Can I continue to trade?
Only some retail businesses are allowed to be open to the general public. Others are permitted to operate in a limited capacity, such as providing delivery services and ‘click and collect’ for online orders. If you have a warehouse or distribution centre that dispatches online orders, these may be able to continue to operate in a limited capacity to support these operations. As more information becomes available, the NRA will continue to update its list of affected businesses.
All businesses that decide to remain open (including in a limited capacity) must comply with strict requirements with respect to:
- social distancing;
- face coverings;
- maintaining a COVID Safe Plan;
- recording the details of customers and workers who attend the workplace; and
- cleaning. A full list of these requirements is outlined in the Workplace Directions available from the Department of Health and Human Services.
A full list of these requirements is outlined in the Workplace Directions available from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Do my workers need a permit?
The Permitted Worker Scheme allows some employees to continue working during stage 4 restrictions. An employee will need to hold a permit to be able to travel from their home to the workplace.
A Permitted Worker Permit is issued by the business to each of its employees who are required to attend the workplace. You do not need to issue a permit to an employee who is already working from home.
In order for a business to be able to lawfully issue a Permitted Worker Permit:
- the business must be allowed to continue to operate (as outlined above);
- it must be necessary for the employee to attend the work premises to perform their role; and
- it would not be reasonably practicable for the employee to work from home.
For businesses continuing to operate under stage 4 restrictions, it is important to note that a Permitted Worker Permit must only be issued in relation to work that is permitted to be performed and that can’t reasonably be performed from home. An employee is not allowed to hold a permit if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (unless they have fully recovered) or have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed.
The permit must be in the approved form which is available here. You must keep a record of all permits that you issue, and make these available to Victorian authorities upon request.
Are there exemptions?
There are limited circumstances where an employee will not be required to hold a Permitted Work Permit. These include where the employee:
- is traveling to the workplace to obtain their first Permitted Work Permit;
- has been called into work on short notice, provided that they are carrying an expired Permitted Worker Permit; or
- is at an immediate risk of harm (such as due to family or domestic violence).
What if an employee works at more than one premises?
You are required to limit employees to only working at one workplace, unless it would not be practicable to do so. If there is more than one workplace at which the employee is required to attend, the Permitted Worker Permit must be accompanied by a record detailing the expected place, and date and time of attendance by the employee.
What is a COVID Safe Plan?
A COVID Safe Plan is a document which outlines the measures taken by a business to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. Under stage 4 restrictions, businesses that continue to operate must have a COVID Safe Plan in place by 11:59PM on Friday, 7 August 2020.
The plan should deal with matters ranging from:
- hygiene practices, such as the availability of hand sanitiser and soap and where possible the replacement of communal items with alternatives;
- cleaning processes and procedures followed in the workplace, including the cleaning agent used and the frequency of cleaning;
- physical distancing measures, including measures to allow employees to work from home and to ensure no more than one person for 4 square metres in the workplace;
- measures in place to ensure that the business satisfies its record keeping obligations; and
- the process that the business will follow when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Each COVID Safe Plan needs to be specific to the particular business. Business Victoria has published guidance on how to develop your own COVID Safe Plan, and provides a template plan which can you access here.
What records do I need to keep?
You must keep a record of all Permitted Worker Permits you have issued. You must be able to produce, on request, any of these records to an Authorised Officer, a Victoria Police Officer or a Protective Services Officer.
A business must also keep a register of all workers and visitors (including customers, suppliers and contractors) to their premises who are present for more than 15 minutes on any day. At a minimum, this register should include:
- their first name;
- their contact number;
- the date and time of their visit; and
- the areas of the workplace that they visited.
Business Victoria has published a template attendance register which you can access here.
What are the penalties for contravening these requirements?
If an employer issues a Permitted Worker Permit to an employee who does not meet the requirements for the Permitted Worker Scheme they face fines of up to $19,826 (for individuals) and $99,132 (for businesses).
Employees will also face on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 (for individuals) and up to $9,913 (for businesses).