Changes to mandatory COVID-19 isolation periods

Our COVID-19 website information

We are reviewing our COVID-19 website information due to the changes to mandatory COVID-19 isolation requirements. Please keep checking back for updates.

In the meantime, we encourage you to read the information on this page.

Published 12 October 2022 | Updated 8 November 2022

The rules for mandatory 5 day COVID-19 isolation periods are changing in October 2022.

Check your relevant state or territory government website for details about what applies to you, including any ongoing isolation or reporting requirements for some high-risk industries. Go to Check your COVID-19 restrictions to find your government website.

You may still be required to isolate in some circumstances, for example workers in high-risk settings such as aged care, disability care, Aboriginal healthcare and hospital care. Other requirements may also apply, for example regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, wearing masks and physical or social distancing. Employers and workers should check for any requirements that apply to them.

Find information about your workplace rights and obligations on:

Workplace health and safety (WHS)

Both employers and employees have responsibilities under WHS laws to not put the health and safety of workers and other people like customers and visitors in the workplace at risk. Employees who are sick shouldn’t attend the workplace.

You can find out more about WHS obligations on the Safe Work Australia website, and about the WHS laws that apply in your state or territory at the relevant state or territory WHS regulator. Go to Workplace health and safety to find yours.

Attending or not attending the workplace

We encourage employers and employees to continue working together to find solutions that best suit their workplace and circumstances when dealing with COVID-19. This may include exploring alternative work arrangements, such as working from home where possible.

Employers and employees should also check their awards, registered agreements, employment contracts and workplace policies for any relevant requirements or other information.

Employer directing the employee not to come to work

Employers may be able to direct an employee not to attend the workplace when they’re sick. If this happens, the employee isn't entitled to be paid unless they take paid sick leave or some other type of paid leave.

Some employers might want an employee not to attend work as a precaution. If an employer tells a full-time or part-time employee not to come to work as a precaution, the employee has to be paid.

Employee wanting to stay home

Employers may be able to direct an employee to attend work if the direction is lawful and reasonable in the circumstances.

Some employees may want to stay home as a precaution. If an employee doesn’t want to attend the workplace, for example because of health concerns, they should talk with their employer to find a workable solution. This may include:

If an employee doesn't come to an arrangement with their employer, or doesn’t use paid leave, then they aren’t entitled to be paid for choosing not to attend work.

Employees need to comply with directions from their employer to perform other appropriate and safe work if that direction is lawful and reasonable, or there could be disciplinary consequences.

Employees have protected rights in specific circumstances. Find out more at Protections at work.

Taking sick or carer's leave

If an employee is sick with COVID-19 or needs to care for a family or household member, they may be able to take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave.

Full-time and part-time employees

Full-time and part-time employees can take paid sick leave if they can’t work because they’re sick with COVID-19. They can also take paid carer’s leave when they need to look after an immediate family or household member who is sick with COVID-19 or has an unexpected emergency. If they don’t have any paid sick or carer’s leave left, they can take 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave on each occasion. See Paid sick and carer’s leave and Unpaid carer’s leave.

An employee needs to let their employer know as soon as possible, and give reasonable evidence that they aren’t fit for work, if their employer asks for it. Learn more at Notice and medical certificates.

If an employee can’t take sick or carer’s leave, they should discuss their situation and other options with their employer. This could include:

Casual employees

Casual employees aren’t entitled to paid sick or carer’s leave. They are paid a casual loading instead of accumulating paid leave entitlements.

Casuals who need to care for an immediate family member or household member who is sick can take 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave on each occasion. Notice and evidence requirements can apply. See Unpaid carer’s leave.

If a casual employee is sick and can’t attend work, they should discuss their options with their employer. This may include staying away until they’re well.

From 14 October new financial support will be available to casual workers in some sectors. Details of any new financial support will be announced and made available from Services Australia.

Casual and contract workers in Victoria may be able to access the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee payment. Find out more at Victorian Government – Sick Pay Guarantee.

Changes to government support

High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment

The High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment is a new payment that replaces the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for some high-risk industries. These include:

  • aged care
  • disability care
  • Aboriginal healthcare
  • hospital care.

The payment is available to eligible workers who work in a high-risk setting and can’t earn an income because they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

Read more about the payment and how to apply at Services Australia.

More information

Read the Prime Minister’s Meeting of National Cabinet media release about the national changes to mandatory COVID-19 isolation requirements and changes to financial support.

Find industry-specific WHS guidance at Safe Work Australia – COVID-19 Information for workplaces.

To get in touch with your local WHS body for advice or assistance, go to List of all state and territory WHS bodies.