By Amanda Curatore

Over the weekend, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that the State has “a little longer to go” until COVID normal, however, announced the easing of Melbourne’s Stage 4 restrictions. So, what does this mean for employers and employees in Victoria? Let’s find out…

Changes to the road map

Under the road map announced on 6 September 2020, movement to the next stage was based on specific dates and an average of case numbers over the previous 14 days. Now, however, the roadmap has been amended, and the five-case rolling average to move to the next stage has been set aside. Further, Andrews indicated that the zero-case threshold for changes in late November would also be scrapped.

What do you need to know?

Effective from 11:59 PM on 18 October 2020, Metropolitan Melbourne took a further step forward in reaching its COVID Normal. The most significant departure from the initial road map was the removal of the 5-kilometre travel distance. Melbournians can now travel within 25 kilometres from their home however, several restrictions continue to remain in place.

Residents are still subject to the Stay at Home Order and can only leave home for the permitted four reasons (shopping for essentials, caregiving, exercise or permitted work/ education). There are, however, some changes to these restrictions:

1. Shopping for essentials:

Shopping for essential items includes a supermarket, pharmacy, petrol, post office, food stores, bottle shop or liquor store, or pet store. Residents can now shop for essential items within 25 kilometres of their home. Non-essential retail remains limited to click and collect only.

2. Caregiving:

Caregiving, compassionate reasons or seeking medical advice remains the same.

3. Exercise and recreation:

Individuals are permitted to leave home to exercise and socialise outdoors, and there is now no time limit on leaving your home to do so.

Up to 10 people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors for exercise and recreation. Social distancing must be maintained. This must be in a public outdoor space and does not include people’s backyards or outdoor spaces connected to a home.

Tennis, skate parks and golf courses will reopen along with outdoor swimming pools to host up to 30 swimmers. Indoor swimming pools can open up for one-on-one hydrotherapy with a health professional.

4. Permitted work and education:

Individuals remain allowed to go out for permitted work, and for the purposes of education. This includes taking children to school, childcare or outside school hours care service in which they are enrolled.

5. Other notes:

  • Hairdressers will reopen.
  • Real estate auctions can now occur with a maximum of 10 people and commercial real estate inspections can resume.
  • Non-essential outdoor home maintenance, repairs, renovations, house painting, can occur with a maximum of five workers along with solo or automated car washing and pool cleaning now allowed.
  • Mobile or home business pet grooming will be allowed.
  • Outdoor photography can also resume.
  • Face-to-face health consultations will resume with a full return of all allied health services.
  • Businesses must ensure they have a COVID Safe-Plan in place and should seek specific advice from Business Victoria of the Department of Health and Human Services in relation to re-opening.
  • Requirements to wear a face mask in public remain in place and this is likely to be a feature of the State’s COVID Normal.

Next steps

The next round of easing restrictions is likely to occur on 2 November 2020. The anticipated changes include the following:

  • the four reasons to leave home will be removed;
  • a maximum of two people plus dependants, once-a-day, will be able to visit other households;
  • retail will reopen;
  • hospitality will reopen with a maximum of 20 people inside and 50 people outside;
  • beauty and personal services will return;
  • contact sport for under 18-year-olds and non-contact for adults will recommence;
  • a maximum of 20 people will be allowed for outdoor religious gatherings;
  • a maximum of 10 people will be allowed at weddings; and
  • a maximum of 20 people will be allowed at funerals.

However, Andrews has committed to reviewing the data daily and has not ruled out moving the anticipated 2 November date forward by a week.

The AFL Grand Final will also look very different this year with the Premier banning household parties. Instead, residents must watch the footy final with only the members of their household. No announcements were made about the Melbourne Cup, but Andrews said the Racing Minister “would have more to say soon.”

If your business has a coronavirus-related query, please contact the HR Assured team.

Amanda Curatore is a qualified Senior Workplace Relations Consultant at FCB Group and HR Assured. Amanda is highly experienced in providing workplace relations advice and assistance to clients in a wide range of matters including employment contracts, modern award interpretation, managing performance, bullying and harassment, terminations and managing risk.