Staying home from work when you're sick

September 16, 2019| Health and Wellbeing /

When feeling unwell, it can be difficult to determine the appropriate measures for your recovery. You will likely have many questions - do I need to stay home from work? Should I visit a GP? Do I need to go to the emergency department?

To make an informed decision, it’s important to understand infectious diseases.  

What is an infectious disease?

An infectious disease is an illness caused by tiny organisms which invade your body and cause unpleasant symptoms. These micro-organisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. The type of illness experienced can range from the common cold to more serious diseases like pneumonia.

General symptoms associated with infectious diseases include tiredness, fever, diarrhoea, coughing and aching muscles. Symptoms which may require immediate medical attention include fast progression of illness, rash onset, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and severe pain.

When is it time to stay home from work?

If you’re developing symptoms, it’s better to be taking sick leave than to be spreading…I think your colleagues will appreciate that. I don’t think you’re doing anyone a favour by coming into work and being unable to concentrate on your work. Sometimes you’ve also got to factor in the medications you’re on as well. Some medications may be sedating or impair your mental agility.
— Assoc Prof Ron Sultana, Director of Emergency Medicine, Epworth HealthCare

If you believe you are infectious, Dr Sultana recommends seeking advice from a GP about staying home from work. He also says to visit an emergency department when you are highly concerned about your symptoms.

How long should you stay off work?

The severity of the disease, the industry you work in and your risk to others will affect how long you should stay home. Based on your symptoms, a GP can provide you with illness specific recommendations. Part and full-time employees are entitled to 10 paid sick leave days per year which can be used for personal illness and caring for others. You are also permitted to take time off due to stress and pregnancy related issues. 

There are often guidelines around most infectious illnesses about when to return to work, when to return to school and when you are infectious – that’s when a general practitioner’s advice is important.
— Assoc Prof Ron Sultana, Director of Emergency Medicine, Epworth HealthCare

Returning to work safely

When you return, you really shouldn’t be infectious.
— Assoc Prof Ron Sultana, Director of Emergency Medicine, Epworth HealthCare

Infectious pathogens responsible for illness can be spread through air particles, contaminated objects, contaminated food, skin contact and body fluid exchange. Therefore, upon returning to work, personal hygiene practices are vital:

  • Hand-washing

  • Not sharing personal items

  • Not touching your hair, nose or mouth

  • If necessary, coughing into a tissue and disposing of it correctly

  • Washing utensils with how water and detergent after use

Notably, illnesses may not show symptoms especially during early stages of infection. This means everyone should be committed to preventing the spread of disease and protecting themselves through hygiene practices, always.

You can consult a GP at Epworth Freemason’s GP Clinic if you’re feeling sick for a full medical check-up.

If you’re highly concerned about your symptoms, the emergency department at Epworth Richmond is open 24/7 and at Epworth Geelong is open 8am – 12pm.

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