Guidance for return to work for healthcare workers

Use this guide to help decide when workers can return to work after testing positive for COVID-19 or being a household contact of someone with COVID-19. 
The guide provides steps to follow so that workers may return to work as long as they continue to monitor for symptoms and take appropriate precautions, including the use of regular rapid antigen tests as part of returning to work decisions. 

Definition of ‘critical workers’ and ‘critical health services’ in the context of the Omicron response

A ‘critical worker’ is somebody who works for a critical health service, in a role that: 

  • must be performed in person at the workplace; and 
  • requires a person with particular skills; and  
  • must continue to be performed to:
    • prevent an immediate risk of death or serious injury to a person or animal; or  
    • prevent serious harm (social, economic or physical) to significant numbers in the community. 

Critical health services have been identified as those that meet one or more of the following five criteria:  

  1. A health and disability service that provides direct, hands-on care and support that maintains a person’s necessities of life. 
  2. A health and disability service that ensures the safety of the critical workforce. 
  3. Disability Support Services (DSS) and Aged Care services, including Home and Community Support Services (HCSS), that support high-risk and vulnerable client groups. 
  4. Crisis support for people who feel unwell or are unsafe (e.g., funded helplines, refuges and family violence services, sexual violence crisis services). 
  5. A health and disability service that enables the delivery of equitable care to those people most at risk of harm. 

Further information about critical workers and critical health services in the context of the Omicron response, including a full list of critical health services are in the documents below:

If the service you provide does not fall under any of the critical health services groups highlighted in the document above, and you believe a new group should be included, please email the Ministry of Health at and confirm which of the five criteria your service meets in your email.

Access to rapid antigen tests (RATs) for critical health services

Many health and disability employers have been provided with a supply of RATs. They include:

  • COVID response organisations – Te Whatu Ora districts, GPs, pharmacies, PHOs providing frontline services, and community health providers (and Police, MIQFs and first responders)
  • High-density vulnerable populations – ARC, hospice and other residential healthcare facilities (and Corrections and Youth Justice facilities).