If you are planning to introduce rapid antigen testing (RAT tests) as a requirement for your staff to help manage COVID-19 in the workplace, it is important to be aware of your employer obligations.
Am I obliged to ask my employees to take a RAT before attending work?
Unless rapid antigen testing is required under a specific law such as a public health order or to comply with obligations under WHS laws, there is no general requirement for employers to implement a RAT program in the workplaces.
Can I choose to require my staff to take a test before coming to work?
Employers can only require their employees to undertake rapid antigen testing where:
- a specific law (such as a state or territory public health order) requires it or an award, registered agreement or an employment contract allows an employer to require an employee to be tested for COVID-19
- it would be lawful and reasonable for an employer to give their employees a direction to undertake rapid antigen testing, considering factors such as:
- an employer’s duties under workplace health and safety laws
- the type of work being performed by an employee
- the nature of the workplace, and
- an employee’s specific circumstances.
the requirement is consistent with all legal requirements and obligations, including WHS, privacy and anti-discrimination obligations.
What are the consultation obligations if I want to introduce rapid antigen tests?
Under WHS laws and some employment contracts and enterprise agreements, employers must consult with employees and any health and safety representatives about possible control measures to address health and safety risks, including RAT tests. Employees and representatives must be given a reasonable opportunity to express their views about any proposed changes, and employers need to take these views into account when making a decision before advising of their decision. A requirement for employees to undertake rapid antigen testing may not be reasonable if the employer has not complied with all their consultation obligations.
Who pays for the RAT kits?
Employers who introduce rapid antigen testing must pay for the employee’s RAT kits. If an employee is directed to purchase a test kit by their employer, the employer must reimburse them the cost. If that employee returns a positive test result, they must be paid for time worked up until the results are received.
When should I recommend that my employee takes a test?
RATs are recommended for use if:
- attending a large gathering in a crowded place such as a wedding or funeral
- visiting a person who is vulnerable to risks of COVID-19
- visiting a high-risk setting, e.g. an aged care facility, hospital or disability group home
- need to check quickly for COVID-19
- recommended by the Department of Health.
In Western Australia, it is preferred that PCR tests are used as the priority testing mechanism, while testing clinics can manage the demand.
What happens if you or your staff member test positive to a RAT?
The following steps should be followed if anyone tests positive on a RAT:
- Register the positive RAT result online
- Isolate at home for seven days
- If you have no symptoms after seven days, you can stop isolating and do not require a further test
- If you have symptoms on day seven, remain in isolation until those symptoms clear or get clearance from a medical professional before leaving isolation
- Continue to wear a mask indoors and outdoors for the next seven days, including in a vehicle used by people other than your household members such as public transport or ridesharing services.
How else can you mitigate risks of COVID-19 in your workplace?
Testing is not the only way to help manage the risk of COVID-19 at your workplace. Other measures include:
- encouraging or ensuring vaccination, where applicable
- ensuring your workers do not come to work when unwell, or if they have tested positive for COVID-19 unless they have been released from isolation by the relevant public health authority
- ensuring physical distancing in the workplace and adhering to density limits
- improving ventilation, where appropriate
- practising good hygiene
- increasing cleaning and maintenance
- wearing masks correctly.
Employers should be careful about requiring employees to undertake RAT tests, unless it is mandated by law or there are circumstances in which it would be lawful and reasonable to require testing.
If employees are required to undertake rapid antigen tests, the employer must cover the costs of the tests.
- COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests (wa.gov.au)
- Employment impacted by COVID-19 - WA industrial relations system (commerce.wa.gov.au)
- Rapid Antigen Testing – National industrial relations system (fairwork.gov.au)