COVID-19 support for workers

Last updated: 14 January 2022

Guidance and support for workers impacted by COVID-19.

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Paid and unpaid leave

You may need to take leave from your work as a result of COVID-19, depending on your situation.

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you if you can’t work because you need to self-isolate or quarantine.

You can talk to them about your options, including:

  • working from home or from another location
  • taking sick leave
  • taking annual leave
  • taking paid or unpaid pandemic leave
  • taking any other leave available, such as long service leave

You may be able to get the  Pandemic Disaster Leave payment if you live in NSW and:

  • are directed to self-isolate or quarantine by NSW Health, and
  • you don’t receive any income or income support payments during this time.

The NSW Government offers a Test & Isolate support payment of $320 to eligible workers who need to isolate after having COVID-19 symptoms. Find out more about the Test and Isolate support payment.

Find out more  about Australian Government crisis payments for people affected by COVID-19.

If you or a family member is sick with COVID-19

If you work full-time or part-time, you can take:

  • paid sick leave if you can’t work because you’re sick with COVID-19
  • paid carer’s leave to look after a family or household member who's sick with COVID-19
  • 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave each time a family or household member is sick, if you've used all your paid carer's leave.

Casual employees can take 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave each time a family or household member is sick.

Your employer may ask for a medical certificate as proof of the illness if you’re taking sick or carer’s leave.

You’re protected from losing your job if you’re away from work temporarily due to illness, including with coronavirus.

If you caught COVID-19 at work

Talk to your employer as soon as possible if you have COVID-19 and think you caught it at work, as you may be able to claim workers compensation.

In most cases, you’ll need to prove that your work activities were the main contributing factor in getting COVID-19.

To make a claim, you’ll need:

  • a certificate of capacity from your doctor to prove your diagnosis
  • information from your employer and doctor that shows your job was the main contributing factor in catching coronavirus

If your child’s school or childcare centre is closed

Full-time and part-time workers can take paid carer’s leave to look after a family member because of an unexpected emergency.

This includes if your child’s school or childcare centre temporarily closes on short notice due to coronavirus concerns.

All employees, including casuals, can take 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave for each unexpected emergency. Those who work full-time and part-time must have used their paid carer’s leave first.

Your employer may ask for proof of the unexpected emergency if you're claiming paid or unpaid carer’s leave.

If your child’s school or childcare centre is closed for a longer period, talk to your employer about other options, including:

  • working from home or other flexible working arrangements
  • taking annual leave
  • taking any other leave, such as long service leave.

If you’re a casual employee or independent contractor

Casual employees are paid a higher rate of hourly pay instead of getting paid leave, so they usually won’t get paid if they don’t work.

They can take unpaid leave, including:

  • 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave each time a family or household member is sick, injured, or if there's an unexpected emergency
  • 2 days of unpaid compassionate leave each time a family or household member dies or suffers a life threatening illness or injury
  • 5 days (in a 12-month period) of unpaid family and domestic violence leave
  • unpaid community service leave.

In most cases, independent contractors are not employees and don't get paid leave if they don’t work.

There are some exceptions, such as fixed term contractors and contract outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry.

Returning to workplaces and COVID-19

As more people go back to work following the relaxation of COVID-19 rules, even safe and compliant workplaces may experience outbreaks or unknown transmission of COVID-19. 

Employers have a legal responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy workplace and manage the risk of COVID-19 to workers. 

  • Workers who are unwell should not attend the workplace and should get tested.  
  • Workers must also protect themselves and others from COVID-19. 
  • There are requirements for some workers to be vaccinated, depending on their workplace. 

There are guidelines for businesses who have a worker that tests positive to COVID-19.

While safety plans are no longer mandatory, they are strongly encouraged for all NSW businesses. 

Most businesses must continue to follow public health orderslaunch, including QR check-ins for specific premises and businesses. 

Staying safe at work

Employers and workers need to work together co-operatively to continue maintaining safe workplaces. 

Some businesses may ask workers to return to a central workplace after a long time working from home. 

Employers may also ask workers to work extra hours, different shifts or may continue a flexible approach to work as long as they consult with workers openly and resolve disputes fairly. 

Workplaces must keep workers safe

Workplaces also have privacy obligations about the health and vaccination status of their employees. 

Staying away from work due to fear of COVID-19

Some workers may be cautious about returning to a workplace due to fear, medical conditions or caring responsibilities. 

If there is a legitimate medical reason to stay away from a workplace, full-time and part-time workers may be able to get paid personal or carers leave with a medical certificate. 

Casuals, contractors or other workers may ask for a temporary change to working arrangements and outline the personal circumstances and reasons. 

Under NSW work health and safety laws, workers may cease work if they have a reasonable concern about an imminent risk to health or safety. 

Employers have a duty to consult with workers or their health and safety representatives about all workplace health and safety issues, including how COVID-19 risks are managed in the workplace. 

Dealing with suspected COVID-19 in the workplace 

If someone has COVID-19 or is getting tested for COVID-19, they should be at home and not in a workplace. 

If a visitor, employee, contractor, customer or other person in a workplace is displaying COVID-19 symptoms or admits they have been in contact with COVID-19, then you can: 

  • isolate the person to limit risk to others 
  • talk to the person about your concerns 
  • ask the person for their contact details  
  • speak to a manager to seek further advice 
  • call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 
  • visit Service NSW or call 13 77 88
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