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.
You must register a positive rapid antigen test result:
- within 24 hours of getting the positive result, and
- every time you get a positive result.
If you have tested positive and reported your result, you can:
- quickly understand your relative level of risk based on your personal circumstances
- access support services available from NSW Health
- access financial support, such as the Pandemic Disaster Leave Payment.
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.
Testing at workplaces
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved 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 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 the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, 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 should develop COVID-19 safety plans that, at a minimum, ensure all staff:
- Are aware not to attend work and to get tested if they have symptoms
- Physically distance at least 1.5 m as much are possible
- Wear masks indoors in accordance with public health orders
- Wear masks outdoors when they cannot physically distance from others
- Practice regular hand hygiene
- Have received a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine when eligible.
Rapid antigen tests are not a substitute for COVID-19 safety plans.
The Safe Work Australia website has additional guidance on this topic for businesses.
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 the safe implementation of COVID-19 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.
Some businesses may be eligible for support to buy rapid antigen tests for the workplace. Read the NSW Government support for small to medium businesses.
How is rapid antigen testing different to other testing?
There are two different tests used by NSW Health to detect COVID-19 – diagnostic tests and screening tests.
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 has COVID-19 symptoms, they should:
- Register the positive result with Service NSW and follow the advice for people testing positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 safely at home.
If a worker has no COVID-19 symptoms, they should:
- Register the positive result with Service NSW and follow the advice for people testing positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 safely at home. They can have a PCR test to confirm the result (as it is more accurate). If they do get a PCR test within 24 hours of the rapid antigen test and it is negative, they can stop self-isolating. Get another test if symptoms develop.
If a worker gets a negative rapid antigen test result
If a worker has COVID-19 symptoms and:
- Is at higher risk of severe illness, keep self-isolating and get a PCR test, this will provide a more accurate result.
- Is not at higher risk of severe illness, get a PCR test right away or another rapid antigen test 24 hours later. Keep self-isolating until the results of the second test are received. If the second test is negative, the worker does not have COVID-19. The worker should stay at home until they’ve recovered from illness.
If a worker has no COVID-19 symptoms and:
- The rapid antigen test is negative they are unlikely to have COVID-19. If a worker is at higher risk of severe illness and has been recently exposed to COVID-19 in their household, they should have a PCR test right away. If the PCR test is negative, they can stop self-isolating. Get another test if you develop symptoms.
Household contacts of confirmed cases and those at high risk of exposure must self-isolate for 7 days.
They should follow the NSW Health advice for people exposed to COVID-19.
Read how to follow the self-isolation rules.