In a drastic move to limit the spread of COVID-19, Victoria has taken the unprecedented step of mandating a curfew in metropolitan Melbourne, enforcing strict movement limitations and announcing a vast host of business closures.

Regional Victoria (under Stage 3 restrictions) will have slightly different rules from Melbourne (Stage 4), which will face stronger restrictions. Please check carefully in terms of how and when your business can operate.

“I understand this will have real and heavy consequences for a number of businesses, workers and their families. We’ll do everything we can to lighten that load,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

The tumultuous business atmosphere and seemingly ever-shifting goalposts have seeded uncertainty around what this actually means for Victorians and what the current rules are.

Before we roll through the key business changes that have been announced, you can read the Victorian Premier’s full statement and list of impacted businesses here. Please check your specific business type and industry carefully. They have now been categorised as ‘Closed’ (for onsite work), ‘Open’ (for onsite work), ‘Restricted Operations or Industry Specific Obligations’. Find out where you fit.

Retail impacts

So called ‘non-essential’ retail trade will be hit the hardest. While Victorians will still be able to physically visit essential services (albeit within COVID-19 guidelines on patron numbers and distancing), those deemed non-essential will be ceasing in-person trade.

“I want to assure all Victorians supermarkets, the butcher, the baker, food, beverage, groceries, those types of settings, there will be no impact there,” said Mr. Andrews.

Retail stores allowed to trade

All retail stores will be required to close physical stores, except for:

  • supermarkets and grocery stores
  • liquor stores
  • convenience stores and newsagents
  • chemists
  • petrol stations
  • post offices
  • hardware, building and garden suppliers (retailing for trade)
  • stationery suppliers (for business use)
  • health and disability retailers
  • maternity retailers
  • vehicle parts for emergency repairs (drive through only)

Retail delivery and collection allowed

Luckily, delivery and ‘click and collect’ services have not been affected and you can continue to use ecommerce and contact free methods of running a retail store, restaurant or cafe.

If you haven’t seen the writing on the wall already, now’s the time to prepare your business, from top to bottom, for the inevitable future of contactless trade.

It’s prudent to embrace ecommerce and all available and relevant remote working solutions.

Manufacturing and administration closures

Retail trade will not be alone. Manufacturing and administration have already been affected and there are new restrictions to be aware of if you operate within, or cooperate with, such businesses.

Most administration and manufacturing businesses, operating on premise and in person, will have to close for six weeks beginning midnight, August 5.

There will be exceptions for the manufacturing of certain products and for various administrative businesses.

Check the Premiere’s statement for full details.

Industries which can continue to operate with restrictions

Certain industries which are integral to a functional food chain and economy can continue to operate in Melbourne with severe restrictions.

These restrictions will include drastically limiting the number of employees you have onsite, visitation restrictions and staggered shifts, extra PPE etc.

  • The meat industry:
    The meat industry’s onsite employee count will be reduced by a third. This will apply to abattoirs across Victoria.
  • Warehousing and distribution:
    Warehousing and distribution businesses and centres in Melbourne will have their onsite workforces also reduced by a third.
  • Construction:
    Victoria’s construction sector will be allowed the bare minimum of workers onsite, primarily for safety. Major construction sites can have no more than 25% of the normal employee count. Small-scale construction will be limited to a maximum of five people onsite.

COVID-19 safe plan and restrictions

For those businesses continuing to operate, you will have to implement a COVID-19 safe plan.

These plans may include (depending on your business and industry):

  • Restrictions on visitor numbers.
  • Limits on operational staff working onsite.
  • Mandates around increased hygiene practices.
  • Rules around ceasing non-essential physical practices.
  • The need to record person-to-person interactions and contact details.

Further measure you will need to adhere to if you remain open:

  • Ensure that any workers who can work from home, do so.
  • Collect records of all workers, subcontractors, customers and clients attending the work premises for 15 minutes or longer.
  • One employee per four square metres of indoor space only.
  • Ensure that workers are in good health – workers cannot work if they are unwell.
  • Regularly cleaning your facilities and shared spaces as well as providing extra sanitisation products.

For more details on COVID-19 safe plans visit the Victorian Chamber of Commerce here.

Business grants for affected businesses

There are one-off grants now available for businesses in Victoria affected by closures.

Businesses in the metropolitan Melbourne area will be able to apply for a new $10,000 grant in addition to the previous grant from the Victorian government.

The same $5,000 grant will also be available for businesses in regional Victoria forced to close down as a result of restrictions.

In addition, if you or your employees need to self-isolate and have no available sick leave, you may be awarded a $1,500 payment to encourage those people to stay at home if necessary. This is called ‘Paid Pandemic Leave’ and is a newly introduced federal measure for Victoria, which is under a state of disaster.

See further information on grants from Business Victoria here.