Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Critical Update

As the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Australia, there seems to be many theories circulating as to how employers should manage employees who are returning from overseas and whether or not employers are required to pay an employee who is in isolation and therefore cannot attend work.

Can you direct an employee who has been overseas not to attend work?

Currently, it is not a requirement of the Department of Health or any other government body that someone who has travelled to any overseas country be exclude from their workplace.

We understand that many businesses want to take appropriate precautions to prevent the virus from spreading however, it is not reasonable to exclude anyone from the workplace who has recently returned from overseas without consideration of the actual countries visited.  Obviously, each case should be assessed on a case by case basis to determine if isolation from the workplace is warranted.

We suggest that you monitor the advice issued by the government and the Department of Health for a list of countries that may require an individual to be in quarantine / isolation and therefore excluded from attending work after returning from overseas.

To keep up to date with a list of countries and for government advice, please visit the Department of Health’s website.

What are your pay obligations if an employee is in isolation and therefore unable to attend the workplace?

Depending on whether or not an employee is required to be under isolation / quarantine as a requirement of the Department of Health or other government body (because for instance they have travelled to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea within the timeframes identified by the government or Department of Health or been in contact with an infected person) or whether it is a company direction not to attend work merely as a precaution, will determine whether or not an employee is entitled to be paid and if the employer is responsible for that payment.

If you are unsure what may be a reasonable to protect your business or if you are unsure of your responsibilities and obligations as an employer, please contact our office for further advice on 07 3211 3350.

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