Working arrangements for the health, aged care and disability workforce 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 coronavirus (COVID-19).
When can staff come to work?
Health, aged care and disability services providers rely on their workforce to deliver important services. This ensures that Australians receive the health care they need to stay well and maximise quality of life.
Staff can still go to work if they have directly cared for confirmed cases while using personal protective equipment (PPE) properly.
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 people should be redeployed to non-care based roles. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and employees should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence.
When should staff not come to work?
All staff, whether or not they have patient contact, should not come to work if they:
- have a fever
- have a symptom, even a minor symptom, of respiratory illness, such as a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion.
Staff should quarantine after:
- returning from overseas in the past 14 days
- being a cruise ship passenger or crew who travelled in the past 14 days
- being in close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19.
Staff should isolate:
- 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. This is an important part of our 3-step framework for a COVIDSafe Australia. Discuss whether you might be able to work from home.
Temperature checks in the workplace
Temperature checks of workers and visitors may be useful as an added precaution in high-risk places such as hospitals and aged care facilities. This helps protect the vulnerable people in those settings.
But temperature checks aren’t always an accurate way of knowing whether someone has COVID-19. This is because:
- people with COVID-19 don’t always have a fever
- various other medical conditions or infection can cause a fever, not just COVID-19
- fever can go up and down during an infection or after taking medication—it might be down at the time of the check.
When should staff be tested for COVID-19?
Health care or aged care employees are at greater risk of exposure to confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus. It’s important to detect COVID-19 early to protect both staff and those they come into contact including patients, clients and care recipients.
Staff should be tested for COVID-19 if they develop fever or respiratory symptoms.
Their doctor will confirm if they need to be tested and will arrange for the test.
Staff should stay home in isolation until they receive their results.
As aged and residential care facilities are high-risk-settings, residents and staff will be also be tested if there are 2 or more people with fever and respiratory symptoms in the setting.
COVID-19 test results
If the result is negative, the employee should remain at home until they are well enough to return to work.
If the result is positive, ask your staff member to follow the advice of their doctor and isolate themselves in their home or in a hospital until they are well.
Read more information on testing.
Returning to work after quarantine
Staff who do not develop COVID-19 symptoms while in quarantine can return to work without a medical clearance. Testing for COVID-19 is not necessary.
The annual influenza (flu) vaccine for 2020 is now available.
We strongly encourage health 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.
Aged care workers and all people entering aged care facilities are required to be vaccinated, except Victoria. For more information please read the fact sheet Restrictions on entry into and visitors to aged care facilities.
Staff 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
Staff who are eligible for personal (‘sick’) leave can claim this if they are unwell, or need to isolate.
If other staff are unable to work, financial support is available. Find out what they may be eligible for 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 staff 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.
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:
- diagnostic radiographers
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:
- Medicare provider numbers for returning practitioners
- how to register for or change Medicare details.
Staff for aged care services
Aged care services affected by COVID-19 can find temporary workers through aged care workforce 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.
States and territories have their own workforce measures. Learn more on the Aphra COVID-19 Health Workforce page.
As an employer, you should brief all staff on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes your contract staff and domestic and cleaning staff.
You also need to:
- support employee personal hygiene
- make sure the workplace is thoroughly cleaned
- promote physical distancing, where this does not prevent care
- adhere to the limits on public gatherings, noting that this does not apply to staff meetings
- support your employees’ mental health
- provide information to workers in residential aged care facilities.
When other responsibilities may apply
Additional responsibilities may apply when your organisation:
- supports patients face to face
- supports patients remotely
- provides aged care
- provides disability services.
There are a range of initiatives to support your work as an employer managing a health workforce:
- Aged Care Workforce Retention Bonus Grant
- Safe Work Australia — information for workplaces
- Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service from Beyond Blue
- Head to Health COVID-19 Support
- Mental health and COVID-19 Information for Workplaces
- Australian Government support for businesses
- JobKeeper Payment Advice for employers
- State and territory health departments.
To stay up to date on COVID-19:
You can also join our WhatsApp channel or use our COVID-19 app.
Join our COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia's response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you're already a WhatsApp user you can send a message to the channel to connect. If you don't have WhatsApp, download the app to join the channel.
Stay up to date with official information and advice about the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. You can check your symptoms and get notified when urgent information and updates are published.
A 30-minute online module — 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.
Publications and fact sheets
See our resources on working arrangements for health and aged care workers during COVID-19.
A collection of resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers, about coronavirus (COVID-19).