Go to top of page

Australia is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This is an unfolding situation so Commonwealth employers are advised to monitor the most up-to-date information via the websites of the Commonwealth Department of Health and the State and Territory health department websites.

Purpose

  1. Individuals exposed to novel coronavirus through close contact with a person with the virus or travel should act to reduce the risk of further spread of the virus. Anyone with symptoms and a reason to believe they are at risk of coronavirus should seek medical advice.
  2.  This guidance provides Commonwealth employers with information to:

a. assist in addressing employee questions about the coronavirus and what response the employer may take; and
b. guide decision making if employees present with symptoms or indicate they are at risk of having been exposed to the coronavirus.

Keeping up to date

  1. As the situation is evolving, agencies need to regularly review the information contained on the Commonwealth Department of Health website www.health.gov.au.

  2. The Commonwealth Department of Health also provide a latest news page.

  3. Agencies should also regularly review the information contained in the state and territory Health department websites relevant to their operations. The Commonwealth Department of Health website contains the relevant links.

  4. The latest advice from DFAT on travel is available at www.smartraveller.gov.au.

For Commonwealth employees who contract the coronavirus

  1. If an employee advises they have been diagnosed with the coronavirus by a medical practitioner, the employee should be given access to personal leave for personal illness in accordance with the agency’s workplace arrangements.

For Commonwealth employees caring for a child or other member of their household who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus

  1. Each circumstance needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

  2. Where the employee is providing care for a child or member of their household, Carer’s Leave should be used for the caring period.

  3. Where the employee is no longer performing a caring role, and is an exposure risk to others, consider what working from home arrangements can be put in place for the quarantine period as recommended by the employee’s medical practitioner.

  4. Where working from home is not practical or there is no facility for working remotely, paid Miscellaneous Leave for the quarantine period should be provided.

  5. If the employee is subsequently diagnosed with coronavirus, access to Personal Leave for personal illness should be provided.

If an employee notifies they have been exposed

  1. Where an employee notifies an agency that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus through recent travel or through close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the agency needs to consider what will be reasonable evidence.

  2. It is recommended that a common sense approach be adopted regarding evidence requirements which may include proof of travel and medical advice confirming close contact with an individual who has tested positive.

  3. Where an exposure exists, agencies may consider enabling the employee to work from home to monitor their health. If this is not practical or there is no facility for working remotely, paid Miscellaneous Leave for the quarantine period should be provided.

Other considerations

  1. Agencies should review their policies and procedures that cover communicable diseases as well as working from home arrangements.

  2. Where a child has been excluded from attending school due to these circumstances agencies can consider working from home arrangements. Where this is not practical, Carer’s Leave may be considered.

  3. Agencies should also consider what practical steps can be taken immediately on infection control, such as easy access to hand washes and promoting good hygiene practices.

Last reviewed: 
14 February 2020