I’m here with an update for Victorian businesses on 27th May 2021.
Victoria will be entering a 7-day circuit breaker lockdown today at 11:59pm until Thursday, 3 June at 11:59pm
They key question I know Victorian business owners are asking is: “Can my team attend work (onsite/in the office) tomorrow?”
On balance, these restrictions are not as onerous as the restrictions we saw during the circuit breaker lockdown in February this year or the 3-month lockdown last year from Aug to Oct 2020. Many of our clients will be able to continue to trade, however some unfortunately will need to close for the 7-day period.
I’ve outlined those industries that have had confusing directives in the past and whether they are able to open during this lockdown and if so, at what capacity. Click here for the full set of restrictions.
Construction & Trades
- essential infrastructure and essential services that are required to maintain or protect human health, safety and wellbeing (whether provided by a public or private undertaking), and including construction, maintenance and repair of such infrastructure;
- critical repairs to any premises where required for emergency or safety; or
- building and construction services; or
- organisations that provide urgent services necessary for the health and safety of any person, animal or premises; or Example: the performance of emergency plumbing services, Centrelink services and foodbanks.
- All manufacturing is considered an Authorised Provider.
- Please note that any business that is forced to shut can have certain team members attend their office/s to ensure that payroll and IT services can continue to operate. Here is the exact excerpt from the official government list.
“Administrative services provided by an employer to enable its employees to work from home; Example: Payroll and IT services.”
- Ancillary and support businesses are able to open on-site where necessary for the operations of an Authorised Provider, or for Closed Work Premises where there are safety or environmental obligations.
Schools will be closed, but childcare and kindergartens stay open.
In good news for our building and construction clients, the permitted list includes “forestry for production of building supplies for construction”, so timber can continue to be harvested and produced.
What we’re seeing in this circuit breaker is that the restrictions on individuals are tight (for example, masks must be worn outside and the 5km rule comes back in), but it appears that the government has been lenient with allowing as many workers as possible to continue.
It’s our belief that if this lockdown continues beyond 7 days, those restrictions may be tightened with further directives for specific industry sectors and roles not being allowed to continue. My advice until that time is to interpret rules in a sensible way that takes into consideration the specific circumstances for the way your business operates and the environment you and your team work in, and continue on those lines until we get further clarification.
Victorian businesses are being affected in different ways, so I’ll address key issues for businesses with different operating permissions:
- Business that is allowed to operate
- Business that can operate remotely
- Business that is shut down
1. My business is allowed to operate
Question: If my business is allowed to operate, are my office-based roles allowed to attend the office?
See these excerpts from the restrictions:
The following businesses can open under circuit breaker restrictions. If their employees are unable to work from home they can leave home to attend work.
Note: construction is listed as an authorised provider.
Any person who performs work that is essential for the continued operation of an Authorised Provider;
Question: Are permits required for this lockdown?
No, permits are NOT required.
2. My business can operate remotely
Structuring work and homeschooling:
If your business is able to continue with employees working from home, consider employees who will have homeschooling duties. Based on our experiences with past lockdowns, speak with those employees and see if there are options to structure their work times so that they can continue to be effective. For example, some of our clients’ employees started work earlier in the morning and resumed after homeschooling finished for the day.
Learnings from past work from home experiences:
One of the biggest lessons from previous WFH times was frequent communication with your teams is vital.
Where you would normally have in person conversations – both structured and ad hoc – make sure you substitute them with other communications (phone calls, Zoom, Microsoft Teams Chat, WhatsApp) while working from home.
Use these tools to add a bit of fun and humour to everyone’s day to keep everyone engaged and keep spirits high.
Work From Home Policies:
Make sure you have rolled out WFH policies to your team so that there is clarity and understanding on how this will work. This is particularly important for people who didn’t do WFH last time and for employees who have joined your business since previous WFH instances.
3. My business is required to shut
Some businesses aren’t able to operate at all during this lockdown, such as gyms. To those Tenfold clients, I want to acknowledge how hard it is for you to cop this knock, once again. Know that the Tenfold team has your back.
For those business where your employees can’t work, you have several options to consider: You can allow them to take annual leave for the lockdown days. I suggest you consider doing this as a first option. (However, you can’t direct your employees to take leave.)
If they don’t have sufficient leave accrued or don’t want to use their leave then you have the option under Fair Work to stand them down without pay, as this is a government mandated shutdown. Click here to visit the Fair Work website.
If you choose to stand people down, we can provide you with a letter template for you to communicate this action to your staff members.
Be aware that we are currently in a tight labour market, where many employers are struggling to recruit. This makes it particularly important at this time to look after your team during this lockdown. You may consider paying them during this shutdown part or all of their regular wages and whether this might be a good investment to foster stronger loyalty and commitment from your employees.
Business financial support
In today’s announcement, the Victorian Acting Premier said the government is working on financial support for businesses affected by the lockdown. From our experience of the February lockdown, we should expect that the financial support won’t be announced for a while. We should also expect that it will limited in amount and to businesses that have been hit the hardest such as those in entertainment, the arts and hospitality.
I envisage that if the lockdown ends in 7 days as initially planned any financial support will be minor, however if the lockdown is extended, the government will be forced to expand the support.
If you have any questions about navigating this circuit breaker, the Tenfold coaches are here for you.
Ashley Thomson B.Eng. (Hons), Grad. Dip. Mgmt, MEI
Tenfold Business Coaching