News & Views

11th January 2022

Changes to COVID Testing Rules for Workplaces

We hope you were all able to take a break over Christmas and the New Year!

If you are coming back to work now, though, you should be aware of the new rules around testing for COVID-19.

As of 11.59pm 6 January 2022, a person who returns a positive Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) is regarded as a probable case of COVID and is subject to the same requirements as a case confirmed by a PCR test.  Which means that, a person who returns a positive RAT result must isolate immediately for seven days and notify their close contacts (and obviously, not come to work).  They are NOT required to have a PCR test as well.

As well as notifiying their close contacts, anyone returning a positive RAT is required to report the result to the Victorian Department of Health.  This will give the person access to the same services – such as monitoring for worsening symptoms and financial assistance – that are available to those with a positive PCR test.

The online and phone reporting system is live from 7 January 2022. There is an option to fill in an online form, or you can call the Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 (8:30 am to 5 pm, Mon-Fri, excluding public holidays).  The process consists of simple questions, including a symptom check for triaging care. Translation services are available through the hotline number and all information given, either online and on the hotline, is subject to privacy legislation.

Employer responsibilities

What do I do if an employee has symptoms?
Employees with symptoms should not work on-site or in an office.  You should advise them to take a RAT and, if positive, to report the result to the Department of Health (as above) and follow their instructions.  Contact tracing focuses on the 48 hours prior to the person showing symptoms, so you must keep records that allow you to track contact between employees.

What if they can’t get a RAT?
Rapid Antigen Tests are in short supply at the moment.  Until supply improves, people with symptoms and their close household contacts (even if they don’t have symptoms) are entitled to receive a PCR test.

When can they come back to work?
Returning a positive RAT result and reporting it to the Department of Health is sufficient to qualify the employee for sick leave, without a medical certificate or PCR test (if they have sick leave owing).  Once they have tested positive, the employee must isolate for a minimum of 7 days.

What about employees who are ‘contacts’?
The rules here differentiate between workplace contacts and household contacts. Workplace contacts can return to work after returning a negative result from a RAT or PCR test. Employees who are household or ‘household-like’ contacts of a confirmed case must isolate for 7 days.  If they develop symptoms during this time, they need to follow the procedures outlined above (get a test, if positive, report it, etc).

As always, these regulations are subject to change.  We will continue to monitor the situation and update you with any further information/clarification as it comes to hand.