Employees ‘must’ be paid for COVID-enforced absence 

21 October 2022

SA Health has provided an unsatisfactory response in relation to the payment of employees who test positive to COVID-19 and are directed to remain absent from work and use personal carers (sick) leave, even though they may be medically fit to work.  

Last week, SA Health met with unions to discuss the end of the emergency management directions, and that COVID-19 management is now moving to a WHS framework.  

Each employer will now develop their own policy and procedures on how to manage COVID-19 related issues. 

The ANMF (SA Branch) position was made very clear that given isolation requirements are now to be employer determined (and not based on specific legislative direction), that an employee must be paid for time that they are directed to remain absent from work when they are fit to work. 

“The SA Health response automatically assumes that if you test positive to COVID-19 you are sick and unfit for work and therefore must access personal carers leave,” ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said. 

“Our position is there is a difference between testing positive and being sick and unable to work. With other infectious diseases you are not considered unfit for work just on testing positive to a virus or other infection.” 

Indeed the SA Health Policy for its own employees is at odds with the rules put in place in other work settings where isolation and compulsory leave no longer apply. 

The ANMF (SA Branch) believes that SA Health does not have the legal capacity to declare that individuals are medically unfit for work (which is what is needed for sick leave to be accessed). This is normally a judgment call made by an individual’s health care practitioner.  

The ANMF (SA Branch) has insisted that the policy of using personal carers leave is suspended immediately pending further discussion or it will commence legal action to challenge the compulsory isolation based on employees using their own personal leave entitlements.