Working arrangements for high-risk settings during COVID-19

Find out what you need to do as a health, aged care or disability services employer to keep your staff and business safe during COVID-19.

High risk settings include:

  • Residential aged and disability care facilities
  • Home aged care and disability care
  • Hospitals and other health care settings

When can staff come to work?

Health, aged care and disability services workforce deliver critical services to make sure that Australians receive the health care they need to stay well and maximise quality of life. This includes those who provide direct care and those who provide essential support services such as cleaning, food preparation or administration.

Workers can still go to work if they have directly cared for a confirmed case as long as they are using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). There is no longer any requirement to isolate following exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Where vulnerable workers undertake essential work a risk assessment must be undertaken. Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated, taking into account the worker, the workplace and the work they are doing. This should be conducted with your local Public Health Unit.

Where possible, vulnerable workers should be redeployed to non-care based roles. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and workers should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence.

When should staff not come to work?

All workers, should not attend work if they:

  • have a fever
  • have symptoms, even minor symptoms, of respiratory illness, such as a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion.

Workers should stay home:

  • while waiting for the result of a COVID-19 test
  • after testing positive for COVID-19.

If you feel unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones, stay home and get tested for COVID-19. 

When should staff be tested for COVID-19?

Health care, aged and disability care workers are at greater risk of exposure to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. It’s important to detect COVID-19 early to protect both workers and those they are caring for.

Workers should be tested for COVID-19 if they develop fever or respiratory symptoms. Testing is now available through consultation with a doctor.

Their doctor will confirm if they need to be tested and will arrange for the test.

Workers should stay at home, until they receive their results.

For aged care settings, workers and visitors, should be screened for COVID-19 at least 2 times per week and not more than 72 hours apart. This should increase to daily testing of workers, visitors and residents during an outbreak to help minimise the spread of infections.

COVID-19 test results

If the result is negative, the worker should remain at home until they are no longer displaying respiratory symptoms to reduce the risk of infecting others.

If the result is positive, workers who provide close personal care should not attend the workplace for 7 days and return when they are no longer showing respiratory symptoms.

Read more information on testing.

Flu vaccination

The annual influenza (flu) vaccine is available.

We strongly encourage health, aged care and disability workers to get the flu vaccine every year. The flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, but if anyone becomes ill with both influenza and COVID-19 this can be very serious.

Workers may experience fever as a side effect of the flu vaccination. As fever is also a symptom of COVID-19, we recommend that staff with fever be tested as a precaution.

Accessing payments when staff cannot go to work

Workers who are eligible for personal (‘sick’) leave can claim this if they are unwell, or need to isolate.

If workers are unable to work, financial support may be available for workers in hight-risk settings. Find out who may be eligible and how they can apply.

Accessing more staff when you need them

The Australian Government and states and territories have built the capacity of Australia’s health work force. This may help you if you need to access more workers quickly.

The surge workforce will operate on a ‘standby’ basis. It will only be used if current health workforce levels need to be supplemented quickly.

Health practitioners

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) has established the pandemic response sub-register. The sub-register is a list of retired or non-practising qualified health care practitioners.

The sub-register covers:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • midwives
  • pharmacists
  • diagnostic radiographers
  • physiotherapists
  • psychologists.

Learn more about eligibility, registration and professional indemnity arrangements on Ahpra’s sub-register information page.

If practitioners need to access Medicare rebates, visit the Services Australia website to learn more about:

Workers for aged care services

Aged care services affected by COVID-19 can find temporary workers through aged care workforce measures.

Other measures

The government has temporarily relaxed working hours limits for student visa holders working in aged or disability care. Student visa holders enrolled in nursing or health courses can work to support the health effort against COVID-19.

For more information go to the Department of Home Affairs website.

Workers from other sectors can retrain for health and care sector roles. For more information go to the government’s Jobs Hub.

Learn more about states and territories workforce measures on the Aphra COVID-19 Health Workforce page.

Employer responsibilities

As an employer, you should brief all workers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes your contract workers and domestic and cleaning workers.

If one of your workers has tested positive for COVID-19, you need to follow the health advice from the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 or state or territory helpline.

You also need to:

When other responsibilities may apply

Additional responsibilities may apply when your organisation:


There are a range of Australian Government and State and Territory initiatives available to support employers managing a health workforce.

Staying informed

To stay up to date on COVID-19:


Online training

A 30-minute online COVID-19 infection control training is available for care workers across all health care settings.

This training is hosted on an external site, provided by our COVID-19 training partner Aspen Medical.

Register now

Publications and fact sheets

See our resources on working arrangements for health and aged care workers during COVID-19.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers

A collection of resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers, about coronavirus (COVID-19).

National COVID-19 Community Protection Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia

The National COVID-19 Community Protection Framework outlines public health measures to manage COVID-19.


View our webinars on the COVID-19 response for the health and aged care sector.

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