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The Victorian Government has announced Stage 4 restrictions that will apply to businesses throughout the state aimed at helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

It is clear that the intent of the restrictions is to reduce movement and interaction as far as possible state-wide. The default position is that all businesses must close unless the workplace is part of a “permitted industry”.

What constitutes a “permitted industry” in many circumstances is exceedingly grey and there should be a degree of caution as it is not as clear cut as it may appear.

We take the view that all businesses should start from the position that they must close unless a part of their business falls within the definition of a ‘permitted industry’ and then only open to the minimum extent required to conduct that part of their business.

Whilst the Victorian Government has indicated that they will not be draconian in their enforcement of these restrictions, businesses who remain open should mitigate against this risk by taking steps to demonstrate that they have sought advice, acted on that advice and have enacted their COVIDSafe Plan or High Risk COVIDSafe Plan.

Businesses that simply stay open without proper justification and cannot demonstrate that they have taken steps to mitigate their risk and comply with the restrictions may be subject to enforcement action.

As part of Stage 4 restrictions, businesses fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Business as usual;
  2. Restricted operations; and
  3. Closed businesses

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has released this document which outlines various business sectors and their categorisation under these new restrictions.

While considering our comments above, businesses are required to make their own assessment in relation to which category applies to their business.

If there is uncertainty in relation to which category applies to a business, we recommend that you contact us or the Business Victoria Business Support Hotline on 13 22 15.

business as usual

Businesses such as supermarkets (including food and liquor), convenience stores and newsagents, pharmacies, petrol stations, hardware (for trade only) and post offices alongside other designated businesses may remain open.

Any business that may remain open under these new restrictions must enact a COVIDSafe Plan by no later than 11:59pm on 7 August.

restricted operations

Businesses such as select construction, warehousing, distribution centres, meat processing, cold storage and aged care are subject to restricted or modified operations.

There are a number of restrictions which may apply to a business in this category such as reducing production levels by one third and ensuring that employees only work at one site for the duration of these restrictions.

Large scale construction (any building above 3 storeys) must reduce its workforce to 25% of usual levels while small scale construction is limited to 5 workers on site any time. In both circumstances, employees must only work at one site for the duration of these restrictions.

We recommend that businesses closely review the DHHS document to identify which restrictions apply and ensure that these restrictions are addressed in their High Risk COVIDSafe Plan.

At this stage, we understand that businesses must enact their High Risk COVIDSafe Plan by 11:59pm on 7 August 2020 but this is subject to further guidance from the Victorian Government.

closed businesses

Businesses such as retail (unless exempt), select manufacturing and wholesale trade, accommodation and food businesses such as pubs, food courts and clubs, professional services, real estate agents and personal care including hairdressers must close from 11:59pm on 5 August 2020 for a period of six weeks.

Businesses designated to close can access their premises in limited circumstances such as critical maintenance including safety works and to satisfy any environmental regulations.

The Victorian Government has announced one-off grants of up to $10,000 for employing businesses in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire and $5,000 for employing businesses in Victorian regions outside those areas.

Some businesses that have already received the initial $5,000 grant will not need to re-apply to receive the additional $5,000 which was announced yesterday. Applications for these grants must be made by 14 September 2020 through the Business Victoria website.

COVIDSafe plan

As part of Stage 4 restrictions, businesses that may remain open are required to enact a COVIDSafe Plan by 11:59pm on 7 August 2020.

The DHHS has confirmed that such plans must set out the following:

  1. Actions to help prevent the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace;
  2. The level of face-covering or personal protective equipment (PPE) required for your workforce;
  3. How you will prepare for, and respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus; and
  4. This plan must demonstrate how you will meet all of the requirements set out by the Victorian Government. Some higher-risk industries or workplaces have additional requirements of employers and employees which are outlined below.

The DHHS has provided this fact sheet for employers and Business Victoria has indicated that a template COVIDSafe Plan will be available on their website shortly.

high risk COVIDSafe plan

Business which are designated high risk under the DHHS document must enact a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan by 11:59pm on 7 August 2020. This date is subject to further guidance from the Victorian Government.

The Victorian Government has not outlined what a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan must include. However, the plan should address those items that must be outlined in a COVIDSafe Plan alongside any additional restrictions that apply to that specific business.

This means that a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan must be tailored and will be necessarily unique to that specific businesses. For example:

  1. Large- and small-scale construction businesses will need to consider and document how they intend on ensuring that each worker attends only one site for the duration of the Stage 4 restrictions;
  2. Large scale construction will need to consider and document how they implement and monitor their workforce so that workforce numbers on site are 25% of their normal levels; and
  3. Meatworks and distribution centres, among others, will need to consider and document how they will reduce their production level by a third from normal levels

This is not an exhaustive list and businesses will need to closely consider their circumstances and the restrictions that apply.

We will provide further updates as the Victorian Government releases additional information and we are also available to assist and advise as needed.

stay up to date with our news & insights

stage 4 restrictions for business in victoria – what’s open and what’s not

05 August 2020
james brown

The Victorian Government has announced Stage 4 restrictions that will apply to businesses throughout the state aimed at helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

It is clear that the intent of the restrictions is to reduce movement and interaction as far as possible state-wide. The default position is that all businesses must close unless the workplace is part of a “permitted industry”.

What constitutes a “permitted industry” in many circumstances is exceedingly grey and there should be a degree of caution as it is not as clear cut as it may appear.

We take the view that all businesses should start from the position that they must close unless a part of their business falls within the definition of a ‘permitted industry’ and then only open to the minimum extent required to conduct that part of their business.

Whilst the Victorian Government has indicated that they will not be draconian in their enforcement of these restrictions, businesses who remain open should mitigate against this risk by taking steps to demonstrate that they have sought advice, acted on that advice and have enacted their COVIDSafe Plan or High Risk COVIDSafe Plan.

Businesses that simply stay open without proper justification and cannot demonstrate that they have taken steps to mitigate their risk and comply with the restrictions may be subject to enforcement action.

As part of Stage 4 restrictions, businesses fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Business as usual;
  2. Restricted operations; and
  3. Closed businesses

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has released this document which outlines various business sectors and their categorisation under these new restrictions.

While considering our comments above, businesses are required to make their own assessment in relation to which category applies to their business.

If there is uncertainty in relation to which category applies to a business, we recommend that you contact us or the Business Victoria Business Support Hotline on 13 22 15.

business as usual

Businesses such as supermarkets (including food and liquor), convenience stores and newsagents, pharmacies, petrol stations, hardware (for trade only) and post offices alongside other designated businesses may remain open.

Any business that may remain open under these new restrictions must enact a COVIDSafe Plan by no later than 11:59pm on 7 August.

restricted operations

Businesses such as select construction, warehousing, distribution centres, meat processing, cold storage and aged care are subject to restricted or modified operations.

There are a number of restrictions which may apply to a business in this category such as reducing production levels by one third and ensuring that employees only work at one site for the duration of these restrictions.

Large scale construction (any building above 3 storeys) must reduce its workforce to 25% of usual levels while small scale construction is limited to 5 workers on site any time. In both circumstances, employees must only work at one site for the duration of these restrictions.

We recommend that businesses closely review the DHHS document to identify which restrictions apply and ensure that these restrictions are addressed in their High Risk COVIDSafe Plan.

At this stage, we understand that businesses must enact their High Risk COVIDSafe Plan by 11:59pm on 7 August 2020 but this is subject to further guidance from the Victorian Government.

closed businesses

Businesses such as retail (unless exempt), select manufacturing and wholesale trade, accommodation and food businesses such as pubs, food courts and clubs, professional services, real estate agents and personal care including hairdressers must close from 11:59pm on 5 August 2020 for a period of six weeks.

Businesses designated to close can access their premises in limited circumstances such as critical maintenance including safety works and to satisfy any environmental regulations.

The Victorian Government has announced one-off grants of up to $10,000 for employing businesses in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire and $5,000 for employing businesses in Victorian regions outside those areas.

Some businesses that have already received the initial $5,000 grant will not need to re-apply to receive the additional $5,000 which was announced yesterday. Applications for these grants must be made by 14 September 2020 through the Business Victoria website.

COVIDSafe plan

As part of Stage 4 restrictions, businesses that may remain open are required to enact a COVIDSafe Plan by 11:59pm on 7 August 2020.

The DHHS has confirmed that such plans must set out the following:

  1. Actions to help prevent the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace;
  2. The level of face-covering or personal protective equipment (PPE) required for your workforce;
  3. How you will prepare for, and respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus; and
  4. This plan must demonstrate how you will meet all of the requirements set out by the Victorian Government. Some higher-risk industries or workplaces have additional requirements of employers and employees which are outlined below.

The DHHS has provided this fact sheet for employers and Business Victoria has indicated that a template COVIDSafe Plan will be available on their website shortly.

high risk COVIDSafe plan

Business which are designated high risk under the DHHS document must enact a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan by 11:59pm on 7 August 2020. This date is subject to further guidance from the Victorian Government.

The Victorian Government has not outlined what a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan must include. However, the plan should address those items that must be outlined in a COVIDSafe Plan alongside any additional restrictions that apply to that specific business.

This means that a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan must be tailored and will be necessarily unique to that specific businesses. For example:

  1. Large- and small-scale construction businesses will need to consider and document how they intend on ensuring that each worker attends only one site for the duration of the Stage 4 restrictions;
  2. Large scale construction will need to consider and document how they implement and monitor their workforce so that workforce numbers on site are 25% of their normal levels; and
  3. Meatworks and distribution centres, among others, will need to consider and document how they will reduce their production level by a third from normal levels

This is not an exhaustive list and businesses will need to closely consider their circumstances and the restrictions that apply.

We will provide further updates as the Victorian Government releases additional information and we are also available to assist and advise as needed.