Information for employees: COVID-19

Commonly asked questions about COVID-19 and occupational health and safety in your workplace.

Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated

This guidance is correct as at time of publication, however, Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO) Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated. Readers of this guidance need to check the latest Victorian CHO Directions for applicability.

Restrictions apply across Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be required to close temporarily for on-site work
  • remain open for on-site work with a completed COVIDSafe Plan in place
  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations

It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with changes for your industry.

How are my occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations impacted by the restrictions?

There is no change to your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of the Directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO).

Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work. However, having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with the Victorian CHO Directions does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any health directions that apply to how your business must operate, and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

I am feeling unwell and think I could have COVID-19. Can I go to work?

If you are unwell, no matter how mild the symptoms, you should stay at home.

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • fever
  • chills or sweats
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • loss or change in sense of smell or taste

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

If you have any of the symptoms, however mild, of (COVID-19) you should:

  • self-isolate immediately, seek medical advice from your doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398, and get tested
  • tell your employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures your workplace has in place, and update them if your situation changes (for example, if you receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis)

I am feeling unwell and think I have COVID-19. Should I tell my employer?

You have a duty to take reasonable care of your own health and safety and the health and safety of others in your workplace, and to cooperate with your employer about any action they take to reduce the risks to health and safety from COVID-19.

This means that if you have any of the symptoms, however mild, of COVID-19, you should not go to work. Instead, you should:

  • self-isolate immediately, seek medical advice from your doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398, and get tested
  • tell your employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures your workplace has in place, and update them if your situation changes (for example if you receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis)

I think I am a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19. Can I still go to work and should I tell my employer?

A close contact is someone who has been identified by Department of Health (DH) contact tracers as having spent time with someone who has COVID-19.

There are two types of close contacts:

Primary close contact:

  • someone who has had face-to-face contact or spent time in a closed space with someone who has COVID-19 while they were infectious
  • someone who has been in an outbreak or other setting where there is a higher risk of transmission of COVID-19

Secondary close contact:

  • someone who has had face-to-face contact with a primary close contact at least 24 hours after them becoming exposed to COVID-19

If you have been identified by DH contact tracers as a close contact, you should not go to work. You should:

  • follow the directions given to you by DH and
  • tell your employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures your workplace has in place, and update your employer if the situation changes (for example if you receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis

If you think you have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 or may otherwise be a close contact, you should:

  • contact the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 immediately. You should not go to work until DH contact tracers determine if you are a close contact. If DH contact tracers determine that you are a close contact, you should follow the directions given to you by the DH
  • tell your employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures your workplace has in place, and update your employer if the situation changes (for example if you receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis)

If you have any of the symptoms, however mild, of COVID-19 you should not go to work.

I think I may have contracted COVID-19 from my workplace, what should I do?

If you believe you may have contracted COVID-19 while at work, you should stay at home until you receive advice that it is safe to return. If you are confirmed to have a COVID-19 infection, you must self-isolate until advised by the Department of Health (DH) that it is safe to leave isolation.

You should follow the advice in the section above - I am feeling unwell and think I have COVID-19. Can I still go to work?

You may be entitled to workers' compensation if you contract COVID-19 at work.

What are my workplace health and safety obligations about COVID-19 as an employee?

Employees have a duty to:

  • take reasonable care of your own health and safety in the workplace
  • take reasonable care of the health and safety of others in the workplace
  • cooperate with your employer about any action they take to comply with the the OHS Act or OHS Regulations

This means you must cooperate with any reasonable policies or directions your employer has put in place to reduce the risks to health and safety from COVID-19. This obligation applies even if you are working from home.

This means that you should not go to work if you believe that you:

  • are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • may have contracted COVID-19, or
  • have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild

See the questions above for what to do in these situations.

See the questions above for what to do in these situations.

What does my employer need to do to keep me safe from risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work?

Your employer has a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of its employees.

This includes identifying risks to health or safety associated with exposure to COVID-19, and so far, as reasonably practicable, eliminating or reducing the risks.

Your employer must:

  • follow government directions (for example, from the Victorian CHO)
  • identify whether there is a risk to health of employees, or others associated with COVID-19 at their workplace
  • put in place appropriate control measures, that eliminate or reduce the risks associated with exposure to COVID-19, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • consult with you and your Health and Safety Representatives (if any), so far as reasonably practicable, on decisions about how to control risks associated with COVID-19 in the workplace

What your employer can do to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 will depend on:

  • current government advice, for example directions from the Victorian CHO and guidance from DH
  • the type of workplace and the work you do
  • the level of risk associated with the tasks being undertaken
  • what is reasonably practicable for the tasks being undertaken and associated risks, including the availability of supplies of PPE

After conducting a risk assessment, measures to eliminate or reduce the risks from COVID-19 in a workplace should follow the hierarchy of controls.

Some examples of control measures that may be appropriate include:

  • implementing physical distancing measures in accordance with the recommendations made by the Victorian CHO
  • directing you to work from another location, such as your home, if possible
  • where possible encouraging using phone or videoconferences instead of face-to-face meetings
  • changing work practices to reduce contact with other people
  • limiting access to the workplace by other people
  • increasing cleaning and disinfection in the workplace, in particular in high use areas
  • where possible, avoiding shared use of phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment
  • encouraging everyone in the workplace to practise good hygiene and providing adequate facilities or products (such as hand washing facilities and hand sanitiser)
  • building additional short breaks into employee schedules, so that employees have increased opportunity to wash their hands
  • extending currently rostered breaks to allow employees time to follow proper hygiene procedures
  • developing safe system of work to ensure there are sufficient plans in place for employee absences when necessary, including providing appropriate induction and training to allow shift replacement
  • providing personal protective equipment (when appropriate), including information and training on why the equipment is required and how to safely use it.

Does my employer need to consult with me about safe work practices?

Employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with employees and HSRs (if any), on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them.

This means employers must consult with you on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19 when:

  • identifying and assessing the hazards and risks that COVID-19 may present to your health and safety
  • making decisions about control measures to eliminate or minimise the risks associated with COVID-19
  • deciding on the adequacy of facilities provided for the health and safety of employees (such as hand washing facilities)
  • proposing other changes to the workplace as a result of COVID-19 which may affect health and safety

When consulting with you about health and safety, employers must also:

  • provide information in a way that you can readily understand, such as in an appropriate language and accessible format (emails, posters, verbal)
  • provide information to you even if you are on leave, or if you are a contractor or a casual worker, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • share all relevant information about the matter with you, give you a reasonable opportunity to express your views, and take those views into account before making a decision

Does my employer need to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene supplies to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at my workplace?

Employers must do everything that is reasonably practicable to eliminate or reduce the risks of employee exposure to COVID-19 at the workplace.

The types of control measures that are required in your workplace to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, including the provision and use of PPE, will depend on:

  • current guidance from the DH
  • your workplace and the work you do
  • the risk associated with the tasks being undertaken, including the availability of supplies of PPE
  • what is reasonably practicable for the tasks and associated risks

The most effective control measures recommended to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 at the workplace are:

  • implementing physical distancing measures, wherever possible
  • promoting good personal hygiene practices and providing hand washing facilities or products (such as soap and hand sanitiser, where available)
  • keeping the workplace clean and hygienic, such as regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces such as door handles, phones, and workstations to help prevent contamination

Should my employer direct me to work from home due to COVID-19?

Your employer has a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of its employees.

This includes identifying risks to health or safety associated with exposure to COVID-19, and so far as reasonably practicable, eliminating or reducing the risks.

Whether working from home is a reasonably practicable measure will depend on:

  • the current government directions (for example, from the Victorian CHO)
  • the specifics of your workplace
  • the facilities available for employees to work remotely
  • the ability for employees to do their work safely from home

You should talk to your employer about whether working from home is reasonably practicable.

Am I entitled to additional paid leave if I have to self-Isolate?

Information about your workplace entitlements and COVID-19 can be found on the Fair Work Ombudsman's website.

What should I do if my employment means I cannot always maintain physical distancing?

Your employer must comply with any relevant density quotient rules in the Victorian CHO Directions.

If the nature of your employment means that you cannot maintain physical distancing for all tasks (for example, healthcare, public transport and construction workers) then your employer needs to use other available control measures to manage the risks associated with exposure to COVID-19, so far as is reasonably practicable.

The types of control measures that are appropriate in your workplace will depend on:

  • current guidance from DH
  • your workplace and the work you do
  • the level of risk associated with the tasks being undertaken, including the availability of supplies of PPE
  • what is reasonably practicable for the tasks and associated risks

Your employer should undertake a risk assessment and consult you about the controls in place in your workplace to manage the risks associated with COVID-19.

What should I do if I am concerned about how my employer is managing risks associated with my exposure to COVID-19?

You should talk to your employer or HSRs (if any) about the controls in place in your workplace to manage the risks associated with COVID-19. If you are still concerned about your health and safety, you could:

  • follow the Issue Resolution processes within your workplace
  • contact WorkSafe's advisory team on 1800 136 089
  • seek advice specific to your circumstances, including from any employee agencies, legal providers and official advice issued by DH or other government agencies

For information about your employer's duties under the OHS Act relevant to COVID-19 and the types of control measures that may be appropriate for your workplace refer to the section above - What does my employer need to do to keep me safe from the risk of exposure of COVID-19 at work?