By Robby Magyar

On 15 December 2021, the Victorian Government released a new Public Health Order, the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2021 (No. 1) (Order), which outlines new rules and restrictions for open premises. The Order came into effect at 11:59 pm on 15 December 2021 and will remain in place until 12 January 2022.

This order revokes the Open Premises Directions (No. 7).

What do the Directions say?

Collection of vaccination information

The Order requires operators of open premises in Victoria to continue to confirm that patrons are fully vaccinated each time they enter the premises unless they’re under 18 years of age, have a valid medical exemption or the open premises has altered requirements under the Order. This includes the requirement to have a COVID Check-in Marshal at the premises’ entrance and to take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person who doesn’t meet the vaccination requirements doesn’t enter or remain on the premises.

Workers at open premises must also be fully vaccinated unless they’re under 18 years of age, have a valid medical exemption or one of the limited exceptional circumstances in the order apply, such as providing urgent care or responding to an emergency.

Under the updated Order, mandatory vaccination requirements for customers in retail, except hairdressing and beauty therapy services, are no longer in effect. Vaccination requirements in places of worship, weddings, or funerals, or when engaging with real estate services have also been removed.

The vaccination requirements remain in place for restaurants, cafes, bars, and pubs, however, individuals under the age of 18 are now no longer required to provide proof of vaccination status at such venues.

Premises with specific exceptions

Subject to specific requirements, several premises are no longer required to comply with the collection of vaccination information from patrons, workers, or visitors. These include:

  • Adult education or higher education premises where the provision of teaching and learning cannot be conducted remotely or involves secondary school subjects;
  • Indoor or outdoor community premises that operate to provide:
    • Contactless collection or delivery of pre-ordered goods;
    • Essential public support groups where density quotients do not exceed 4 square metres or 50 patrons (whichever is the lesser);
    • Essential public support services or essential public health services; or
    • Access to essential local government services, including to allow attendance of community members at essential local council meetings where remote electronic means is not reasonably practicable
  • Drive-in cinemas;
  • Food and drink premises if they:
    • Are part of a food court; or
    • Only provide take-away goods or delivery of pre-ordered goods
  • Indoor and outdoor physical recreation spaces operating exclusively for community sport, exclusive professional or high-performance sports person use, swimming, or hydrotherapy (subject to additional requirements)

COVID exposure in worksites

In response to mounting evidence that COVID-19 is an airborne disease, the Victorian Government has advised in a press release in mid-December 2021 that workplaces with positive COVID-19 cases no longer need to deep clean the premises, as infection through touching surfaces is considered low risk.

This change in protocol also applies to tour and transport operators, gyms, and creative art premises such as theatres and cinemas, who are no longer required to clean equipment between use by customers or visitors.

All workplaces must still maintain CovidSafe plans.

If you’re an HR Assured client and have questions about what this new Public Health Order means for you, please contact our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.

Robby Magyar is a Workplace Relations Consultant at FCB and HR Assured who relishes the opportunity to assist businesses in the best practice approach to managing employees and compliance concerns. He has a particular interest in making employment law and human resources digestible for our clients.