Thinking | 3 August 2020

Victoria’s Stage 4 restrictions: impact on business

By Natalie Bannister, Ben McIver and Andrew Banks

As part of Victoria’s Stage 4 restrictions, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today announced further restrictive measures for business activities in metropolitan Melbourne in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Premier has divided these changes into three categories:

  1. businesses that will remain open;
  2. industries and sectors that will need to close for the next six-week period; and
  3. businesses that will remain open but will operate at significantly reduced capacity.

We understand for some businesses there may be a sense of concern and uncertainty tonight as you take in what has been announced this afternoon. Key issues include how you manage employees and what options you have, supply chain management, and the quick changes that need to be made to your operating model.

We are requiring further clarification concerning the operation and timeframes that will apply to existing moratoriums protecting tenants, borrowers and companies struggling to remain solvent, as well as the measures to support child care centres, which will be closed other than for the children of essential workers. This is likely to have an impact on almost all businesses.

We provide an overview of the major changes below.

Please call your Hall & Wilcox key contact, or any member of our team, to discuss the options for your business. Our Employment team has also published an update covering Victoria's Stage 4 restrictions: options available to employers.

Category 1: Businesses that will continue to operate

Among the businesses that are permitted to remain open are:

  • Supermarkets and grocery stores, including all food and liquor shops
  • Convenience stores and newsagents
  • Petrol stations
  • Post offices
  • Banks
  • Pharmacies
  • Motor vehicle parts for emergency repairs only
  • Retailers work onsite for the purpose of fulfilling online orders

The State Government has published a more comprehensive list of businesses in a range of sectors that are permitted to continue operating. See the current Victorian restriction levels for more information.

All open businesses and services will be required to enact a COVID Safe Plan before 11:59pm on Friday 7 August. The COVID Safe Plan must focus on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace.

Category 2: Industries and sectors that will be required to close for the next six-week period

Retail, some manufacturing and some administration industries will be required to cease onsite operations from 11.59 pm on Wednesday 5 August.

All retail stores may, however, operate contactless 'click and collect' and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place.

Hardware stores can remain open onsite but for tradespeople only.

Category 3: Businesses that will remain open but will operate at a significantly reduced capacity

The following changes will come into effect at 11.59 pm on Friday 7 August:

  1. Meatworks must scale back their operating capacity to two-thirds. To prevent the spread into regional areas, employees will be prohibited from working across multiple sites across the State. There will be stringent safety protocols, including workers being required to wear personal protective equipment. This includes gloves, a gown, a mask and a face shield. They will also be subject to temperature checks and routine COVID testing.
  2. Warehousing and distribution centres will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.
  3. Changes to the construction industry – broadly defined as placing the industry on ‘pilot light setting’ – will take place on three different levels:
  • Large scale major projects with government involvement will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Large scale construction projects of more than three stories (such as very large commercial buildings, which includes apartments, factories, warehouses, non-residential projects) will need to reduce the workforce to a number that equals the ‘practical minimum’ with a maximum of 25% of staff working on site. These businesses must also have a High Risk COVID Safe Plan.
  • Small scale construction projects that are underway (such as domestic homes) may remain open but are not permitted to have more than five people on site at any one time.

Upcoming announcements

The State Government has also signalled further support for business, with businesses in regional Victoria able to apply for a $5000 grant, while those in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire may apply for up to $10,000 in recognition of the extended restriction period.

The Premier also emphasised significant boosts to penalties and enforcement measures, and additional personnel support from the Federal Government. Further details on these measures will be provided tomorrow.

Contact

Natalie Bannister

Natalie has close to 20 years’ experience in property, planning and environment law and has been recognised as a...

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