Employers are asking many questions about what the current arrangements mean; many in response to concerned staff.
The key document is the Public Health Order (PHO) released over the weekend, and can be found here. The key website to gain up to date information of a general nature is always the NSW Health Covid site, which can be found here.
Section 3(1) of the PHO defines the highly restricted stay at lockdown region as being Greater Sydney. This means:
- the Greater Sydney Region within the meaning of the Greater Sydney Commission Act 2015; and
- the local government areas of the Central Coast, the City of Shellharbour and the City of Wollongong.
Section 8 of the PHO states “The Minister directs that an employer must allow an employee to work at the employee’s place of residence if it is reasonably practicable to do so.” In the past this has been interpreted to mean that if work from home is not practicable for the business, the employee can be required to attend the workplace.
Section 20 makes this clear in regards to the direction of the Minister concerning staying at home:
- The Minister directs that an affected person must not without reasonable excuse:
(a) be away from the person’s place of residence, wherever located.
- For the purposes of subclause (1), a reasonable excuse includes doing an activity specified by Schedule 1. Note. Examples of a reasonable excuse in Schedule 1 include leave for reasons involving….(b) for the purposes of work or education if it is not possible to do it at home.
Schedule 1, Point 2 gives a “Reasonable excuse” for not being at home: For the purposes of work, if the person cannot work from the person’s place of residence.
This means that, if it is not reasonably practicable to work from home, employees can still be required to attend work.
With this all now clearly stated, the CEO of Infrastructure NSW has again been in contact with us to pass on the following message:
“Contractors have probably analysed the latest public health order themselves, but for clarity, the latest lockdown in Greater Sydney allows for construction to continue. The orders were released on Saturday evening (see attached). That public health order:
- allows leaving home for work, where it is not possible do the work at home - Section 20(2)(b) and Schedule 1(2);
- exempts construction from the requirement to wear face masks for purposes of this order - Section 17(3)(m);
- exempts construction from the restriction of gatherings to no more than 10 people - Schedule 2(10) and Section 23(3)(a).
All other protocols developed last year should of course be applied, including avoiding gathering in groups outside construction sites.”
Section 17(1) of the PHO will apply if at work and inside a building; staff must (exceptions apply as detailed in the Section) wear a mask: “The Minister directs that a person must wear a fitted face covering over both the person’s nose and mouth at all times while the person is— (a) in any indoor area of non-residential premises”.
Rest of NSW
The above limitations still apply broadly…have staff stay at home if you can, but if the work cannot be done at home, it is okay to require staff to attend work (subject to the two exceptions below). If they do not, contact CCF NSW immediately for advice.
Entering one of the Lockdown Regions for work
Section 21 of the PHO states the direction of Minister concerning entering Greater Sydney:
- The Minister directs that a person outside of Greater Sydney must not, without reasonable excuse, enter Greater Sydney.
- For the purposes of subclause (1), a reasonable excuse includes— ...(b) doing an activity specified in Schedule 1 except for exercising or outdoor recreation...
This means if entering for work that cannot reasonably practicably be done from home, on face value it is possible to move into Greater Sydney and work if living outside.
However, the Government has previously said that people from regional areas who are returning after having been in Sydney should immediately self-isolate for 14 days on return. We have contacted NSW Health and Service NSW who have verbally said they interpret the rules this way. We have asked INSW for advice. Until we receive it, we recommend this be the approach taken until further advice is received.
Travel out of a lockdown region for work
The Government are sending the message, even if not clearly, that travel from a lockdown region into a non-lockdown area is not desired. We have asked INSW for advice. Until we receive it, we recommend this be the approach taken until further advice is received.
Even if the PHO seems to permit it, CCF NSW urges Members to take great caution; to check the situation daily; and to carefully assess the associated risks before giving directions to staff to move into or out of a ‘lockdown region’.
CCF NSW is here to support you
CCF NSW remains operational and we assure all our family of Members that supporting you remains our primary focus. We will provide all our key services, so if you need support, we are here for you.
- Our phones and emails are staffed;
- All our IR, HR, WHS and system services are being delivered unchanged;
- Our comprehensive package of policies, procedures and forms can be used for managing with COVID. Members can access these free of charge;
- We are also conscious that this is a particularly stressful time for some individuals. If you or your team need an Employee Assistance Program (with counsellors and or psychologists), we can organise.
Please contact us on 9009 4000 if you need any assistance.