There is a lot of information out there about coronavirus and it can be confusing to know where you stand as an employee. The below information is to clear up any uncertainty and to make sure you know your rights at work on this issue, and what to do if you have contracted the illness, or if your employer asks you to stay home due to your own health or that of your colleagues.
What to do if you’re unwell
First of all, if you have symptoms, including fever and/or acute respiratory infection (shortness of breath or cough) you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. You can find up-to-date information on quarantine requirements and a 24/7 hotline on the Department of Health’s website here.
Your rights as an employee – permanent staff
Employers have a duty to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees. This includes identifying risks to health or safety associated with potential exposure to the coronavirus.
With this in mind, employers may request that you stay home or seek medical clearance before returning to work (for example, because you have recently travelled through mainland China, or have been in close contact with someone with the virus). However, they must continue to pay you and you are not required to take sick leave or any other form of leave. Of course, if you are subsequently diagnosed with coronavirus, that’s what your sick leave entitlements are for, so you would take sick leave, just as you would if you contracted the flu.
Similarly, if someone else at work has contracted coronavirus and the employer reacts by asking other staff (or all staff) to remain home, they are required to continue paying you as per your
employment agreement and you are not required to take any form of leave.
What if a family member becomes unwell?
First, if a family member becomes unwell, you should get tested yourself. If you need to look after a family member or a member of your household who is sick with coronavirus, or suffering an unexpected emergency, you are entitled to take paid carer’s leave.
What if I am a casual worker?
All of the above applies to a casual worker, except that casual workers do not generally have an entitlement to sick leave. If a member of your family or household becomes unwell, casual workers are entitled to two days of unpaid carers leave.
What else is the union doing?
We are pushing for 2 weeks of additional sick leave to be available to all workers who are diagnosed with coronavirus, regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time or casual workers. While the Federal Government has so far refused to act on this call to action, we will continue to lobby all sides of politics to address the issue.
I hope this information is useful. If you believe your employer is acting contrary to the above advice, you should contact the Australian Services Union at email@example.com or on 03 9342 3300 and we will support you through the situation.
By your side,
Australian Services Union
Victorian Private Sector Branch