Guidance for businesses with a worker who tests positive for COVID-19
What you need to do if a worker who has attended your workplace has tested positive to COVID-19.
How a business will find out that a worker tests positive for COVID-19
A business owner or employer might be notified that a worker who has attended the workplace has tested positive for COVID-19 by:
- the worker who has tested positive
- an employer of a worker who visits the workplace
- public health authorities.
The privacy and confidentiality of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 must always be maintained.
The actions described below apply to situations where a worker has attended the workplace. Business owners or employers are not required to notify that a customer with COVID-19 has visited the workplace.
Managing the risk of COVID-19 in a workplace
Under NSW work health and safety laws employers should take all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of workers from the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.
Having a COVID-19 Safety Plan that considers the risk and informs your control measures will assist in meeting your obligations.
Your Safety Plan should consider action to prevent workers contracting and spreading the virus and support for workers who may be exposed to a confirmed case or who show COVID-like symptoms.
What to do if a worker who tests positive for COVID-19 has been in the workplace
- Tell the worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 to return home directly and follow the advice from NSW Health.
- Ensure the safety of the workplace and workers, for example by cleaning and disinfecting all areas used by the person who tested positive for COVID-19. See further information on cleaning the workplace.
- Businesses should assess how much contact other workers had with the person who tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was infectious in the workplace. Information for people exposed to COVID-19 will help determine if any workers have high risk exposure or moderate risk exposure.
- If your assessment of workplace risk indicates there are workers who have had high risk exposures or moderate risk exposures, those workers should be encouraged to follow information for people exposed to COVID-19. Businesses may choose to furlough staff to manage the risk.
- Advise workers and contractors of the situation in your workplace. Consult with workers about the identification and management of any remaining health and safety risks.
Identifying and assessing the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a workplace setting
The risk of infection with COVID-19 depends on many factors. These include:
- Whether the exposure was indoors or outdoors (the risk is lower for outdoor settings).
- The amount of time spent with a COVID-19 positive person (the risk is lower with less time spent together).
- How close a person is to exposure with an infected person (the risk is lower with distanced interactions).
- If either the exposed person or the infected person were wearing masks (the risk is lower if they were both wearing masks).
- The infectiousness of the case. People are infectious from 48 hours before symptoms appear. If the person has not had symptoms, they should be considered infectious from 48 hours before they had their first positive test.
- If there has been transmission of COVID-19 from a person at the workplace. Transmission indicates that the person with COVID-19 was infectious when they attended.
- The vaccination status of the case and contacts and whether they have had a booster. Vaccination decreases the risk of getting COVID-19. However, this protection wanes over time and is less effective against certain variants of COVID-19 such as Omicron. A booster dose helps improve this protection, including for the Omicron variant. Vaccination is also very important in protecting against severe disease.
A workplace risk assessment should consider the nature of contact with the person who has COVID-19, as well as the circumstances of the exposed individual, such as whether they work with people who are vulnerable to severe illness should they develop COVID-19.
Planning for workplace exposures
Persons conducting a business or undertaking should consider what action they will take if, or when, workers or others in the workplace are exposed to an infected person (positive case) to ensure they minimise the risk of further infection to others in the workplace and business disruption.
General advice on the level of risk associated with different types of exposure is available on the people exposed to COVID-19 page.
Measures for preventing repeat infection in the workplace might include regular rapid antigen testing or furlough of high-risk contacts for 7 days.
Business responsibilities for informing workers
Advise workers and contractors of the general situation, noting that the privacy and confidentiality of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 must always be maintained. Information provided should include:
- Symptoms of COVID-19 that staff and contractors should monitor themselves for
- Where to seek public health advice and help
- Reminders to staff, contractors, visitors and customers to not enter the premises if they are unwell
- Advice on physical distancing and personal hygiene measures (e.g. hand hygiene and cough etiquette)
- What infection control measures the business operator has put in place, including cleaning.
Closing down the premises may or may not be required
Businesses do not necessarily have to close if a worker has tested positive to COVID-19. The decision to close a business depends on:
- Ongoing transmission. Evidence of ongoing spread of infection (transmission) from person to person in the workplace might mean the business has to close temporarily to stop transmission between workers.
- Cleaning requirements. Premises must be appropriately cleaned following attendance of a positive case. This can be done overnight so as not to disrupt normal business hours. If premises are told during business hours they may need to close to undertake cleaning.
Cleaning guidance is available
All areas used by any suspected or positive case of COVID-19 should be cleaned and disinfected.
For hard surfaces, either:
- use detergent and water for cleaning followed by disinfectant solution (2-step clean)
- use a combined detergent and disinfectant solution (2-in-1 clean).
Specialist cleaning is not required.
Learn more about routine cleaning and disinfection in the workplace.
For more information on cleaning, visit Safe Work Australia.
When workers are returning to work
Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 should follow the NSW Health advice on testing positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 at home.
A person who tests positive may leave self-isolation 7 days after they were tested if they do not have a sore throat, runny nose, cough or shortness of breath.
Workers who are contacts can return to work once they have completed any self-testing and self-isolation period and don't have any symptoms.
Employers should provide staff, visitors, contractors and customers safety information that includes:
- symptoms of COVID-19 staff, visitors, contractors and customers should self-monitor for
- where to seek advice and help
- reminders not to enter the premises if they are unwell
- advice on physical distancing and personal hygiene measures (e.g. hand hygiene and cough etiquette)
- what infection control measures the business operator has put in place, including cleaning.