Thinking | 5 August 2020
COVID-19 Stage 4 Permit Scheme: what you need to know
As announced by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on 3 August 2020, employees required to attend permitted work sites during stage 4 restrictions must be issued worker permits by their employers under the Permit Scheme.
Guidance on the permitted activities allowed for certain industries has been published on the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria (DHHS) website and is available here, including the list of 'permitted work premises'.
The formal Restricted Activity Directions (Restricted Areas) Direction No.6 has now been published. We still consider there are some significant areas of uncertainty for support service industries and we understand professional associations are seeking clarity about whether field work and site inspections to support future projects and approvals that are the subject of application process and legal proceedings can continue.
Who can issue permits?
An employer is able to issue a worker permit to attend a work site to their employee if:
- the employer’s organisation is on the list of permitted activities;
- the employee is working in an approved category for on-site work; and
- the employee cannot work from home.
The intent of the permit scheme is to provide workers with a means of certifying that they are allowed to be travelling to and working on-site, as well as ensuring only those that are permitted to travel are doing so.
Not all activities within a permitted industry are permitted activities. For example, the manufacturing industry is a permitted industry; however, manufacturing activities that relate to domestic appliances, textiles and furniture are a few of many of the kinds of activities in this industry that are not permitted for on-site work. Mining is also a permitted industry and mining activities involving coal mining, oil and gas extraction and metal ore mining are allowed; however mining exploration is not a permitted activity.
The system is set up to authorise attendance at a ‘work site’. One query we have already identified is how this would apply to specialists and consultants such as ecologists and archaeologists who may be involved in projects that require field work to be completed. This is clearly work that cannot be done from home. It therefore seems that, provided the field work is to support one of the approved categories, this field work may be permitted. We are seeking further clarity on this point.
What information is required?
The following information is required to complete the permit:
- the name, ABN, address and trading name of the employer company;
- the permitted industry/activity that the employer is engaged in;
- the name and date of birth of the employee;
- the employee’s regular hours and place of work; and
- the permitted role for on-site work that the employer will be undertaking;
Additional considerations and penalties
The permit will need to be signed and issued by an authorised representative of the employer. The employer will need to ensure that it is clear internally who has this power. This is especially relevant, as there will be on-the-spot fines of up to $19,826 (for individuals) and $99,132 (for businesses) where employers issue permits to employees that do not meet the eligibility requirements.
Fines of up to $1652 (for individuals) and up to $9913 (for businesses) are also able to be issued for breaches of the permit scheme.
Carrying a permit
Failing to carry your permit can be considered a breach of the permit scheme, meaning that an on-the-spot fine mentioned above may be issued. A worker permit can be shown electronically to authorities; therefore, it may be useful to keep a photo of the permit on your phone so that you can show authorities when asked.
Permit holders must also carry photo identification so that they can verify that the permit was issued to them.
Exemption to the requirement to hold a permit
There are certain limited circumstances where an employee may not require a worker permit. These are:
- where the employee is at risk at home, such as at risk of family violence; or
- the employee is a law enforcement, emergency services or health worker that carries employer-issued photographic identification, which clearly identifies their employer.
Can my kids attend childcare while I work?
From midnight 5 August 2020, only certain classes of individuals will be able to access childcare and kindergarten services. Permit holders under the Permitted Worker Scheme will be able to continue to access these services provided that there is no-one available at home to care for the children.
This lack of availability will need to be attested by the employee in the permitted worker permit; there is a section that provides for this. This permit can then be presented to the childcare centre or kindergarten as proof of your entitlement to their services.
When you cannot use a worker permit
If an employee has tested positive to COVID-19 and is required to self-isolate, or they are in close contact with someone who has tested positive, they cannot use a worker permit.
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