As a result of the Stage Four (4) Restrictions announced by the Victorian Premier on 2 August 2020, as from 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August 2020, businesses that operate in Victoria will be subject to the strictest rules currently in place in Australia, in relation to the ability of the relevant business to continue to operate from its usual workplace/onsite. Businesses will generally fall within one of three categories, depending upon the particular industry classification/activities of the business:
- those in industries that are permitted to continue to operate onsite (at the relevant worksite(s));
- those in industries that are permitted to continue to operate onsite, but with a reduced workforce; and
- those in industries that are not permitted to continue to operate onsite.
Businesses that fall within the industry classifications that are permitted to remain operational onsite will be subject to certain obligations, including, among other things, developing a COVID Safe Plan and issuing and providing Worker Permits to employees, who are required to attend the work site. Here's what you need to know.
With the announcements of further Stage 4 Restrictions in Victoria, many workplaces have had to prepare to close their offices by 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August 2020 or ensure that their workers are able to continue to be on worksites if they are participating in "permitted activities" under the Victorian government's guidelines. A copy of this guideline can be accessed here.
The Victorian government has now provided a "permitted worker permit" template form that eligible industries/businesses must issue to employees, who are required to attend their workplace premises by their employer. A copy of this template can be accessed here.
Penalties will apply to employers who issue worker permits that do not comply with the requirements of the Worker Permit Scheme or otherwise breach the requirements of the scheme (penalties up to $19,826 (for individuals) and $99,132 (for businesses)).
On-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 (for individuals) and up to $9,913 (for business) may also be issued for anyone who breaches the requirements of the scheme including an employee or employer not carrying their worker permit when travelling to and from work.
The form will need to be completed and signed by an authorised person within the business such as the CEO, HR Manager or an operations manager, who must be accountable for the details set out in the document and may be contacted by Victoria Police to confirm the details.
The employee must then sign the worker permit and carry it with them at all times along with photo identification when travelling to and from the workplace (the worker permit can be an electronic copy on a mobile device). The scheme permits an employee to travel to work once, without carrying a worker permit if they are doing so to obtain their first work permit.
In circumstances where an employer has multiple work sites, the employer may need to designate an authorised person at each work site to issue the employees with a worker permit. The Victorian government has recommended that employers should minimise any requirements for employees to work at different sites however, if an employee must work at more than one site, the employee must keep a log of the places visited including date, time and place of attendance.
COVID Safe Plan and other obligations
Under the Stage 4 Restrictions, the industries that are permitted to remain open/operational on their usual worksites are required to comply with a number of obligations, including but not limited to, the following:
- developing a COVID Safe Plan in respect of the workplace. These plans must be in place by 11:59pm on Friday 7 August 2020. The Victorian Government has provided a template for this COVID Safe Plan which can be accessed here;
- ensuring appropriate social distancing measures are in place at the worksite (one worker per four square metres of enclosed workspace or in shared areas);
- ensuring that workers are in good health – workers cannot work if they are unwell and employers must not require workers with symptoms to work; and
- ensuring there is regular cleaning of the facilities, shared spaces and providing additional cleaning supplies.
Businesses that fall under certain high risk industries (such as large-scale construction, meat processing, aged care, etc) will be required to have a High Risk COVID Safe Plan in place to enable them to operate under the Stage 4 Restrictions.