COVID-19 testing

Published 18 February 2022 | Updated 29 June 2023

Testing for COVID-19 at work can raise questions about workplace rights and employer privacy obligations.

We also cover off PCR testing and rapid antigen testing in this section.

Getting tested

Employees may get tested for COVID-19 for several reasons, including when they have COVID-19 symptoms or are a close contact. Some of these reasons might be connected to their work. State or territory health departments’ websites contain guidance about when and how to get tested.

The Department of Health also provides public health advice on COVID-19 testing. See: Department of Health: Testing for COVID-19.

How COVID-19 tests work

There are 2 types of tests that can detect if you have the COVID-19 virus:

  • rapid antigen tests
  • polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Find out more from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) about how COVID-19 testing works.

Learn more about workplace rights and responsibilities for each at PCR testing and rapid antigen testing.

Workplace protections

Under the Fair Work Act, all employees (including casual employees) are protected from adverse action because they have:

  • a workplace right, or
  • they have exercised or proposed to exercise their workplace right.

‘Workplace rights’ include obligations that an employee has under WHS laws, which may include obligations under public health orders. For example, a public health order may require an employee not to attend the workplace for a certain period of time following a positive rapid antigen or PCR test.

It’s unlawful for an employer to take or threaten to take adverse action (for example, firing or injuring an employee in their employment) because of an employee’s workplace rights. Find out more about Protections at work.

The Fair Work Act also contains protections against unfair dismissal, including where an employee is dismissed without a valid reason. Find out more about Unfair dismissal.

Test results

Employers should ensure that they have appropriate processes in place for when an employee returns a positive rapid antigen or PCR test. State and territory health departments can provide further information and assistance:

An employee who has been lawfully required to take a COVID-19 test can be asked to show their employer evidence of the test result.

For employers covered by the Privacy Act 1988, they can only collect (record or keep a copy of) the rapid antigen test results if:

  • the employee gives informed consent (involving no threat of disciplinary action or dismissal) and the collection is reasonably necessary for the business’s functions or activities, or
  • collection is authorised by law (for example, a public health order requires the information to be collected or where collection is necessary for the employer to meet their WHS obligations).

For more information, visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website:

General information about workplace privacy is available at Best practice guide – Workplace privacy.

Tools and resources

Related information