Thinking | 10 August 2020

COVID-19 and Victoria: top six announcements

By David Dickens, Jillian Howard and Katelyn Cant

At a time when businesses are suffering from information overload, we have decided to put together the top six announcements from the past week as an easy reference guide.

1. Requirement to implement COVID Safe Plans

All workplaces (except where there are fewer than five workers) that are permitted to remain open are required to implement a COVID Safe Plan by 7 August 2020 at 11.59 pm. 

The COVID Safe Plan must address the health and safety issues arising from COVID-19 including, as a minimum:

  • the steps the employer will take to prevent COVID-19 being introduced at the workplace;
  • the PPE that must be worn;
  • how the employer will prepare for and respond to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the workplace;
  • the employer’s process for complying with record keeping requirements for workers or visitors who attend the workplace; and
  • an acknowledgement that the employer understands its obligations under the Workplace Directions.

The COVID Safe plan must be regularly updated and employers should ensure that its workforce is familiar with the plan.

2. Permitted worker permit scheme

The ‘Permitted Worker Permit Scheme’ is designed to allow those operating ‘Permitted Work Premises’ to issue employees with a Permitted Worker Permit to enable them to carry out work in an approved category.  The list of what constitutes Permitted Work Premises can be found here.

The Scheme broadly requires employees to carry a permit issued by the employer, together with photographic personal ID, when travelling to and from their workplace, unless an exemption applies.  Permits will be required from the period from 11.59 pm on Wednesday 5 August 2020 to 11.59 pm on Sunday 16 August 2020 (unless extended). The approved templates of the permit which must be completed by the employer and signed by both the employer and employee are available here.

For a more detailed analysis of the operation of the scheme read our recent update.

3. Changes to industries

Some industry-specific changes have recently announced such as:

  • warehousing and distribution sectors may only have a maximum of two-thirds of their normal workforce on site at one time;
  • the meat industry will also be subject to the two-thirds limit of their normal workforce; and
  • the construction sector is similarly capped with no more than 25% of the normal workforce permitted on site, with small-scale construction being limited to a maximum of 5 people.[1]

There have also been changes to the manufacturing sector, as discussed in our previous article here.

4. Paid pandemic leave

Employees in the aged care industry who are covered by the following Awards may be eligible for two weeks’ paid pandemic leave:

  • Aged Care Award 2010;
  • Nurses Award 2010; and
  • Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010.

This leave is available in circumstances where an employee is unable to work (including from home) because they have been told to self-isolate or quarantine, or because of measures taken by government or medical authorities.

There are however a number of exceptions to when the leave is applicable as outlined in this recent article by our employment team.

5. Business support fund

The Business Support Fund has been extended to 14 September 2020. It provides an additional one off business support grant of $10,000 for businesses in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire; and $5000 for businesses in regional local government areas.

In order for a businesses to be eligible they must:

  • have employees (although no minimum number of employees is stipulated);
  • participant in the JobKeeper Scheme;
  • be registered with Worksafe on 30 June 2020;
  • have an annual payroll of less than $3 million in 2019/2020;
  • be registered for GST as at 30 June 2020;
  • hold an ABN and have held one since 30 June 2020; and
  • be registered with responsible Federal or State Regulator.

This funding can be used for activities relating to the operation of the business. If businesses have previously applied they need not reapply. If the business is successful the grant will be paid automatically.

Some not-for-profit entities and charities that are not registered for GST and are registered with the ACNC may still be eligible if their annual revenue is between $75,000 and $150,000.

6. JobKeeper further changes

Late last week the Government announced two further changes to JobKeeper 2.0 – the business turnover test and employee eligibility.

As part of the JobKeeper extension, to qualify for the first extension period (28 September to 3 January), businesses would have needed to show their actual GST turnover had fallen in both the three months to June and the three months to September.

Instead, they'll now only have to show it fell in the September quarter.

Similarly, for the second extension period (January 4 to March 28), they'll only need to demonstrate a significant downturn in the three months before December, rather than for the June and September quarters as well.

When it comes to workers' eligibility, the deadline has been pushed back so that staff employed at July 1, rather than March 1, will qualify.

Our Tax team published an update on JobKeeper 2.1 today, click here to read more.

To stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 news, visit our COVID-19 latest thinking page, here.

[1] 'Premier’s Statement on Business Restrictions' dated 3 August 2020 and can be accessed here.

Contact

David Dickens

David is a commercial litigator with extensive expertise in banking and finance, restructuring and turnaround, property disputes, insolvency and...

Jillian Howard

Jillian provides practical and commercially-minded advice to private and public sector employers on a wide range of labour and...

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