Information for Victorian workplaces

Published 3 August 2020 | Updated 13 October 2020

Changes to workplace restrictions in Victoria

On Sunday 27 September 2020, the Victorian Premier announced the easing of some workplace restrictions, including expanded workforce limits for some industries and a return to full capacity for others. He also announced dates for the reopening of childcare and the staggered return of some students to schools in metropolitan Melbourne.

For more information, see Statement from the Premier – 27 September 2020 external-icon.png and Victorian Department of Health and Human Services – Coronavirus external-icon.png.

We have information and advice about your workplace entitlements and obligations if you’ve been affected by restrictions announced for Victoria.

Restrictions in Victoria

A number of significant restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus apply in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. Enforceable government directions have impacted many services and industries, including:

  • Retail
  • Manufacturing (such as meat processing)
  • Construction
  • Professional and administrative services.

The directions require some workplaces to close and others to run with reduced operations, including reductions in staffing levels. For information about the restrictions and details about which of them have eased, go to Victorian Department of Health and Human Services – Coronavirus – Business and industry – restrictions by industry external-icon.png.

The Victorian Government has released its roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions, including information about the easing of restrictions for some workplaces. Learn more:

We encourage employers and employees to work together to find solutions that work in their circumstances. If your work or workplace is affected, please reach out to your employer or staff to talk through your options.

Available options include:

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Taking care of a child

As restrictions ease, some children can return to childcare and school. If an employee can’t work because they need to care for a child who can’t return to childcare or school yet, they should try and come to an arrangement with their employer. This could include taking some form of leave, such as annual leave or long service leave, or requesting to work from home or another flexible arrangement.

Employees may be able to take paid or unpaid carer’s leave for an unexpected emergency. For example, a school or childcare centre closing on short notice and for a short period due to coronavirus concerns because someone tested positive is an unexpected emergency.

More information on leave options and alternative work arrangements:

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Alternative work arrangements

Some workplaces need to consider alternative work arrangements if their sector is still closed or work is impacted by the restrictions. Employers and employees can consider:

  • working remotely, such as working from home
  • changes to hours of work, such as staggered start and finish times
  • changes to work duties, such as doing different duties at work.

Get more information on alternative work arrangements:

Participating in the JobKeeper scheme? We have information about alternative work arrangements under JobKeeper. This can include changing employee duties and location or giving JobKeeper enabling stand down directions to employees. Learn more at JobKeeper scheme – overview.

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Taking leave

Some employees may need to take some form of leave if their workplace has temporarily closed. This could be paid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave, or unpaid leave. 

Employers can also request or direct employees to take annual leave (or other leave) in some circumstances. Find out the rules that apply on our Directions to take annual leave page.

More information:

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Stand downs at work

Because of these restrictions, some employers may need to stand down staff. Learn about stand downs and the rules about them at work at Stand downs during coronavirus.

If you’re an employer, before you stand any employees down, use our Stand down – employer checklist to make sure you follow the right process and meet your employer obligations.

Participating in the JobKeeper scheme? We have information about stand downs under the JobKeeper scheme on our JobKeeper enabling stand down directions page.

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Workplaces still open for on-site work

Workplace health and safety

While Victoria is easing restrictions, there are criteria and rules for staying open, including:

  • reduced operations in some industries
  • requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • businesses need to create of a COVIDSafe Plan. 

For more information about these rules and obligations, go to Victorian Department of Health and Human Services – Coronavirus external-icon.png.

People in Victoria are required to wear a face mask when they leave the house (except in limited circumstances). This includes in workplaces. WorkSafe Victoria has information and guidance on face masks in the workplace. Get more information at Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Face masks in workplaces external-icon.png.

More information:

Work permits no longer required

From 28 October 2020, work permits are no longer required for travel to and from work. However, workers who need to travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria for work still need to have a travel permit. Employees who can work from home need to continue to.

To learn more about the easing of restrictions across Victoria, go to Coronavirus (COVID-19) roadmap for reopening external-icon.png.

Coronavirus testing requirements for some industries

Some industries that are high-risk for coronavirus are required to conduct workplace coronavirus surveillance testing in accordance with Department of Health and Human Services requirements. For more information, see Statement from the Victorian Premier – 30 September 2020 external-icon.png.

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Reducing staffing levels and complying with awards and enterprise agreements

Awards and enterprise agreements include terms about paying full-time and part-time employees for fixed or agreed hours of work and have requirements to consult employees about major workplace change and changes to rosters or hours.

When an employer is required by an enforceable government direction to temporarily reduce staffing levels, they should consider their obligations under an award or enterprise agreement and consider the available options, including:

JobKeeper employers

The JobKeeper scheme has been extended until 28 March 2021, with some changes. The JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act have also been extended, with some changes.

There are two kinds of employers who can use the JobKepeer provisions in the Fair Work Act: qualifying employers and legacy employers.

Qualifying employers are employers who qualify for the JobKeeper scheme and are receiving JobKeeper payments for their employees.

A qualifying employer who needs to reduce staffing levels in order to comply with an enforceable government direction can:

Legacy employers are employers who previously participated in the JobKeeper scheme but no longer participate from 28 September 2020 and can demonstrate at least a 10% decline in turnover for a relevant quarter.

A legacy employer can also:

  • give their employees JobKeeper enabling stand down directions (with some changes)
  • give their employees JobKeeper enabling directions to change their usual duties and location of work
  • make agreements with their employees to work on different days or at different times (with some changes).

For more information, see JobKeeper enabling directions and agreements for legacy employers.

JobKeeper enabling directions and agreements made under the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions apply even if they're inconsistent with terms of an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract.

Employers who can’t use the JobKeeper provisions

Employers who can’t use the JobKeeper provisions may also need to reduce staffing levels in order to comply with an enforceable government direction.

The Fair Work Act provides that awards and enterprise agreements are subject to enforceable government directions under state and territory laws that restrict the performance of work in emergency situations. This means that an enforceable government direction requiring a reduction in staffing levels may override some of an employer's obligations under an award or enterprise agreement. Where this occurs, an employer may be able to reduce employees' hours below those set under an award or enterprise agreement, and not pay employees for the hours they don't work. Other relevant terms of an award or enterprise agreement, such as terms requiring consultation with employees, may also in some circumstances be overridden by the enforceable government direction.

The availability of this option for employers affected by an enforceable government direction has not been tested in the courts and may be subject to competing views. It is only likely to be available to the extent that an enforceable government direction requiring reduced staffing levels makes it reasonably necessary to reduce employees’ hours below those ordinarily set under an award or enterprise agreement. This will depend on the circumstances and how the particular award or enterprise agreement interacts with the enforceable government direction. You should consider seeking independent legal advice if you’re considering this option.

Employers can’t use this option if they are only indirectly affected by an enforceable government direction. For example, if an employer experiences a disruption to its supply from another business that has been required by an enforceable government direction to close, the employer can’t rely on this option to reduce their employees’ hours of work.

Employers have some discretion about how they choose to implement reductions in staffing across their workforce. However, under the general protections in the Fair Work Act, employers cannot take adverse action against employees for a prohibited reason, such as the person’s race, sex, marital status, pregnancy or union or non-union membership. See Protections at work.

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Government support and assistance

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

The Australian Government has introduced a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for some workers during coronavirus. It is available to eligible workers in all six Australian states. The payment is available to workers who:

  • don’t have paid sick leave and can’t earn an income because they have to self-isolate or quarantine due to a positive coronavirus case, or
  • are caring for someone with coronavirus.

For more information about the payment, eligibility requirements and how to claim it, visit Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment external-icon.png on Services Australia's website.

Victorian Coronavirus Test Isolation Payment

Some Victorian workers may also be eligible for a Victorian Coronavirus Test Isolation Payment from the Victorian Government. Learn more at Victoria – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment external-icon.png

If your workplace is affected by the restrictions, you might be able to apply for financial and other support from the Australian or Victorian Government.

Victorian Government business support

The Victorian Government has announced financial support for Victorian businesses affected by coronavirus. This includes cash grants, deferral of some payroll taxes and waivers for some business fees. Find out more at Victorian Government – Business Victoria external-icon.png

JobKeeper

To learn more about the JobKeeper payment and check eligibility for the scheme, go Australian Taxation Office – JobKeeper payment external-icon.png.

If you want to check the workplace rules and entitlements that apply under JobKeeper, go to our JobKeeper scheme section.

Services Australia

For information and services to help you if you’re affected by coronavirus, including payments like JobSeeker, go to Services Australia external-icon.png.

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Contact information

If you have an urgent enquiry about your workplace obligations or entitlements, go to our Contact us page.

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