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Office workplaces guidance

Guidance for all businesses that operate out of office workplaces in Victoria.

COVIDSafe Summer — new restrictions apply from 11:59pm, Sunday 17 January 2021

From 11:59pm on Sunday 17 January face masks will no longer be mandatory in most public indoor settings.

  • Face masks continue to be mandatory in airports, hospitals, large retail stores over 2000 sqm, shopping centres, indoor markets, in taxis and rideshares, on public transport, and on domestic flights to and from Victoria.
  • You must carry a face mask with you at all times when you leave home unless you have a lawful reason not to.
  • It is strongly recommended you wear one whenever you cannot keep 1.5 metres distance from others.

Find out more about COVIDSafe Summer restrictions.

Information to help your business Stay Safe and Stay Open

Every Victorian business must have a COVIDSafe Plan and follow the six principles of COVIDSafe workplaces.

Also see:

Frequently asked questions

Updated on: 8 January 2021

Read below for answers to frequently asked questions by businesses that operate out of office workplaces in Victoria.

Can workers return to the office during COVIDSafe Summer?

Please note: From Monday, 18 January, the Victorian Public Service will be able to return to on-site work at 25 per cent capacity at each site and all other office workplaces will be able to increase to 50 per cent capacity. See the Premier's media release for details.

Do I have to wear a mask if I am the only person in the office? 

Yes, face masks must be worn in all indoor spaces (other than your private residence) apart from when eating and drinking, or unless a lawful reason not to wear one applies. 

Face masks must be carried at all times and it is strongly recommended you wear one in outdoor settings if you cannot keep a 1.5 metre distance from others. 

Lawful reasons and exceptions for not wearing a face mask include where a person is working by themselves in an enclosed indoor space (unless and until another person enters that indoor space). These and further exemptions are found in the Stay Safe Directions (No 8) and the Workplace Directions (No 15).

How many workers are allowed on-site? Is there a density quotient for workers returning to the office?

The total number of workers permitted on-site at any one time is subject to a density quotient of one person per two square metres in common areas. This includes areas such as open plan offices, tearooms, bathrooms and meeting rooms. 

All workers, including those that cannot work from home, are included in the density quotient. If the density quotient of a worksite is less than the return to work cap, then the maximum number of workers allowed on-site is determined by the density quotient. In publicly accessible areas, the density quotient of one person per two square metres applies to both workers and visitors. 

These requirements are further to any pre-existing occupancy limit requirements of the National Construction Code.

Which workers do I count as part of the return to work cap?

The return to work cap includes all workers, employees, subcontractors (and their workers), volunteers, and any other person engaged or permitted by an employer to perform work at the work premises (for example, consultants) who can work from home.

Workers who cannot work from home should not be counted when determining compliance with the cap.  

Should start and finish times be staggered for workers returning to the office?

Where permitted under worker awards, enterprise agreements or employment contracts, start and finish times should be staggered to reduce congregation of workers around entrances, lifts, stairwells and other high-traffic areas.

Employers must allow workers to work from home if they can.

Can the workers attending the work premises change each day?

Yes. Under the return to work cap, employers can change which workers they allow to work from the work premises each day.

My organisation had ‘permitted workers’ on-site during previous restrictions. Are these workers counted as part of the return to work cap?

No. Workers already on-site do not need to be included in the return to work cap. Only workers who can work from home should be counted.  

Your return to work cap calculations should include all workers, employees, subcontractors (and their workers), volunteers, and any other person engaged or permitted by an employer to perform work at the work premises (for example, consultants) who can work from home.

My organisation has workers based at several locations. Can I consolidate my workforce to operate out of one building? 

The number of workers in any work premises should be no more than 25 per cent of the workforce that normally work at that location. The return to work cap is applied by work premises, not by business.  

My organisation has multiple offices. Can workers switch between office locations, but remain under the cap for their original location? 

The cap does not move with the worker if they move locations.  

The 25 per cent cap on return to work applies to each work premises. You can have 25 per cent of the normal workforce at each work site. 

Workers can switch between sites, as long as the number of workers in each building is no more than 25 per cent of the building occupancy limits. 

Work premises that normally have fewer than 40 workers can have up to 10 workers attend the premises at any one time. 

My workers would like to continue working from home full-time or part-time on an ongoing basis. What do I need to do? 

During COVIDSafe Summer, employers must allow workers to work from home if they can.

Workers should discuss working from home arrangements with their employer, and ensure that any requests comply with their contract, award, enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), and the Fair Work Act.

Is the return to work cap applicable to tertiary and other adult education campuses? 

Yes, the return to work cap applies to administrative and support workers on campuses. 

Students and teachers engaged in higher education and training can return to campuses for the summer learning programs and should not be included in the cap.

If the density quotient of a campus worksite is less than the return to work cap, then the maximum number of workers allowed on-site is determined by the density quotient.

Can my employer require me to start/finish earlier or later than my usual hours when I return to work at the office? 

Employers can request that workers adjust their start and finish times to support COVIDSafe practices (for example, by reducing the number of people in lifts and entrances at peak times). 

Whether an employer can require a worker to adjust their start and finish times will depend on the workplace’s award, enterprise agreement or employment contracts.

Some workplace agreements may allow employers to vary start and finish times in certain circumstances. 

Employers can also require workers to comply with reasonable directions. This may include a variation to start or finish times if there is a genuine business need, or in order to comply with occupational health and safety laws or the COVIDSafe Plan.

For more information, visit: awards and agreements.

My organisation has multiple offices. How is the return to work cap applied? 

The 25 per cent cap on return to work applies to each work premises. Therefore, you can have 25 per cent of the normal workforce return to work at each site. As long as the number of workers in each building is no more than 25 per cent of the building occupancy limits.

Work premises that normally have fewer than 40 workers can have up to 10 workers attend the premises at any one time.  

Can call centres open during COVIDSafe Summer?

Yes. Call centres can open with 25 per cent of the workforce on-site, but any workers that can work from home should continue to work from home.

All businesses with on-site operations must have a COVIDSafe Plan.

I run a cleaning business. Is there a limit on the number of sites that workers can attend each week during COVIDSafe Summer?

During COVIDSafe Summer, there are limits on the number of sites a worker can attend if they are cleaning care facilities, hospitals or hotel quarantine sites. Please see the Workplace (Additional Industry Obligations) Directions for more information.

Employers that provide cleaning services to care facilities, hospitals or hotel quarantine must ensure there are systems in place to limit the number of worksites that workers cleaning those sites attend. Where it is not possible to limit this to just one worksite, employers must demonstrate in their COVIDSafe Plan that they have systems and processes in place to minimise the number of workers working across multiple premises. Businesses are required to keep records to support contact tracing if required, including rosters, time and attendance records and payroll data. The employee must provide written details of the other work premises they are attending to their employers.

Read more about cleaning, disinfecting and preventing infection in the workplace, including factsheets on cleaning guidelines for workers, supervisors, building owners and managers, and checklists for routine cleaning services and undertaking a cleaning and disinfection (deep cleans).

Can payroll and human resources (HR) workers attend their work premises?

Yes. If the workers can work from home but attend their work premises, they will be counted toward the 25 per cent daily return to work cap. 

Employers must have a COVIDSafe Plan in place and ensure staggered arrival, break and departure times for workplaces.  

The seating capacity in my office is less than my total workforce. How do I apply the 25 per cent return to work cap?

The 25 per cent return to work cap only applies to the number of workers who are normally in the office who have been working from home. 

If you have workers who normally work from a client site and intend on returning to the client site, then these workers are counted as part of the client's site cap.

Reviewed 15 January 2021

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Call Business Victoria on 13 22 15

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