Information for Employees - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

Date last updated

Monday 01 Jun 2020

Industries and topics
  • Infectious diseases

I am feeling unwell and think I have coronavirus (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 of sense of smell

                In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be considered.

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

                • self-isolate immediately, seek medical advice from your GP or the DHHS 24-hour coronavirus (COVID-19) 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 coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis).

                    Related information

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

                    You have a duty to take reasonable care of your own health and safety, 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 coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

                    • self-isolate immediately, seek medical advice from your GP or the DHHS 24-hour coronavirus (COVID-19) 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 coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis).

                        I think I have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19). Can I still go to work and should I tell my employer?

                        If a person has had close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the previous 14 days, that person needs to quarantine (self-isolate).

                        'Close contact' means having face-to-face contact for more than 15 minutes with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) – or alternatively sharing a closed space with them for more than two hours. If you believe this applies to you, you should not go to work. Instead, you should:

                        • self-isolate immediately, seek medical advice from your GP or the DHHS 24-hour coronavirus (COVID-19) 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 your employer if your situation changes (for example if you receive a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis).

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

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

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

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

                            What are my workplace health and safety obligations about coronavirus (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 Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (the OHS Act) or the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

                                  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 coronavirus (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:

                                  • may have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
                                    • may have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19), or
                                      • have any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), no matter how mild.

                                        Instead, you should:

                                        • self-isolate immediately, seek medical advice from your GP or the DHHS 24-hour coronavirus (COVID-19) 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 your employer if your situation changes (for example if you receive a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis).

                                            Related information

                                            What does my employer need to do to keep me safe from any risk of exposure to coronavirus (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 coronavirus (COVID-19), and so far, as reasonably practicable, eliminating or reducing the risks.

                                            Your employer must:

                                            • follow government directions (for example, from the Victorian Chief Health Officer)
                                              • identify whether there is a risk to health of employees, or others associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) at their workplace
                                                • put in place appropriate control measures, that eliminate or reduce the risks associated with exposure to coronavirus (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 coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace.

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

                                                    • 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
                                                          • current government advice, for example directions from the Victorian Chief Health Officer and guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

                                                            After conducting a risk assessment, measures to eliminate or reduce the risks from coronavirus (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 Chief Health Officer
                                                              • directing you to work from another location, such as your home, if possible
                                                                • where possible avoiding face to face meetings by using other methods of communication, such as phone or videoconferences
                                                                  • changing work practices to eliminate or 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 practice good hygiene practices 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.

                                                                                    Related information

                                                                                    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 coronavirus (COVID-19) when:

                                                                                    • Identifying and assessing the hazards and risks that coronavirus (COVID-19) may present to your health and safety
                                                                                      • making decisions about control measures to eliminate or minimise the risks associated with coronavirus (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 coronavirus (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, a contractors or a casual workers, 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.

                                                                                                  Related information

                                                                                                  Does my employer need to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene supplies to manage the risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) at my workplace?

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

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

                                                                                                  • your workplace and the work you do
                                                                                                    • the risk associated with the tasks being undertaken, including the availability of supplies
                                                                                                      • what is reasonably practicable for the tasks and associated risks
                                                                                                        • current guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

                                                                                                          The most effective control measures recommended to protect employees from exposure to coronavirus (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.

                                                                                                                PPE is a control measure of last resort and it is only recommended to be used in certain workplaces, in combination with the other measures listed above and in accordance with current DHHS advice.

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

                                                                                                                The advice of Victoria's Chief Health Officer is that if you can work from home, you must. 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 coronavirus (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
                                                                                                                  • 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 coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on the Fair Work Ombudsman's website.

                                                                                                                        Related information

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

                                                                                                                        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 coronavirus (COVID-19), so far as is reasonably practicable.

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

                                                                                                                        • your workplace and the work you do
                                                                                                                          • the level of risk associated with the tasks being undertaken, including the availability of supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
                                                                                                                            • what is reasonably practicable for the tasks and associated risks
                                                                                                                              • current guidance from DHHS.

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

                                                                                                                                Related information

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

                                                                                                                                You should talk to your employer or Health and Safety Representative (HSRs) (if any) about the controls in place in your workplace to manage the risks associated with coronavirus (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 DHHS or other government agencies.

                                                                                                                                      For information about your employer's duties under the OHS Act relevant to coronavirus (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 Coronavirus (COVID-19) at work?

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