Stage 4 lockdowns are a reality for Melbourne now, and until at least mid September. As people we know what we need to do, stay home, stand apart and fight against complacency and the growing curve. But for businesses, particularly fuel wholesale, transport and retail businesses, the added features of Stage 4 over Stage 3, specifically the close to home radius and the 20:00-05:00 curfew are causing confusion and concern. ACAPMA answers some Member questions as we explore the challenges and aim to bring clarity to this unprecedented situation.

Q: Can I trade during the curfew?

The Premier has announced a detailed list of businesses and the impact of Stage 4 broadly, and the curfews specifically.

While most businesses will be required to close at or around 20:00 to allow people to meet the curfew, Fuel Retail Sites (petrol stations) are considered part of Group 1 and will be allowed to be open during the curfew period of 20:00-05:00.

Similarly fuel wholesale and transport will be allowed to remain open, however, wherever practical those staff who can work from home (eg. admin) should do so.

Q: If I choose to close during the curfew what about my staff?

There are two answers to this, depending on the Business and Staffs JobKeeper status;

  1. If the Business and the Staff are eligible for and receiving JobKeeper Payments then the business can issue a JobKeeper Enabling Direction to standdown the staff if the business chooses to close during the curfew. For more about JobKeeper Enabling Directions, including the required consideration, notice and format please see; https://acapmag.com.au/2020/08/jobkeeper-directions-and-flexibility-options/
  2. If the Business and the Staff are NOT ELIGIBLE for JobKeeper Payments then the business has the option of consultation, variation of hours by agreement, redundancy or termination as the options. Each of these options must be considered carefully and each comes with significant compliance requirements – see; https://acapmag.com.au/2019/11/hr-highlight-changes-at-the-workplace-restructure-and-redundancy/ for more on redundancy.

What is important to understand is that there is no capacity for the business to simply direct employees not to work…even in the face of a Government Directive that will result in almost no persons being allowed to be out of their houses at night to be customers of the business. Fuel businesses are not being subjected to the Government Directive to shut down. So, unlike a flood or bushfire, this does not rise to an emergency out of the businesses control…so the standdown provisions in the Award and Act cannot be accessed by a fuel retail or wholesale business (unless they are accessing the JobKeeper provisions) to respond to the curfew and its demand impacts.

The result is that (for those businesses and staff who are not JobKeeper entitled and participating) if an employee is a permanent/permanent part time employee with guaranteed hours, then they are entitled to work those hours, or, if the business is choosing not to trade, to be paid for those hours, or an appropriate redundancy if the business determines that the role they undertake (eg. console operator night shift) is not requried to be done by anyone.

As is always the case the result is a bit different for casual staff, who the business can simply provide notice that they will not be required to work from the next roster.

Q: My site cannot get fuel because my supply lines cross borders, what do I do?

This is a potential issue, that thankfully has not yet eventuated. If the business is unable to be supplied at all due to the border closures then the business may be able to access the Act and Award standdown provisions (but it will be case dependent, Members should contact ACAPMA for advice).

It is suggested that if your site is facing this situation you should reach out to your supplier and explore other supply options.

Q: My drivers deliver fuel across borders, are they subject to the requirement for COVID tests

This is one area that ACAPMA is pushing for definitive guidance on. It is well understood that the SA and NSW borders are closed to VIC travel, however there are major fuel supply lines that regularly cross these borders. In the haste to protect against the spread of the second wave more and more restrictions are being added at the borders, but some have very real practicality issues, particularly the testing requirements. It is understood that the intention is not to disrupt vital fuel supply lines, but that the reality is that these restrictions exist and are being enforced and are causing delays already.

As ACAPMA pushes for clarity here we ask Members to forward any information on actual delays faced to communications@acapma.com.au and we will escalate the issue for you.

Stage 4 is live now in Melbourne, with Stage 3 set to commence for rural and regional VIC from Wednesday this week. For the rest of the country, caution against complacency is the message – people should take heed and keep distance and hygine standards – businesses should ensure cleaning and COVIDSafe operations are a top priority.

All ACAPMA Members are reminded, we are here to help you navigate the uncertainty, if you have questions please let us know via communications@acapma.com.au

ACAPMA