(Updated) The Legal Roadmap to Freedom: The Back to Work Guide for Small Businesses Re-Opening in NSW
Get back to business with confidence. Learn about the Roadmap to Freedom.
Over the course of last year and with the recent lockdown, many businesses like you had to make the difficult choice of closing their doors, reducing your trading hours or reducing your staffing numbers.
Saying that the current lockdown has been tough on everyone, is a bit of an understatement. But there is some good news after all. With the state finding its footing again, it seems that freedom is on the horizon.
On 9 September 2021, the NSW Government announced an initiative called the ‘Roadmap to Freedom’. This Roadmap will take us a step closer to the end of lockdown disruptions.
This Roadmap proposes the much-needed relief that many small businesses and entrepreneurs like you need. Once again, you will be able to open your doors and bolster your business growth.
In this post, we share everything that we know about the ‘Roadmap to Freedom’ and what it means for small businesses in NSW. We have also added an action plan that will safeguard your business when you reopen.
Table of content
- What is the ‘Roadmap to Freedom’?
- When will the Roadmap to Freedom apply?
- What does this Roadmap mean for Small Businesses?
- How to safeguard your small business when re-opening
- Further updates
What is the Roadmap to Freedom?
The Roadmap to Freedom is a government initiative that will relax the NSW stay-at-home lockdown orders that have been in place since June 2021.
The Roadmap to Freedom proposal, announced in a media release, may see a sense of normality returning to many businesses, as many will be able to re-open their doors. That’s right!
This roadmap means that a segment of small businesses, including retail stores, hospitality venues, entertainment venues, gyms, personal services such as hairdressers and nail salons, may soon see their doors reopening to welcome back old and new customers.
When will the Roadmap to Freedom apply?
There is no doubt that this is exciting news and many business owners, like yourself, have been on the edge of their seats.
As a general guideline, the NSW Government announced that the Roadmap will begin to apply once we pass the 70 per cent double vaccination target.
Excitingly, it looks like we’ve hit that 70% target! As of 11 October 2021, the NSW state passed the 70% double vaccination target. This saw a range of restrictions begin to ease.
Now, hospitality venues are able to seat their customers and sporting centres, including gyms, can once again welcome back their members. Many retail stores and personal services, such as hairdressers and tattoo parlours, can also open their doors.
However, you must remember that each of these businesses, whether retail, hospitality or sporting centres, are open under strict density/capacity limitations.
Click here to find out more information.
The full Freedoms of the Roadmap have yet to apply. The NSW Government has announced that once NSW reaches the 80% double vaccination mark many more Freedoms will begin to apply.
At present, the NSW vaccination status is as below:
As clear from the numbers above, even more freedoms could come in a matter of weeks.
How to safeguard your small business when re-opening
Despite reopening, one cannot ignore the fact that coronavirus continues to pose a threat for many Australians. Therefore, as a business owner you should ensure that you are not just safeguarding yourself and your employees. But, you should ensure you are operating under effective safety guidelines.
So, to help your business get freedom-ready we have formulated a list of safety measures that’ll ensure your business remains legally compliant with NSW government guidelines. Below we explore the different ways you can safeguard your small business under NSW government rules.
Display your customer capacity and COVID safe signs
If you are planning to re-open and accommodate customers once again, ensure you are displaying COVID safe signs and customer capacity notices.
Not only will this display information to your customers on your businesses safety measures and practices, but it will also show that your business is remaining legally compliant with NSW rules and regulations. If you’re unsure about how many customers your business will be able to permit, the general rule of thumb is 1 person per 4 square metres.
As a part of its COVID safe resources, the government has made it easy for businesses to create a variety of signage and posters. These displays can be used within your businesses premises as well as on social media.
Communicate your guidelines to clients before you open
It is a great business practice to notify your customers about your upcoming re-opening and rules before your doors open. You may do this by sending your customers emails, an SMS or social media updates. Your communications should emphasise that your business will be reopening with conditions and rules on entry.
Whichever type of communication you choose, make sure that you including your businesses safety information. This may relate to your business’s rules regarding masks, checking-in, social distancing, customer capacity limits as well as safety and hygiene practices.
Here is an example of an SMS and an email template that can be used by professional service businesses like salons and gyms.
This not only notifies your customers about their responsibilities, but it emphasizes your businesses responsibility to remain legally compliant with government regulations.
Keeping your customers aware can help to make the transition to re-opening a whole lot easier.
Display check-in QR codes
Re-opening your business under the Roadmap to Freedom is a great step forward for you. However, you should make sure your business is remaining compliant with NSW rules, including rules surrounding staff and customer check-in requirements.
So, to remain legally compliant in a hassle-free way, your business must implement and display its QR check-in codes. A QR check-in code allows your staff and customers to “check-in” at your business and records their presence there.
As a small business owner, you may be held responsible for your business actions, or inactions, in keeping covid safe. So, ensure your QR codes are registered and ready to go.
You may wish to have a member of your staff act as a Covid-Marshall, asking if customers have checked in. Even though it is not necessary to have a Covid-Marshall, it is a great covid-safety business practice.
Remember, these QR codes are mandatory for most NSW businesses that accept customers and fines may apply for non-compliance.
So, make sure you have one in place before re-opening your doors. In case a customer does not have a smartphone they can use the Service NSW webform. If nothing works, there’s also a provision to use a visitor record template provided by Service NSW.
Furthermore, your may ask your customers to provide proof of their double jab via an ‘electronic vaccine passport’. These electronic passports can be downloaded onto your customers mobile in their digital wallet or printed out as a hard copy. Proof of your customers’ vaccine passports may be required for entry into a range of venues, including bars and eateries.
Know your legal rights
There may come a time when you wonder, can I refuse this person’s service for not wearing a mask? Could my business become liable if customers don’t check-in?
Well, knowing your legal rights as a business owner can be extremely important in these types of situations. If you know your rights, you can rest assured you’re doing what is best for your business, staff and customers.
In general, if a customer refuses to abide by government guidelines and rules, you may refuse them entry and service. If you choose to implement a ‘no mask = no entry’ type of policy within your business, you may be able to refuse non-abiding customers entry.
Also, if a customer refuses to check-in, you may refuse them entry. These types of decisions are 100% up to you— the business owner. But, these decisions must be made with a proper judgement regarding what is best for your business, staff and customers.
Side note: If you do refuse entry, make sure you talk to the person first. You should gently remind them that they should be wearing a mask or checking in. Remember to stay calm and professional. If your customer has a valid reason for not abiding by general government guidelines, this is acceptable. However, if they do not, you may refuse them entry].
Update your businesses policies
Implementing and updating your businesses policies is also a great way to prepare your business for its re-opening. Business policies can notify your employees about new and existing work rules and regulations.
Regarding your business re-opening, you may choose to update, or put into place, policies surrounding work health and safety.
If your business falls into a business category that mandatorily requires employees to be vaccinated, then you may send your returning employees a Return to Work Notice (with Vaccination Requirement).
Please note that this Notice should only be used for business types that have been urged by Public Health order, to mandatorily receive a COVID-19 vaccination. These business types include residential aged care workers, quarantine workers etc.
The rules and regulations surrounding the lockdown and coronavirus are ever-changing, so it’s best to keep an eye out for further government updates in the coming days and weeks.
As mentioned earlier, the NSW government has hinted that access to these Roadmap to Freedom initiatives are conditional on holding an electronic vaccine passport. This may mean that only customers who hold a vaccine passport will be able to enjoy these freedoms.
However, keep an eye out for further updates around vaccine passports as NSW begins to move back to pre-covid normalcy.
We are here to help
The Roadmap to Freedom will see thousands of small businesses like you welcoming back customers and returning to business as usual. However, if you plan to open under the Roadmap to Freedom do ensure that your business is operating safely and in accordance with current rules and regulations.
Here at Lawpath, we can create customisable solutions tailored to your businesses needs. We have a range of legal documents on hand that can help your business open in no time.
Mai is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Lawpath, working as part of the Content Team. She is in her final year of a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Wollongong. She is interested in Business Law and Employment Law.