Information for Victorian workplaces
Published 3 August 2020 | Updated 11 December 2020
We have information and advice about your workplace entitlements and obligations if you’ve been affected by coronavirus restrictions in Victoria.
On this page:
Restrictions in Victoria
In Victoria, some workplace restrictions still apply to limit the spread of coronavirus. This includes restrictions in both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. We encourage you to regularly review the Victorian Government’s roadmap for advice for workplaces and industries at:
The Victorian Government also provides specific advice to workplaces on coronavirus restrictions and keeping safe, including on:
- restrictions that may apply to some industries
- maintaining a COVIDSafe workplace for employees and customers
- financial and other support for businesses.
Find out more at the Victorian Government website – Business and work .
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Returning to the workplace
We have some tools and resources to help employers and employees in Victoria plan their return to the workplace.
Our Returning to the workplace – interactive employer tool can help employers get their businesses back up and running during coronavirus. The tool gives tailored information to employers on returning to the workplace, scaling up operations and adapting to workplace changes.
Before employers and employees return to work, it’s important that businesses have a COVIDSafe plan to keep their workplace safe, healthy and free of coronavirus. It’s also important that businesses in Victoria regularly review the plan so it stays up to date as restrictions ease.
Refer to our information and referral links to help with your planning:
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Workplaces open for on-site work
Workplace health and safety
While Victoria is easing restrictions, there are still rules that apply to workplaces for staying open. These may include:
- density requirements for social distancing
- use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- a COVIDSafe plan.
For more information about these rules and obligations, go to Victorian Government website – Coronavirus .
People in Victoria are required to wear a face mask in some settings. Read the latest advice on mask requirements on the Victorian Government – Department of Health and Human Services website .
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 .
Work permits no longer required
From 28 October 2020, work permits are no longer required in Victoria.
Coronavirus testing requirements for some industries
Some industries that are high-risk for coronavirus are required to conduct workplace coronavirus surveillance testing. This is in accordance with Department of Health and Human Services requirements. For more information, see the Victorian Government website – Surveillance testing for high risk industries in metropolitan Melbourne .
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Taking care of a child
Children may have returned to childcare and school in Victoria as coronavirus restrictions change. 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 may need to still consider alternative work arrangements if their sector is still impacted by coronavirus 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 at:
We also have information about alternative work arrangements under the JobKeeper scheme. This can include changing employee duties and location or giving JobKeeper enabling stand down directions to employees. Different rules apply to employers (legacy employers) and employees who were previously receiving JobKeeper payments under the JobKeeper scheme. Learn more at:
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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:
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
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.
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 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 .
To learn more about the JobKeeper payment and check eligibility for the scheme, go Australian Taxation Office – JobKeeper payment .
If you want to check the workplace rules and entitlements that apply under JobKeeper, go to our JobKeeper scheme section.
For information and services to help you if you’re affected by coronavirus, including payments like JobSeeker, go to Services Australia .
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If you have an urgent enquiry about your workplace obligations or entitlements, go to our Contact us page.
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