes unwell or becomes COVID-19 positive while isolating. In this scenario and because the employee is actually unwell (& therefore not fit for work), the employee could access their accrued personal/carer’s leave. In circumstances where an employee is isolating (& provided the employee is not unwell), an employer may allow the employee to work from home. The discretion to allow the employee to work from home is entirely the employers.

 

What happens if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 while on annual leave?

In these circumstances, and at the request of the employee, the period from when they test positive to COVID-19 may become personal/carer’s leave. The employer may request evidence for this change of leave classification.

 

What happens if an employee feels unwell after receiving a COVID-19 booster vaccination?

If an employee feels unwell after their COVID-19 booster vaccination, the employee will be able to take a period of accrued personal/carer’s leave. Again, the employer may request evidence for this absence.

 

What next?

All employers should remain alert for ongoing changes or updates to your COVID-19 Safety Plan obligations and Public Health Orders & Directions. If you're needing specific advice around a situation for your employees, Fair Work is a great resource to rely on. For any payroll processing questions, please get in touch with our team for assistance.