Novel coronavirus, isolation periods and workplace relations

[Updated 26 March 2020]

At the time of writing, the Department of Health recommends a 14-day isolation period in the following instances:

  • If you have left, or transited through mainland China in the last 14 days, you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the date of leaving mainland China.
  • If you have left, or transited through Iran on or after 1 March, you must isolate yourself until 14 days after leaving Iran.
  • If you have been in close contact with a proven case of coronavirus, you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the date of last contact with the confirmed case.

If an employee decides to self-isolate because one of the above criteria is true for them, they will need to arrange to work from home or to access some form of paid or unpaid leave.
If you want an employee to stay home due to concern over the coronavirus, you can direct them to seek medical advice from a doctor. You can direct an employee to work from home, but if this isn’t possible you will still need to pay full- or part-time employees.
If an employee is placed in quarantine, it is up to both parties to come to a suitable arrangement during this period.  This agreement can include annual leave, personal leave if the employee is sick, or any other form of paid or unpaid leave available to the employee.
If an employee is sick with coronavirus, they are entitled to take personal leave for the duration of their illness.  If an employee is required to care for an immediate family member who is ill with the coronavirus, they are entitled to access carer’s leave.
If an employee's children's school has shut down, they can access personal leave due to an unexpected emergency. If you require proof, a letter from the school advising of the shut down is sufficient. If an employee doesn't have enough accrued paid personal leave to cover the absence, they can negotiate alternative paid leave at the employer's discretion.
If your organisation shuts down in the absence of a government direction to do so, it's likely you aren't able to stand down full- or part-time employees without pay.  You will still need to pay these employees for their contracted hours. 

Enterprise agreements may have additional rules or leave available to employees, for example infectious disease leave.  If you are unsure whether these situations apply to you, call Jobs Australia’s Workplace Relations Team on 1800 331 915.

For up-to-date information, visit the Department of Health's page on novel coronavirus here.