Rapid antigen testing information for businesses
Rapid antigen tests are a quick way for businesses to detect COVID-19 and protect their workers and customers.
COVID-19 rapid antigen test updates
From 1 October 2023, you can no longer:
- register a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) result with Service NSW. This is because the Service NSW RAT portal closed on this date
- collect free RATs at Service NSW locations.
NSW Health still recommends you should stay at home and not visit high-risk settings such as aged care facilities and hospitals if you have cold or flu symptoms. This is to help protect other people. Find out what to do if your RAT is positive or negative.
If you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, speak to your doctor and make a plan about testing and antiviral medicines before you get sick. If you are unwell and can’t contact your doctor, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or use the online Service Finder.
How the test works
Rapid antigen tests can pick up the COVID-19 virus early in the infection, sometimes before symptoms appear.
Individuals can show no symptoms but still carry the virus and may give it to others.
Rapid antigen tests provide results quickly and help reduce the spread of the virus and prevent outbreaks.
Rapid antigen testing involves taking either a saliva sample or nasal swab that is placed into a chemical solution to give a result in 10 to 20 minutes. Instructions provided with the test kits need to be followed carefully.
Rapid antigen testing at workplaces
There are two different types of rapid antigen testing for workplaces:
- Point-of-care testing which is implemented on-site and requires medical supervision.
- Rapid antigen self-testing kits which can be done at home and do not require medical supervision.
Guidance for businesses and employers
Routine rapid antigen testing for businesses is not required in NSW and is not routinely recommended.
Some businesses may choose to implement workplace screening using rapid antigen tests based on an individual risk assessment.
The Safe Work Australia website has additional guidance on this topic available for businesses.
The risk assessment should include factors such as whether staff work with people who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19, if staff have a role that is critical to business continuity, and whether other mitigating measures can be put in place.
Business can use COVID-19 Safety Plans to help staff:
- Be aware not to attend work and to get tested if they have symptoms.
- Practice regular hand hygiene.
- Stay up to date with vaccinations.
Onsite point-of-care screening for workplaces
Some employers, industries, schools and government agencies have implemented point-of-care rapid antigen testing screening on-site and at workplaces that require supervision of a health practitioner. They may engage a third-party provider to manage this process.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published guidance including a checklist to help businesses understand the key considerations for rapid antigen point-of-care testing in their workplace.
Rapid antigen self-testing
Workplaces may choose to implement a rapid antigen self-testing program which can be done at home and does not require medical supervision.
To support the safe use of rapid antigen self-tests, the TGA works with suppliers and manufacturers of self-tests to ensure:
- instructions for use are written in a way that all consumers can understand
- usability testing has been successful
- self-tests perform satisfactorily against variants.
What rapid antigen test kits can be used?
Devices that have not been approved by the TGA cannot be used in Australia. The TGA website includes a list of all registered rapid antigen test kits.
The TGA website publishes frequently asked questions about the supply of rapid antigen tests, which should be reviewed before proceeding with rapid antigen testing.
Who covers the cost of rapid antigen testing?
Rapid antigen testing is a screening tool that many businesses are using to support business continuity.
Businesses are responsible for procuring their own test kits in line with the TGA requirements and, where applicable, are expected to cover the cost of implementing testing on site at workplaces.
Rapid antigen testing is not covered under the Australian Government's Medicare Benefits Scheme.
How is rapid antigen testing different to other testing?
A rapid antigen test is a screening test used to identify positive cases quickly. When used regularly, rapid antigen tests identify individuals who may be infectious early on.
A standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test (also known as a nose and throat swab done at a testing clinic) – is a diagnostic test and can confirm if someone has COVID-19. These tests take a deep nasal sample and throat sample and are tested in laboratories.
If a worker receives a positive rapid antigen test result
If a worker tests positive to COVID-19, they should stay home and follow NSW Health’s testing positive to COVID-19 advice.
Workers who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should follow NSW Health’s advice for people exposed.