Receive the latest mybusiness news
Copyright © 2020 MOMENTUMMEDIA

Employers could land in jail for forcing employees to download COVIDSafe

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
15 May 2020 1 minute readShare
COVIDSafe app

An employer cannot make downloading or using COVIDSafe a condition of employment after the legislation underpinning privacy protection behind Australia’s contact tracing app was made law on Thursday.  

Following the Parliament’s passing of the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020, which underpins privacy protection behind the COVIDSafe app, an employer could face up to five years’ jail time and fines of $63,000 for requiring an employee to download and use the app as a condition of employment.

“Requiring a person to download, use or consent to upload COVID app data is an offence under this bill and carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or 300 penalty units, or both. This measure provides strong incentives against imposing requirements relating to the download and use of COVIDSafe,” the explanatory memorandum to the bill reads.


An employer is also barred from taking adverse action against an employee or prospective employee if they refuse to use the app.

Commenting on the bill’s passage, the Fair Work Commission explained that an employer will also contravene the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 if it takes adverse action against an employee or prospective employee for not downloading or using the app.


Other aspects of the legislation include a direction preventing retailers from refusing a person entry to their premises on the ground that the person has not installed or is not using COVIDSafe.

The COVIDSafe app has drawn some criticism from the public over its perceived breach of privacy and its questionable effectiveness.

The government is insisting, however, that the app is a key part of Australia’s recovery from the coronavirus lockdown measures, as it allows authorities to make quick contact with anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.  

At the moment, it is believed more than 5.7 million people have downloaded the software but authorities are urging for more.



“The only way the disease detectives can really use the COVIDSafe app is if it is on the phone of the person who is diagnosed with COVID. If it’s not on their phone, COVIDSafe can’t be used,” deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth has said.

Employers could land in jail for forcing employees to download COVIDSafe
mybusiness logo
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

Leave a Comment


Latest poll

How satisfied are you with the SME measures in the federal budget?