It is a requirement that your business has a Covid Safe plan but did you know you are required to update it every three months or when there is a major change in government directions? Now that you do know, we also want to suggest you incorporate plans that cover what needs to happen in case any of your team is deemed a close contact.
What is a Close Contact?
Given the questions we have been fielding, it might be helpful to look at who is actually defined as a close contact.
Our first area of concern sits with primary close contacts. They are:
Secondary close contacts are sometimes referred to as a close contact of a close contact. This group has had face-to-face contact with a primary close contact at least 24 hours after them being exposed to Covid-19. Being exposed to Covid-19 doesn’t have to mean they are Covid positive. Secondary close contacts are required to get tested and usually quarantine and adhere to any further directions by the Public Health team.
Who needs to quarantine and for how long?
There are a number of things to manage if your employee is considered a close contact so let’s break it down….
Let’s say John was at a Tier 1 site; he now must quarantine for 14 days and will be required to complete regular testing and follow all public health unit advice. If his work requires that he is on site, his employer is not required to pay him, nor should he use accrued personal or annual leave. Instead, he should apply for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment which is available to anyone in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT (all three states are in lockdown and therefore meet the federal government criteria for financial support), who can’t earn an income because they must self-isolate or quarantine or are caring for someone with COVID-19. This is a $1500 payment to cover the 14 day period and will require your employee to apply via the MyGov portal. Any person who John has been in close contact with since his exposure to Covid-19 will become a secondary contact and will be required to be tested and isolate until a negative result has been received.
But what about Sarah who lives at home with her parents and siblings and one of her brothers has been classified as a primary close contact? In this instance, Sarah is a secondary close contact and will need to test and isolate as a matter of urgency. Sarah will have to stay in isolation until the public health team advise and this will depend on the circumstances of Sarah’s exposure and living arrangements. In the first instance, Sarah is able to access the $450 payment that is in place to cover those who can not work while they complete a test and await the results. Further support will depend on how her individual circumstances are subsequently managed but once more, she is not required to access her personal or annual leave, nor will her employer be required to pay her as she can access the government disaster payments.
As a secondary close contact, Sarah’s work colleagues will not need to test or isolate unless she has a positive test result. In this instance, the public health team will be involved and will provide direction to you and your team
What if the public health unit advises me that my work premises is a Tier 1 or Tier 2 exposure site?
You are required to follow all health advice provided to you, but do you have to continue paying your staff because they were potentially exposed to Covid-19 while at work? The short answer is no, they too would be eligible for either the $450 or $1500 Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment depending on the amount of time they are required to isolate for.
So how does this all relate to your COVIDSafe plan? You need to make sure you have all of this information captured in your document as to how your business will respond in the event an employee is exposed to the virus at work or externally. Understanding the process BEFORE anything happens will reduce the stress for you as well as your employees and allow you to focus your energy on supporting your team through a difficult time.
If you have any concerns or questions around this process or need support updating your COVIDSafe plan, please contact the HR Staff n’ Stuff team.
The advice provided above was correct as of the 7th of September 2021. With health advice constantly changing, it is important you keep up to date with the latest information provided on the relevant state and federal government websites.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!