Temporary permission to attend work as a close contact: critical roles in high risk areas/facilities

Last Updated: 12 May 2022 2:28pm

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A permissions process is in place to enable workplaces, identified as high risk, to register for essential roles within their workplaces and to permit workers who are close contacts to enter facilities and/or provide services if they are identified as a critical worker.

The list of high risk facilities includes:

  • Hospitals
  • Residential aged care facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Residential disability facilities
  • Support and special school staff

The list of high risk areas includes:

  • In-home and community aged care
  • High-intensity supports provided to an NDIS participant

Information for workplaces on eligibility for permission

High Risk Areas/Facilities must have and must implement COVID-19 Safety Plans that consider and have solutions for staff shortages as a result of the effects of isolation and close contact management.

A high risk area may only consider having a close contact at work when staff shortages are impacting critical supply of services and all other reasonable solutions to the shortage have been investigated and ruled out.

Before registering, facilities 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 attendance at work, such as short term recruitment or staggered shifts of other workers,
  • Make an assessment that the attendance 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 masks,
  • Consult with affected co-workers on the steps the employer will be taking for the close contact’s attendance, and

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,
  • The critical role  to which the permission will relate, and
  • That close contacts will follow all requirements while in the workplace
  • What additional COVID-19 mitigation measures, if any, will be adopted to protect the workforce.

A close contact who is permitted to attend work to perform a critical role only receives that permission for a fixed term period (maximum seven days). Employers/Workplaces will need to re-register staff if the worker is subject to further close contact requirements as a result of being identified as a close contact again.

Critical workers may only perform critical work in high-risk areas while a close contact if:

  • they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19
  • 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 has tested for COVID-19 (via Rapid Antigen Test or PCR) and received the negative result every day before they attend work including on the first day, and
  • the critical role that the close contact will perform has been registered by their employer using the portal at the end of this page before they arrive at the worksite.

Before staff members attend work to perform critical roles while close contacts, employers/workplaces must:

  • register the critical role, and
  • not allow the close contact worker to attend 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, a worker who is a close contact can perform an identified critical role.

Information for permitted workers

If a workplace has registered a critical role, and a worker is eligible to perform that role while a close contact, conditions apply.

These include that the worker must:

  • Wear a surgical mask when at the workplace.
  • Have a COVID-19 test each day before they attend work, and only attend work with a negative result.
  • 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 permission.

How to obtain Rapid Antigen Tests

Government supplies of rapid antigen tests

High-risk facilities and areas will be able to access rapid antigen tests through Government-provided services 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 so 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 permission for close contacts to attend work in high risk settings/facilities factsheet.