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COVID-19: member update on restrictions - Vic

June 03, 2020

The Victorian government has introduced changes to the COVID-19 travel and movement restrictions.

The updates have no significant impact on display home operations or building sites. However, new express restrictions on employers permitting employees to work in offices and travel to the office may impact some member’s business operations.

Display Homes

Display homes remain open as they are classed as an open retail facility and are not prohibited under the Restricted Activity Directions. The new Stay Safe Directions now allow people more freedom to leave home and leaving home for shopping and similar activities such as visiting display homes is only subject to complying with restrictions on gathering sizes and not breaching the Restricted Activity Directions.

HIA reminds members that the Restricted Activity Directions requires strict compliance with all social distancing and signage and cleaning requirements.

The new directions now allow for real estate inspections to have up to 20 people plus minimum number of people reasonably required to facilitate inspection (plus occupants of residence).

The operator of real estate open homes is required to keep records of names and a contact phone number of each client, to assist in contact tracing if required. The requirement only applies if the visit exceeds 15 minutes in duration but it may be easier to keep these records for each visitor. These records must be keep for 28 days.

An updated version of the HIA Guide for Display Homes will be available for members shortly.

Office Workers

The directions now impose express restrictions on employers and employees. The effect of these restrictions is that:

  1. Employers cannot permit an employee to work at their premises (such as an office) when it is reasonably practicable for that employee to work at home or at another place.
  2. Employees can only leave home to travel to work if it is not reasonably practicable for them to work from home or another place not the employers premises.

There are fines for breaching the Restricted Activities Directions and the Stay Safe Directions. The fine is over $1,600 for an individual and almost $10,000 for a company.

The definition of “reasonably practicable” is the plain English meaning.  In practical terms any employee who works in an office environment is likely to be expected to work from home.  Employees who need to work on building sites or in display homes will not be required to work from home.  The availability of IT solutions such as video conferencing and remote network access will usually make it reasonably practicable for an employee to work from home.

With some office employees it may not be reasonably practicable for them to always work from home. If they need to access specialised equipment or equipment not available at home then working in the office may be reasonable.