Thursday’s announcement of a fourth lockdown will hit SMEs particularly hard.
It could be the straw that breaks many of their backs.
That’s according to business partner Josh Paterson from Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations adviser.
“This is the fourth lockdown Melbourne employers have had to endure, and each time it has a significant financial impact on business,” Mr Paterson said.
“Business owners across the state will be feeling anxious over the coming week, given the fact this is the first lockdown with no JobKeeper wage subsidy support to help prop them up. Small business owners will be hit hard by this, and more support packages should be considered to help them through it. The state government has said more support will be offered, so we will wait and see what that entails.
“Some businesses are resilient and have gotten good at shifting operations online where applicable, but for others, a fourth lockdown could be the final one that breaks them.”
The Victorian government is yet to detail any support measures this time around, but businesses are concerned now JobKeeper is gone.
Yet still, businesses are asked to step up again, and do what is required of them, to keep Australians safe.
Many businesses have been forced to shut down once more, or operate in a limited capacity, as health authorities continue contact tracing, and heavy restrictions ramp back up again.
Essential shops like supermarkets, food stores, bottle shops, banks, petrol stations and pharmacies can remain open.
Cafés, pubs and restaurants must switch to take-away only, and non-essential retail may only open for click and collect. Gyms, hairdressers, community facilities, hotels, clubs and casinos must all close.
Schools must also close, except for the children of essential workers, while childcare will remain open.
Employers know the drill.
If affected industries are told to close, they have to abide by the rules. Failure to comply will not only incur a fine, but also risk the health of their staff, customers and clients.
Those who can remain open need to direct employees to wear a mask at all times in the workplace (unless an exemption applies) and ensure their COVID Safe Plan is regularly reviewed and implemented.
Businesses that can switch their operations by having employees work from home must do so.
It’s been tough, and the challenges continue.
“This lockdown will cripple an already fragile economy and these next seven days will be crucial,” Mr Paterson said.
“Business owners need to ensure they meet their health and safety responsibilities, comply with their legal obligations, and follow government directions.”
Employsure has encouraged business owners to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Australia’s peak workplace relations adviser has offered some valuable advice:
- If an employee or independent contractor tests positive to COVID-19 over the coming days and has physically been in the workplace while infected, the employer must notify health authorities and WorkSafe Victoria as soon as they become aware.
- Having an effective infection control policy that includes identifying and assessing the infection hazards at the workplace and implementing specific controls can help eliminate or minimise the risk of transmission. These may include physical distancing, regular handwashing with soap and the use of hand sanitiser. Appropriate routine environmental cleaning and disinfection should occur regularly at all workplaces.
- Should a worker or employee fall ill, additional control measures need to be initiated. This includes isolating the infected person, identifying anyone they may have come in contact with and disinfecting the areas they have been working in.