Understanding the new COVID-19 restrictions on businesses is an impossible task.
This week hospitality and beauty businesses were thrown into a tailspin when the requirement for full vaccination of their workforce was brought forward from the 26 November to yesterday – our ‘Freedom Day’. Last minute policy on the run.
To make matters worse, the new rules released at midnight on Thursday caused more confusion – a mere six hours before many businesses planned to open their doors.
Under the new “Open Premises Directions” released on Thursday night, business owners must accept evidence that their patrons and employees are fully vaccinated. However, the direction states that if employers do not want to check the vaccination status of their patrons or employees, they can continue to operate at lower patron limits.
Remarkably, this ruling is contradicted by the State Government’s other direction on mandatory vaccines, which is still in operation. The “COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Directions” state that employers must ensure unvaccinated workers do not work on site.
So, which is it? Can businesses operate with unvaccinated workers at lower patron limits, or are employers required to prevent unvaccinated workers from working on site?
This is another question not answered by the Premier. With businesses scrambling to reopen and achieve the mountain of work involved in doing so, these directions show a blatant disregard for the heavy burdens on small businesses.
Make no mistake, the Andrews Government have made the stakes high. Should businesses be in breach of these orders, they face fines of $109,044.
The majority business owners I speak with in Mallee don’t want to defy these orders. Indeed, they are desperately trying to interpret and comply with the current State Labor Government’s regulations.
Businesses are doing their due diligence, but sadly it’s almost impossible to comply confidently with the changing and seemingly contradictory Public Health Orders.
Our ‘Freedom Day’ has been overshadowed by the stress of getting these rules right. It’s troubling to see the anxiety these ever-shifting goal posts are causing for local small business owners as a direct result of the appalling disrespect of the State Labor Government.
It is clear Premier Andrews holds little regard for businesses who have borne the brunt of these heavy burdens for almost two years.