Temporary exemption from close contact quarantine for critical workers in critical industries

Last Updated: 14 Jan 2022 4:53pm

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A contingency framework is in place to enable workplaces, identified as essential for the supply of critical goods and services to the community, to register for essential staff to be exempt from the quarantine requirement for close contacts if they are identified as a critical worker.

This framework is a contingency framework only. It only applies to businesses within identified sectors. It cannot provide exemptions in advance of shortage issues arising. The exemptions process only becomes available once there is a critical shortage to staff due to the quarantine requirement for close contacts.

The identified sectors are:

  • day procedures centres that fall within the meaning of the Health Services Establishments Act.
  • emergency services – including police, fire and emergency response personnel
  • power, utilities and essential infrastructure services including water, waste and sewage
  • agriculture and fisheries production
  • freight and logistics in relation to essential goods (for example food, beverages, groceries, sanitary products, medication or other medical products)
  • major manufacturing, distribution, and critical supply chains in relation to essential goods (for example food and fuel, supermarket shelf packing and refills but not retail sales)
  • correctional and detention facilities
  • essential commercial cleaning and laundry services (note – excluding residential)
  • public transport services.

Businesses and services not included in these definitions are not eligible to apply for exemptions. A separate exemption process is in place for private and public hospitals.

Information for workplaces on eligibility for exemption

Eligible businesses must have and must implement COVID-19 Safety Plans that consider and have solutions for staff shortages as a result of quarantine requirements.

A business may only consider having a close contact return to work when staff shortages are impacting critical supply of goods or services in identified critical industries, and all other reasonable solutions to the shortage have been investigated.

Before registering, businesses are to:

  • Conduct a risk assessment of the workplace to identify a critical staff shortage risk and alternatives to requesting a close contact to fill that gap,
  • Understand the minimum number of staff required to provide the service,
  • Seek alternatives to the close contact’s return, such as short term recruitment or staggered shifts of other workers,
  • Make an assessment that the return of the close contact is necessary and justified,
  • Implement appropriate mitigations to reduce potential transmission within the workplace for while the close contact is on the site, including consideration for solo breaks for the close contacts and the requirement for all staff to wear surgical masks,
  • Consult with affected co-workers on the steps the employer will be taking for the close contact’s return, and
  • Establish a review process to ensure that the employer is aware once the critical shortage has passed and the close contact can return to their quarantine period.

As part of the registration process Businesses/Employers will need to declare:

  • That they are an eligible entity within the defined industries (including providing their ABN and name of business),
  • That there is a critical shortage of workers and how the identified worker meets the definition of a critical essential worker,
  • The role the critical essential worker will undertake, and
  • What additional COVID-19 mitigation measures will be adopted to protect the workforce.

A close contact who is eligible for a quarantine exemption as a critical worker is only exempt from the quarantine requirement for a fixed term period (maximum seven days). Seven days is the maximum quarantine period for a close contact. Employers/Workplaces will need to re-register staff if the worker is subject to further quarantine requirements as a result of being identified as a close contact again.

Exemptions from quarantine are only provided for workers in the identified sectors if:

  • they are fully vaccinated, they are in quarantine because they have been identified as a close contact, and
    • they are not a confirmed COVID-19 case, and
    • they do not have symptoms of the disease, and
    • their presence in the workplace is critical to the ongoing operation of a business in one of the identified sectors, and
    • they cannot perform the critical role remotely and are required to be physically present at the worksite, and
  • there is no reasonable or available alternative to resolve the critical shortage other than to have the close contact in the workplace, and
  • the worker is supportive of returning to work during their quarantine period and has agreed to the conditions of the exemption, and
  • the worker has tested for COVID-19 (via Rapid Antigen Test) and received the negative result every day they return to work including on the first day, before arriving at work, and
  • their return to work as a close contact has been registered by their employer through WorkSafe Tasmania before they arrive at the worksite.

Before the identified critical staff member returns to work, employers/workplaces must:

  • register the worker’s attendance at the workplace through WorkSafe Tasmania, and
  • not allow the worker to return to work until that worker has returned a negative COVID-19 test every day that they work before they arrive at the worksite.

If the above situations are met, the worker can return to work.

Information for Critical Workers provided exemption

If a worker is eligible for the quarantine exemption and their attendance at work has been registered with WorkSafe Tasmania by their employer, conditions apply.

These include that the worker must:

  • Remain in quarantine other than to attend work.
  • Transit directly to and from work using private transport.
  • Wear a surgical mask continuously when outside their home, including when outdoors and while at the workplace.
  • Have a COVID-19 test each day before they attend work, and only attend work with a negative result. (Note – close contacts must have COVID-19 tests on days 1 and 6 while in quarantine. The day 1 and 6 negative test results can be used for the purpose of attending work).
  • Not attend work if symptomatic: workers must immediately leave the workplace and have a COVID-19 test if they develop symptoms and are no longer eligible for the exemption.

Compliance and inspection of workplaces registering close contacts in their workplace will be undertaken by WorkSafe Tasmania inspectors and authorised officers under the Public Health Act 1997 and penalties may apply for breaches.

Meeting testing requirements

Employees meeting the requirements and returning to work are required to comply with testing requirements which are:

  • Have a COVID-19 test each day before they attend work including on the first day and only attend work after a negative result. Workers must not attend work if they have not received the result or if the result is positive.

Self-testing by workers with a rapid antigen test is recognised as meeting the testing requirement.

Businesses are responsible for ensuring workers have access to rapid antigen tests to meet the exemption conditions.

Government supplies of rapid antigen tests

Registered critical businesses will be able to access rapid antigen tests through Government provided services for a 14 day period from 14-28 January to enable time for workplaces to resource required rapid antigen tests. Access to this Government services is via the registration process.

The supply of rapid antigen tests by Government is subject to availability. Workplaces must take steps to become self-sufficient with testing supplies after 28 January 2022 that workers can comply with their exemption conditions. Exemptions will lapse if workers are not able to be tested at the commencement of each day.

Rapid antigen tests will be delivered to the businesses’ nominated delivery address. For next day deliveries, workplaces are encouraged to register worker attendance prior to midday. Next day delivery may not be possible in remote areas.

View Temporary exemption from close contact quarantine for critical workers factsheet.

Registration for temporary exemption