As Victoria approaches the 90% double dose “gateway” the door to living with COVID-19 is open and sweeping changes to the COVID Safe Settings and the Exposure Responses will apply from 23:59 18/11/2021. These changes, particularly the Exposure Response changes represent a significant departure from what has become the status quo…so all businesses needs to understand how this impacts on them now.
COVID Safe Setting Changes
The all too familiar COVID Safe Settings have changed and will continue to change and evolve.
Visitor limits and density quotients have been removed. All COVID retailed caps on density in stores and venues will be removed, as will the visitor limits. This means that the only thing determining the number of people in a venue is the venue capacity (and liquor license etc)
Masks are only required in some settings;
- In hospitality for staff (not for customers because “you cant eat through a mask”)
- In indoor retail settings until 15 December 2021
- In high risk settings (public transport, taxi/rideshare, airports, hospitals, aged care, primary school staff and students years 3-6)
Check In App remains vital, in fact more important than ever, as the economy opens up.
Exposure Response Changes
In announcing the changes the Premier noted;
“The vast majority of people who come into contact with a confirmed positive case outside their home won’t have to self-quarantine. These contacts will be required to get a standard (PCR) test and isolate until they get a negative result. This means exposure in places like offices, restaurants or nightclubs won’t automatically result in quarantine for the patrons or staff, who previously would have been designated Primary Close Contacts at Tier 1 exposure sites.
[positive] cases are required to notify their workplace, school or childcare about their positive result. Once informed by the case, workplaces will also have to identify and notify employees and sub-contractors – but not customers – who were exposed to advise them to get tested.
In good news for businesses, the changes effectively mean the end of mandatory deep cleaning and the Departmental ‘clearance’ process. They will self-manage their exposure in line with public health guidance.”
The concepts of Teri 1 and 2 exposure sites, and Primary Close Contacts, Casual Contact and Low Risk Contacts have all been scrapped.
What has replace this now all to familiar system is a “shared responsibility” approach where;
- A person is diagnosed by PCR test with COVID-19 and are now an Infected Person
- The Infected Person must notify their workplace and school/childcare that they are a positive case
- The Infected Person must notify their household members and those people they have contact with socially
- The Infected Person will need to isolate for 10 days (or as advised by Health) with another PCR test prior to release
- The household contacts of the Infected Person will need to get a PCR test and isolate for 7 days if they are fully vaccinated, or 14 days if they are unvaccinated (note a child under 12y is counted as fully vaccinated if all adults in the house are fully vaccinated)
- The business will need to identify which staff worked with, or crossed over with, the Infected Person
- The business will need to notify those impacted staff and outline the requirements
- Impacted staff will need to get a PCR test without delay and isolate until a negative result is received
- Health will utilise the Check In App to advise persons that they may have been in contact with an Infected Person and to get a PCR test and isolate until they receive a negative result
This approach will come with detailed guidance for businesses and individuals. This guidance will be located at the links below in the More Information section.
Business Questions and Implications
ACAPMA has been fielding questions since the announcement and has consolidated some below.
- Does this mean that we don’t need a COVID Safe Plan? NO, a COVID Safe Plan is still required. It is vital to remember that the change in government restrictions and settings has not changed the fact that COVID-19 is a workplace risk, one that needs to be actively managed by the business
- Is the Vaccine Mandate still required? YES, and the next deadline (2nd dose) is 26/11/2021 – see; https://acapmag.com.au/2021/10/vic-vaccine-mandate-update/
- Are fuel retail staff required to wear masks? YES, and will remain required until 15/12/2021
- Do we still have to encourage customers to use the Check In App? YES, the App will continue to be vital, even more so as the virus circulates
- When a staff member is an Infected Person does the business have to pay them through isolation? NO, but the business will need to ensure that it is holding the position open (not terminating or changing the position due to illness – that is adverse action) and making any accrued leave available
- When a staff member is required to get a test and isolate until a result does the business have to pay them? NO, but again the business should make any accrued leave available to the employee
Here to Help
HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice. You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor. ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via firstname.lastname@example.org , it is free for members. ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/ for more information.
Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)