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Victoria’s COVID-19 Permitted Worker Scheme Explained

Victoria’s COVID-19 Permitted Worker Scheme Explained

The COVID-19 Permitted Worker Scheme in Victoria applies to employees who still need to go to work during Melbourne's stage 4 restrictions. Find out more here.

7th August 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As part of metropolitan Melbourne’s Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions, the Government has introduced the Permitted Worker Scheme in Victoria. This scheme places significant restrictions on who can travel for work and also warrants significant fines for those failing to comply. This article will discuss these changes.

The Permitted Worker Scheme

Beginning on 6 August 2020, all businesses must have closed their workplaces unless their workplace is part of a permitted activity. Those that can remain open must issue permits for their employees to travel. There are strict eligibility requirements for those allowed to remain open.

Is my business eligible for the scheme?

Businesses may only issue permits to employees if;

  • The business’ activities fall within the list of permitted activities.
  • The employee works within one of these approved categories for on-site work.
  • The employee cannot work from home.

Broadly speaking, the list of permitted activities is confined to essential services. Many retailers must substantially change business to comply with COVID safety measures and stay open. This may involve operating on a ‘click and collect’ model (for retailers) or on a takeaway-only/delivery basis for restaurants and cafes. In essence, this will also limit the number of staff operating at any given time.

Employees do not require permits if:

  • They are travelling to work to avoid risk of family & domestic violence
  • They are emergency services or healthcare personnel carrying employee-issued photo identification

Employees are strictly ineligible for the Permitted Worker Scheme in Victoria if:

  • They test positive to COVID-19 or are also required by other laws to be in self-isolation
  • They are a close contact of someone who has tested positive to COVID-19 and because of that, are required to self-isolate.

How do I issue permits?

Permitted worker permits (word doc format) may be downloaded here. In order to fill out this permit, employers are required to;

  • Provide their name, ABN, company address, and also company name
  • The name & date of birth of the employee
  • The employee’s regular hours and work address
  • Ensure the business/employee works in a permitted activity
  • Ensure a COVID-Safe plan is in place (the deadline for this is 11.59pm on Friday 7th August)
  • Authorise the issuing of a permit to the worker

The employee and employer must both sign the permit, either physically or digitally. Furthermore, employees may travel to work on one occasion without their permit for the purposes of obtaining their permit.

What do employees do with their permits?

Once the employee has received their permit, they must carry it with them when traveling to and from the approved workplace. Employees can carry permits electronically or in print form. Employees should also carry photo identification with them.

Additional provisions for childcare

Permitted workers who cannot obtain supervision for their children by any other means than childcare must fill out a Permitted Worker Permit (Including Childcare) form. Unfortunately, if your employee is not a permitted worker, they can not obtain this permit.

Penalties for non-compliance with Permitted Worker Scheme

The severe penalties for non-compliance with the Permitted Worker Scheme are detailed below.

Incorrectly issuing permits or breaching scheme requirements (e.g. fraudulently issuing permits):

  • Employees: $19,826
  • Employers: $99,132

On-the-spot fines for breaching the scheme (e.g. failing to carry a permit):

  • Employees: $1,652
  • Employers: $9,913

Lockdown Restrictions Generally

Stage 4 restrictions commenced in Melbourne on the 2nd of August. These include stricter rules around where Victorians can travel and also the activities they can undertake, in addition to a nightly curfew. These are:

  • Between the hours of 8.00pm and 5.00am, you may only leave your house for essential health, safety, or work-related reasons.
  • Between the hours of 5.00am and 8.00pm, you may only leave your house to do essential shopping (groceries) or exercise within 5km of your home. You may also leave for healthcare reasons (including pets), and for work, provided you comply with the Permitted Worker Scheme discussed above.

Areas in Victoria outside of Melbourne are subject to Stage 3 restrictions. Effectively, this means there are only four reasons you can leave home;

  1. To shop for food, essential goods and services.
  2. Provide care & compassionate reasons.
  3. Outdoor exercise with one other person.
  4. Employment or education purposes if not possible from home.

All Victorians must wear a mask unless they have obtained a medical exemption.

The COVID-19 situation in Victoria is changing rapidly. Visit the Department of Health website for further information.

Key Takeaways

  • The new Permitted Worker Scheme imposes significant restrictions on freedom of movement for workers. Additionally, it is a requirement for many businesses to continue operations.
  • For more information, visit the Victorian Department of Health Website.
  • Find further information on COVID-19’s impact on the workplace here.

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Author
Alistair Maclennan

Alistair is a Legal Intern at Lawpath. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University. He is primarily interested in how changes in the digital space influence business activity, privacy, and freedom of speech.