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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: 21 January 2021

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

What are the current face mask requirements?

You must always carry a face mask with you when you leave home unless you have a lawful reason not to.

Face masks continue to be mandatory in some locations, unless a lawful reason not to wear one applies.

For a full list of settings where masks continue to be mandatory, see Face masks page. 

Face masks are strongly recommended in all settings whenever a physical distance of 1.5 metres from others cannot be maintained. 

Can workers return to the office during COVIDSafe Summer?

Victorians who have been working from home can make a partial and optional return to the work premises, subject to the return to offices cap, explained below.

How many workers can return per work premises (what is the return to offices cap)?

The return to offices cap refers to the number of workers permitted in the work premises at any one time.

From Monday 18 January 2021, the return to offices cap allows: 

  • 50 per cent of office workers who are not in the public service; or 
  • 25 per cent for the Victorian public service; or 
  • 20 workers if the organisation employs less than 40 people 

of the workforce that normally works at each work premises to be present, subject to a density quotient of one person per two square metres. If the number of people allowed in the workplace under the density quotient is less than the return to office cap, the density quotient applies.

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 offices 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 offices cap?

The return to offices 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 and so were already on-site do not need to be included in the return to offices 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 offices 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 offices cap?

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

Your return to offices 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 return to offices cap is applied by work premises, not by business.  

My organisation has multiple offices. How is the cap applied to each office, and can workers switch between office locations, but remain under the cap for their original location? 

The return to offices cap applies to each work premises. 
Workers can switch between sites, as long as the return to offices cap is not exceeded at each work premises. 

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 offices cap applicable to tertiary and other adult education campuses? 

Yes, the return to offices 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 offices 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.

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 to their employers of other work premises they attend.

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 return to offices 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 return to offices cap?

The return to offices 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 21 January 2021

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