What leave is available to me if I fall sick with Coronavirus, or a member of my family falls sick and I need to look after them?
If you are a full time or part time employee, and you are not fit for work because of an illness, or you are required to provide care or support to a member of your immediate family because of their illness, you may take your paid personal leave. If you have insufficient paid personal leave to cover your time away, you can seek access to your annual leave, long service leave or attempt to negotiate for paid special leave to be provided.
If you are required to look after a family member who is sick with coronavirus, you are entitled to take paid carer’s leave. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, full time and part time employees have an entitlement to 10 days of paid personal / carers leave per year and those leave days accrue from year to year and can be used either because the employee is not fit for work because of a personal illness or to provide care or support to a member of the employee’s immediate family. After using up any paid personal leave, the Fair Work Act 2009 also provides for 2 days unpaid carer’s leave. A casual employee is entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Your entitlements might be more generous depending on what’s written in your employment contract, Award, Enterprise Agreement or workplace policies.
I have not been diagnosed with Coronavirus, but my employer has directed me to take personal leave and undergo medical testing before I can return to work?
Can my employer make me use my Personal Leave?
Your employer does have the right to direct you not to attend work if there is a risk your attendance will create a health and safety risk for other employees.
You derive your entitlement to paid personal leave from the National Employment Standard (contained in the Fair Work Act 2009) or from an applicable award or enterprise agreement or from your common law contract of employment. Those instruments generally are worded such that it is the employee’s choice as to whether and when to take Personal Leave, provided the employee can substantiate his or her illness with evidence such as a doctor’s certificate if required.
If you request time off work because you or your family members are sick with coronavirus, your employer can’t make you access your personal leave, but in those circumstances you will not be entitled to be paid for the time you take off work (so most employees will choose to access their personal leave).
The situation may be different if you are a full or part time employee and your employer directs you not to attend the office because there is a risk your attendance will create a health and safety risk for other employees. If for example you are directed by your employer to stay home in line with the Australian Government’s health and quarantine advice, but you are not sick with coronavirus, you should ordinarily be paid while the direction applies.
In general, your employer should not be able to force you to take personal leave unless they have reasonable and valid concerns based on factual information about health and safety risks. If your employer is concerned and directs you to remain at home until medical clearance is obtained, they should continue to pay you your wages
If you find yourself in such a situation, get in touch with the WAS team on email@example.com.
What if I am stuck overseas or am required to be quarantined or to self-isolate?
Please notify your employer as soon as possible if you find yourself in that situation. It may be possible for you to negotiate special arrangements such as working from home (if your role allows you to), taking personal leave if you are unwell, or if you do not have sufficient personal leave to arrange to take annual leave, long service leave, special leave or unpaid leave.
If you find yourself in a situation like the above, get in touch with the WAS team for individual advice on firstname.lastname@example.org.
My employer has directed me to stay home but I am not sick with Coronavirus. Should I be paid?
If you are a full time or part time employee and are ready, willing and able to work, you are generally entitled to be paid while the direction applies. There may be clauses under your employment contract, Award, Enterprise Agreement or workplace policies that may apply.
Do take note that under the Fair Work Act 2009, you are protected from being dismissed because of a temporary absence due to illness or injury. Further your employer cannot discriminate against you on the basis of race or disability (which can include disease or illness).
Should you have concerns around being discriminated in your workplace, please get in touch with the WAS team on email@example.com.
Can I be stood down without pay if I have the Coronavirus?
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, you can only be stood down without pay if you cannot be usefully employed because of equipment breakdown, industrial action or a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be held responsible. Natural disasters are an example.
Your employer cannot stand you down, individually, without pay if you have the coronavirus. However, if your employer seeks to shut your workplace down due to reasonable concerns about the health and safety of its employees, it may be possible for them to engage in the stand down section of the Fair Work Act 2009. If such a situation arises at your workplace, immediately contact the WAS team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens if my employer needs to let me go or reduce my working hours?
If there is a business downturn due to the coronavirus, some employers may make the decision to issue redundancies. Your employer must meet the requirement under the Fair Work Act 2009 before they can terminate your employment.
If your employer seeks to vary your work rosters, consideration must be given to any relevant clauses in your employment contract, Award, Enterprise Agreement or workplace policies.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, please get in touch with the WAS team on email@example.com.
Can my employer prevent me from travelling?
Your employer can direct you not to undertake work related travel if it is for reasonable concerns around health and safety. However, your employer should not be able to direct you not to undertake private travel.
What about casual employees and independent contractors?
In general, neither casual employees nor independent contractors have paid sick or carer’s leave entitlements. However, you may qualify for the sickness allowance or JobSeeker Payment.
Circular 6/2020 – Leave arrangements for COVID-19