Just when Australians were beginning to transition into a “coronavirus normal”, Victoria has seen an alarming and unacceptable spike in newly confirmed coronavirus cases which has forced the State into “fight” mode.

Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews announced today that from 11:59 PM on Wednesday, 8 July 2020, Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire residents will once again be subject to Level 3 restrictions for a 6-week period.

While Victorians were hoping to avoid further restrictions, the Government has taken this step following a significant increase in community transmission of COVID-19 cases.

The information provided in this article is current at the date of publication, however, given the fast pace at which the situation is evolving, businesses are strongly encouraged to monitor the Victorian Department of Health’s advice and our associated resources.

What are the latest restrictions?

The Victorian Government has today announced Level 3 stay home orders. This means that individuals must stay home and can only leave home if any of the following four reasons apply:

  1. Shopping for essential food and supplies;
  2. Care and caregiving;
  3. Exercise; and
  4. Study and work – if the individual cannot do it from home.

In line with the current Level 3 restrictions, the below are once again excluded from opening:

  • food courts (except for takeaway);
  • auction houses, real estate auctions and open homes;
  • personal services (beauty, nail, tanning, waxing and tattoo salons);
  • spa and massage parlours, excluding health-related services such as physiotherapy;
  • amusement parks, arcades and play centres (indoor and outdoor);
  • strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues;
  • galleries, national institutions, historic sites and museums;
  • health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres and swimming pools;
  • community facilities such as community halls, libraries and youth centres, RSL and PCYC;
  • gaming and gambling venues; and
  • indoor and outdoor markets (excluding food markets).

Businesses and facilities other than those listed above are not covered from the recently announced restrictions and can continue to trade as per normal at this point in time, however, wider restrictions may be announced in due course if necessary.

What does this mean for employees and their working arrangements?

In light of the stay-at-home orders imposed, employees must work from home unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so.

It is advised that businesses should immediately consider the extent to which the stay-at-home orders impact upon your business and direct employees to work from home as applicable.

When undertaking this review, businesses should consider an employee’s ability to work from home safely, or what reasonable steps and measures, if any, are needing to be provided to minimise the risk of harm to employees where they are required to continue working from the workplace.

It’s important to remember that the home office is considered the ‘workplace’ for the purposes of employer liability, so employers are reminded to utilise a Working from Home Safety Checklist to ensure employees have a safe place to perform their work at home.

In circumstances where employees are required to attend the workplace to perform their duties, consideration should be given regarding the employees travel into work. It is recommended that employers undertake a risk assessment to identify any additional control measures which may need to be put in place to ensure employees are not put at risk when travelling to and from the workplace.

Will schools be opening next week?

During this recent announcement, the Government has also indicated that schools will unfortunately not reopen for Term 3 as planned on Monday and school holidays have been extended by one week. However, there is an exemption for Year 11 and 12 students as well as special needs students.

Consideration should be given to any employee who is unable to work from home due to care responsibilities for a child. Given the relatively unexpected nature of the announcement it may be that employees can utilise paid personal/carer’s leave for a limited period of time, however, each matter will need to be considered case by case.

If your business has a coronavirus-related query, please contact the team at enableHR.