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What to do if staff have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19

Protection of public health is paramount and isolation of COVID-19 cases and quarantine of their close contacts is essential to prevent further community transmission and disruption of your food business.

if you have employees that show signs of COVID-19 they must not attend work. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath. It is recommended that the health of all employees be reviewed on a daily basis and any workers showing these symptoms are sent home or advised not to come into work.

Information for Australian businesses on what to do if a worker has COVID-19 can be found on the Safe Work Australia website.

Any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 will be isolated and must follow the directions of their public health authority.

The employee will not be released from isolation until they have recovered (at the direction of public health authorities). A public health official will conduct a detailed interview to determine who that employee has come into contact with while infectious with COVID-19, and determine who is considered to be a casual or close contact.

Businesses must work with their local public health authority to help rapidly trace any close contacts of an infected employee to minimise further risk of spread. Close contacts will be asked to remain at home at the direction of public health authorities for 14 days.

For more information see advice from the Australian Department of Health. If someone does test positive for COVID-19 in your business, it's important to respect their privacy where possible and treat their condition with understanding and compassion. Check in on their wellbeing regularly during self-isolation and monitor their mental health. 

Cleaning and disinfecting 

Areas that a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 may have contaminated should be cleaned and disinfected. A more thorough and extensive cleaning and sanitising regime (also known as ‘deep cleaning’) may be required in the event of COVID-19 exposure. For guidance on how to do this see Additional cleaning and sanitising in response to COVID-19 exposure (717 KB)

Health and hygiene responsibilities for food businesses and handlers have always required that all practicable measures are taken to prevent contamination of the food and processing environment. 

For advice on general cleaning and sanitising to prevent harmful microorganisms or other things contaminating food and making it unsafe to eat, see our Safe Food Australia guide and food safety infobites.

The guidance Additional cleaning and sanitising in response to COVID-19 exposure (717 KB) has been developed specifically to help businesses assess and manage the risks of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 if someone in the workplace is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.

A worker is awaiting the outcome of a test for COVID-19. Should they be excluded from work?

Even if not showing symptoms, any worker waiting for the outcome of a test for COVID-19 should be excluded from the workplace and follow the advice of their treating GP or public health authority

The timing of future return to work will depend on their individual circumstance as outlined in the following guidelines issued by the Australian Department of Health.

Read more topics on Novel Coronavirus and Food Safety.

Page last reviewed: August 2020

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