Roadmap to Freedom and Legal Considerations

Whilst the “Roadmap to Freedom” is super exciting, and means many of you will be able to open your doors, there are some legal considerations we need to consider before doing so.  

It’s been a painful time for businesses particularly in Victoria and NSW. Having to close doors as a hair dresser, retail store, recreation facility or restaurant has been difficult to say the least. But since NSW made the call that once we attain the 70% freedoms will begin, and that number was reached on Wednesday, then come Monday its reopening time for many. Exciting yes! Nervous about new requirements – of course.  

Before reopening you need to make sure that you are operating safely and legally. One of the best ways to do so is to download and print all the COVID safe signs and posters, and display them. They will help remind you and your staff of the current rules. Also pop a note in the diary to download and print any updated ones.  

Of course, it’s good business practice to let your customers or clients know you’ll be re-opening.  When doing so, make sure you let them know of any new rules that apply such as mask wearing, checking in social distancing, hygiene practices and customer capacity (generally this is 1 person for every 4 square metres). This communication is key to ensuring that customers are not under any illusions that your business will be operating under the old rules, and to help you manage their expectations. The new freedoms are not like pre-COVID freedoms. If you haven’t already done so, let them know now. 

Legally you must display, and implement the QR check in codes. If a customer can’t access online, they can check in via a written visitor record. Fines apply for non-compliance. Your customers may also be required to have their COVID passport. So ensure you are aware of the requirements for your industry here. Currently there is an app being developed so that when you check in with your QR code it will also show your vaccination status. However, it is not going to be ready come Monday, so in the first few weeks, you may have to do 2 checks. Make sure you are across this. You will have seen the supermarkets approach, and most customers will be very used to this, and will have made it a habit now. However, it appears to be that they will be introducing fines for non-compliance here, so do be careful.  

So what happens if your customers or clients refuse to comply? What happens if they refuse to check in, refuse to wear a mask or to comply with social distancing? Where a customer refuses to comply with the government rules, then you may be able to refuse their entry. And if customers don’t actually check in you may also refuse them entry. As to customers being vaccinated, the NSW government has been clear that the freedoms only apply to fully vaccinated people and those with medical exemptions. 

Since these decisions have been left to you, the business owner to police, the best way to ensure that you and your staff are all on the same page is to have a clear written policy in place. That way you can be consistent with your customers and visitors, and your employees can be sure of their duties. This may mean updating your current ones to include check-in, mask wearing, social distancing, and hygiene practices. These matters should be addressed in your work health and safety policy.  

On employees and whether you can enforce vaccination, the jury is still out. However, you should be considering whether vaccination is an inherent requirement of the job position. For any jobs that can be done at home, vaccination may not be a requirement. Indeed, if your employee is able to  work from home, you must continue to allow them to do so.  For other employees, you will need to consider whether requiring vaccination is reasonable, and lawful in the circumstances. Unfortunately this is going to be rather subjective! 

And as to indoor venues, your kids will need to be with members of their own household, and kids under 12 will not need masks indoors. Thank goodness for that! It’s hard enough putting my kids eye patch on for one hour (vision correction) let alone putting a mask on him all day.  

If you want any assistance with your policies, please contact us. If we are out, we are sorry, but it’s because we became rather excited about you opening!  

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