Victoria launches permit system for essential workers

Victoria announces permit system for those allowed to work after Stage 4 shutdowns take effect.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a permit system for those still allowed to work after Stage 4 shutdowns take effect across the state.

The Stage 4 shutdowns come into effect on Wednesday night. Supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, newsagencies, post offices – plus everyone involved in the state’s frontline response – will continue to operate.

Industries where onsite operations will have to cease for the next six weeks including retail, some manufacturing and administration. These businesses will all need to close by 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August, unless they have specific circumstances that mean they need longer to shutdown safely.

Retail stores will be permitted to operate contactless ‘click and collect’ and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place, and hardware stores can remain open onsite, but for tradespeople only.

The third and final list is made up of industries that are permitted to operate – but under significantly different conditions, such as food production, waste collection or supply chain logistics.

All open businesses and services will have until 11:59pm Friday 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe plan focused on safety, prevention, and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace.

“In industries that can’t close, but where we’ve seen a number of cases or emerging new risks, we’ll be making some big changes to make these workplaces safer – for workers and for their families,” Andrews said on Monday.

That includes mandated reductions to the number of workers onsite. Warehousing and distribution centres in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.

These workplaces that are continuing to operate will also have additional requirements including extra PPE, staggering shifts, staggering breaks, health declarations and more support for sick workers to ensure they stay home.

Permitted worker scheme

Under the permit system, workers from permitted industries will be allowed to travel to or from work, even during the 8:00pm to 5:00am curfew.

Speaking about the permitted worker scheme on Tuesday, Andrews said it is a “simple, common sense process”.

“It’s a piece of paper. Your employer fills it out. They sign it. You sign it and you carry it with you so there is not a sense of anxiety or a sense of having to tell your story 17 times,” he said, adding key workers such as nurses and police can use their existing identification.

“But for the private sector where there is not that uniform identification that connects the person to their place of work… then that paper will need to be filled out.

“I don’t think it is too onerous. It’s a pretty simple process.”

From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, employers that require their staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees – this is the employer’s responsibility.

According to the Victorian Department of Justice, employers can issue a worker permit to their employee if the organisation is on the list of permitted activities, the employee is working in an approved category for on-site work, and the employee cannot work from home.

In rare circumstances where an employee is at risk at home, an employee does not need a worker permit. This includes: if an employee is at risk at home, such as at risk of family violence, law enforcement, emergency services workers or health workers who carry employer-issued photographic identification, which clearly identifies the employer.

Employees must carry the worker permit and should carry photo identification when travelling to and from the workplace. A worker permit can be shown electronically to authorities such as a photo, or scanned copy, on a mobile device.

To issue a worker permit, employers will need:

  • name, ABN, company address and trading name
  • the name and date of birth of the employee
  • the employee’s regular hours and place of work
  • to meet all eligibility criteria, including that the business is a permitted activity
  • to meet all relevant legal obligations
  • to have a COVID-19 safe plan in place
  • to authorise a person or people to issue the worker permit.

An employee must not use a worker permit, even if they have been issued one, if they test positive to coronavirus (COVID-19) and are required to self-isolate or if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

Penalties of up to $19,826 (for individuals) and $99,132 (for businesses) will apply to employers who issue worker permits to employees who do not meet the requirements of the worker permit scheme or who otherwise breach the scheme requirements.

There will also be on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 (for individuals) and up to $9,913 (for businesses) for anyone who breaches the scheme requirements. This includes employers and employees who do not carry their worker permit when travelling to and from work.

Casual workers

Employers may need to issue worker permits for specified date ranges for employees who do not have regular hours.

If this means that employers need to issue separate worker permits for new rostering periods, the employee will need to carry their old worker permit, to ensure authorities can verify with their employer that they are on their way to work.

Working across multiple sites

For those working across multiple sites, each employer must determine who will be authorised to issue their employees a worker permit. For an employer with multiple work sites, they may decide to designate an authorised person at each work site.

Employers should minimise any requirement for employees to work at different sites. An employee working at more than one site must keep a log of the places visited including date, time, and place of attendance.

Sole traders

Sole traders must also issue a worker permit and sign the worker permit as both the employer and employee.

Sub contractors

The employer of the sub-contractor needs to be satisfied that the sub-contractor is required on-site. The employer may be the main contractor, or it may be that the sub-contractor is a sole trader.

Franchisees

The person or entity who must issue the worker permit is determined by who is the employer under the franchise agreement. If the franchisee is the employer, they will be responsible for issuing the permit.

For more information about the scheme visit or to issue a worker permit visit:  https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/permitted-worker-scheme-covid-19

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