Business guide to Coronavirus

My employee wants to self-isolate — What leave should they take?

Our Workplace Advice Line team have been busy responding to calls from My Business members on their obligations as an employer amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

One of the questions they get asked a lot is about healthy employees who want to stay home as a precaution. 

Question

My employee wants to stay at home as a precaution during the COVID-19 health crisis. What leave entitlements can they access? 

Answer

Employees who want to stay at home as a precaution and have not been directed by their employer or an enforceable government direction will need to come to an arrangement with their employer on what best suits the business while balancing their concerns. 

An option may be to request employees to work from home — if this is a practical option for their role — or taking some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave. 

The employee should apply for leave as per the standard process. If the employee doesn't come to an agreement with their employer or use paid leave, they're not entitled to payment in this case.

Employees are encouraged to discuss their level of risk of contracting coronavirus with their doctor and workplace health and safety representative.

Employers need to remember it is a challenging time for everyone. Employees who don't want to go to work because they have a reasonable concern about an impending risk to their health or safety are not taking industrial action and therefore should not be treated as misconduct.  

This is, of course, provided the employee is not failing to comply with a reasonable direction to perform other appropriate and safe work.

On the other hand, where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee not to work due to workplace health and safety risks, but the employee is ready, willing and able to work, the employee is generally entitled to be paid. 

If an employee cannot work because they're subject to an enforceable government mandate requiring them to self-quarantine, the employee isn't generally entitled to be paid, unless they use leave entitlements. You can find information on self-quarantine requirements on the Australian Government Department of Health's website.

More information and resources

To help ensure you have the right policies and procedures in place to manage your workforce during the coronavirus pandemic, you can download My Business's free Employer Toolkit, which includes:

  • Leave policy 
  • Letter to employee advising stand down 
  • Mental Health Policy 
  • Working from Home Checklist 
  • Working from Home Policy 
  • Ergonomics Checklist.

HR Advance has other helpful policies to help you during this period such as: 

 

Catherine Ngo

Senior Editor and Content Writer, My Business

Catherine is passionate about unravelling the latest news and insights to help entrepreneurs, small business owners and employers.

Free Workplace Advice line

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