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Support For Business

Council has new staff employed to support businesses during the pandemic, particularly around operating safely during COVID-19. 

This page was updated on 14 January, 2022.

Exemptions for essential workers

The Victorian Government has announced more essential workers will be eligible for an exemption from close contact home isolation requirements to attend their workplace.

From 11:59pm, Tuesday 18 January, workers in the following sectors are eligible for an exemption:

  • emergency services such as police, fire services and the SES
  • prisons and custodial services
  • critical utilities such as gas, electricity, water and waste disposal
  • freight and transport operators, including at ports and airports
  • primary, secondary and early childhood education
  • critical care services that support our most vulnerable.

Under the conditions of the exemption, the worker may return to work if it is necessary for continuity of operations and if other options have been exhausted. The exemption will apply to attending work only, not any other settings.

In order to be eligible, the worker must first notify the employer of their status as a contact, and both parties must consent to the worker returning to the workplace. Workers are already required to be fully vaccinated.

Strong requirements will need to be met to qualify for an exemption – this includes:

  • The worker must undertake a daily rapid antigen test (RAT) for five days and return a negative result prior to attending work each day.
  • They must wear a face mask at all times, with exceptions in the case of eating or drinking, or safety reasons, and a P2/N95 respirator is preferred.
  • The worker cannot enter shared break areas and the employer must try and facilitate solo break time. The employer must also take reasonable steps to deploy the worker in areas where transmission risk is lower.
  • If at any time the worker develops symptoms or tests positive on a RAT, the exemption no longer applies. They are then a case, must isolate for seven days, and must notify others including their employer.

The exemption aligns with what has been granted to key food distribution sector workers and is designed to protect the state’s essential workforce during the continuing Omicron wave.

An exemption also applies to hospital workers, disability workers, residential aged care facility workers, and ambulance workers. These workers must use a N95 mask.

More information on the conditions of the exemption and will be published at coronavirus.vic.gov.au/isolation-exemptions when they come into effect at 11:59pm, Tuesday 18 January.

Remember to book your third vaccine dose at www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine.

Workers identified as Contacts and Testing Requirements

From 11:59 pm 12 January, a person who tests positive on a rapid antigen test is a case, and must report their result to the Department of Health.

If a worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 has worked in the work premise during their infectious period, they must inform their workplace as soon as possible.

The workplace must identify and inform other workers who are contacts (including sub-contractors, but not patrons).

Testing requirements:

  • If they have symptoms, they must use a rapid antigen test, or a PCR test if they cannot access a rapid antigen test
  • If they don't have symptoms, they are strongly recommended to use five rapid antigen tests (one per day)

Use this matrix to help you determine who is and isn’t a contact: Contact assessment matrix

Workplaces must be prepared to provide the list of contacts to the Department of Health.

Please use the COVID-19 outbreak notification form to quickly let the Department of Health know about a suspected outbreak of COVID-19.

What evidence can businesses draw on when applying the risk assessment matrix for contacts of a case of COVID-19?

Businesses can draw on a range of sources to identify workplace contacts, such as:

  • Rosters or electronic records showing where and when workers worked, including any interactions at the start or end of shift or during break times.
  • Worker health records including mask-wearing exemptions.
  • Interviews with the case and, should the case consent to being identified, interviews with other workers on-site.
  • CCTV footage tracking the case in the workplace.

What happens if multiple workers are identified as cases?

If there has been 5 or more cases within a 7-day period, you are required to notify the department via the COVID-19 outbreak notification form.

Businesses should apply the risk-based approach to identify workplace contacts for all cases of COVID-19.

What happens if a worker finds out they have tested positive for COVID-19 while at work?

No one should be at work whilst awaiting a COVID-19 PCR test result. Anyone awaiting a PCR test result must stay home and not attend work until they get a negative COVID-19 test result. If a worker is taking RAT surveillance, they should take the test prior to attending work.

However, if a worker finds out they have tested positive for COVID-19 while they are at work, they must immediately go directly home and self-isolate.

If the worker is unable to leave work immediately, support them to isolate at work, preferably in a separate room. They must wear a face mask and remain at least 1.5 metres from others at all times.

When can a worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 return to work?

Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 7 days after the date they got tested. Workers can return to work once they have completed their 7-day self-isolation.

Visit Checklist for COVID cases for more information.

Once someone with COVID-19 has completed their self-isolation period, they are no longer considered infectious. They do not require a negative test result at the end of their isolation period in order to leave isolation.

However, they might need more time away from work after they are cleared, as even though they are no longer infectious, they may not feel well enough to return to work. As their employer, you should support them to do so.

When can a worker who is identified as a contact return to work?

Workplace contacts who had symptoms can return to work if they return a negative result from a rapid antigen test (or a PCR test if they cannot access a rapid antigen test).

Workers who are isolating as a case or self-quarantining as a household or household-like contact must isolate for 7 days.

What is a 'risk assessment'? And as a business owner, when am I required to complete one?

A risk assessment helps you determine the actions you need to take if there is a case or multiple cases of COVID-19 in your workplace. This includes cases that have been confirmed with a PCR or probable cases as a result of a positive rapid antigen test.

You are required to complete a risk assessment when a person with COVID-19 attended an indoor space at work during their infectious period. The infectious period is defined as 48 hours before the person started to develop symptoms (or if they did not have symptoms, 48 hours before their positive test).

A risk assessment is recommended when there are three or more suspected cases of COVID-19 at one work premises within a 5-day period.

What financial support is available to my business?

A range of assistance is available from the Commonwealth and Victorian governments and other entities to support businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Visit the Business grants and support page to see more information.

What other resources are available to support my business?

The following resources will help you meet your obligations as a business owner under current COVIDSafe Settings:

You can call the Business Victoria hotline on 13 22 15 for additional support.

 Support for workforce shortages

The $250 million Jobs Victoria Fund is backing businesses to grow, creating 10,000 secure jobs, and addressing a workforce skills shortage.

More businesses and employees are now eligible for support after a change to the Jobs Victoria Fund guidelines. Check if your business is eligible via the Jobs Victoria website.

How do I reduce the risk of COVID-19 in my workplace?

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections in the workplace, employers must:

Employers should also:

  • provide and promote hand sanitiser use and regular hand washing, including at building entrances
  • increase environmental cleaning, including between changes of workers
  • clean high-touch surfaces with disinfectant at least twice a day: including desks, doors and door handles, keyboards and lifts (including lift buttons and handrails)
  • provide adequate supplies in change rooms so workers do not share items such as towels and soap bars, and encourage workers to wash their hands after changing, and regularly during work
  • open windows and adjust air conditioning to increase airflow; ensure the highest hygiene practices are in place among food handlers and canteen workers
  • avoid enclosed spaces, if possible
  • purchase supplies to help prevent infection - for example, alcohol sanitisers and soap.

Buy Buloke Website

  • Buloke Shire Council has established an online resource to continue the support of its local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Buy Buloke website has been launched to provide the community with an easy to navigate website to browse local businesses and services as well as current trading terms and social media links.
  • View the website now awww.buybuloke.com.au 

More information about these assistance programs available visit business.vic.gov.au.

For the latest COVID-19 public health information please visit https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/