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Stage four restrictions: how they will affect your business

03 August 2020

The Victorian government has announced sweeping new lockdown laws that will greatly impact thousands of businesses across Victoria. Here is what you need to know.


On 3 August, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the introduction of Stage 4 restrictions on Victorian businesses which will greatly impact retail businesses along with the construction and meat-processing industries.

In his address, Mr Andrews said “as heartbreaking as it is to close down places of employment... that is what we have to do in order to stop the spread of this wildly infectious virus.”

“Our medical experts have said this is the only way to stop the spread. The only way.”

Around 250,000 Victorian workers will be impacted by these Stage 4 restrictions.

Along with the new sever restrictions, the State Government has also announced new grants in order to support those Victorian businesses that will be impacted by the shutdown.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) understands the only way our economy will survive the COVID-19 crisis is by getting the health crisis under control. But we know that closing or heavily restricting workplaces will have a devastating effect on our businesses and economy.

Many businesses that thought they could scrape through Stage 3 restrictions will now close, industries will face unprecedented controls and thousands more jobs will be lost.

VCCI chief executive Paul Guerra said “while it is somewhat positive that some vital industries will still be able to operate under a ‘pilot light’ setting, including construction, the restrictions will still severely damage jobs and productivity.”

We know that for us to get into a position again where we talk about recovery the health crisis needs to be brought under control... But the cost of the actions to get to that point will be devastating and long-lasting, with the effects felt by all of us for many years.” 

Business restrictions

On 3 August, the Stage 4 restrictions for business were announced which will greatly impact many businesses in Victoria. The State Government announced a three-tier structure of business closures which will impact many people differently.

It is important to note, that with exception to some warehousing and meat processing centres in regional Victoria, these regulations only apply for metropolitan Melbourne. 

For the full comprehensive list of which businesses are impacted, and how, click on the link below. 

Tier one: open for on-site work 

Businesses such as supermarkets, grocery stores (butchers, bakers, fruit and vegetable stores), bottle shops, petrol stations, banks, news agencies and post offices are allowed to continue operating as usual, along with frontline healthcare workers, as they provide critical services for the public.

Tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians can continue operating as usual, however, the Premier has conceded “now is not the time to get your house painted.”

All businesses and services that remain open will have until 11.59pm on 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe-plan focused on safety, prevention and response if a case of coronavirus is linked to the workplace.

On 29 July, WorkSafe Victoria announced regulations where employers are required to notify WorkSafe immediately on becoming aware an employee has attended the workplace following a positive diagnosis of COVID-19.

Tier two: must close for on-site work 

From 11.59pm on 5 August, many businesses will need to temporarily close their doors to the public. These industries include retail, education and training, some manufacturing and administration.

While many retail businesses will need to cease operations entirely, some will continue to operate in a limited capacity with contactless (click and collect) purchasing allowed. The Premier gave the example that the public would not be allowed to enter a Bunnings store, they would be allowed to purchase online and collect their goods.

As the announcement came less than 48 hours before the enactment of the new lockdown laws, some businesses may be allowed specific exemptions to allow the business to shutdown safely over a longer period of time.

The State Government have also reiterated that for those who continue operating, must adhere to the strictest of safety protocols.

Tier three: restricted operations 

Some businesses will be allowed to remain open and operate as usual, but in a greatly diminished capacity. Included in this are the meat, warehousing and construction industries, as these industries have been identified as areas where work cannot cease, but have noticed a serious increase in cases of COVID-19.

The government has advised for those businesses remaining open, to begin staggering shifts, staggering breaks, introducing health declarations and bolstering support for sick workers to ensure they stay home

Abattoirs and meat processing plants will be required to reduce the number of staff by one third. Along with this reduction of staff, workers will also be required to wear full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) similar to those work by healthcare workers.

Workers will also be required to only work at one location and must not work across several sites.

Warehousing and distribution centers across Melbourne will also be limited to no more than two-thirds of their normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.

The construction industry will be scaled back to “pilot light levels” to allow projects to resume, without completely ending operations.

For major construction sites – defined as operations above three-stories tall – no more than 25 per cent of the normal workforce will be allowed onsite at any given time. The State Government has said that they have already reviewed Government projects such as the Level Crossing Removal Project and have “almost halved the number of people onsite”.

For small-scale construction projects such as residential housing, no more than five people will be allowed onsite at any given time. 

Restrictions for the public

On 2 August, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the introduction of Stage 4 lockdown which introduced sweeping changes to the way the public of Victoria live. Many of these new rules will greatly impact businesses.

Melbourne curfew

As of 2 August, a curfew is in place between the hours of 8pm to 5am. There are exceptions to the curfew, but you must only leave your home for one of the following reasons (not multiple):

  • To purchase food or necessary supplies
  • Work (studying is no longer an exception and must be done remotely)
  • Exercise (one-hour limit)
  • Caregiving and healthcare

Given these restrictions and exceptions, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to stay open (only for pick-up and delivery) during curfew hours as customers will be allowed to collect their orders and services such as UberEats and Menulog are not impacted.

The five-kilometer rule

From 2 August, all residents of Melbourne will not be allowed to travel more than five kilometers from their home. This will greatly impact many businesses such as independent grocers, petrol stations and restaurants as their trade will be limited to local customers only.

For an indication of the distance you can travel, this website can show you a five-kilometer radius from your home.

The new five-kilometer rule also apply for exercise, which is now limited to one-hour per day.


All schools across Victoria will return to remote learning though some schools will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of permitted workers.

Daycare, kindergartens and early childhood centres in metropolitan Melbourne will also be closed, but will remain open in regional Victoria.

These restrictions will not only greatly impact those businesses, but the parents of children who are now working from home. During this time, it will be important for employers to give their staff the flexibility to manage these unique circumstances and continue to operate as efficiently as possible.

Regional Victoria

As was announced on 2 August, regional Victoria (including Mitchell Shire) has been moved to Stage 3 restrictions, enforcing the ‘four-reason rule’: those living outside of Melbourne now may only leave home for the following reasons:

  • Shopping for food and essential supplies
  • Study or work
  • Care and healthcare
  • Exercise or outdoor recreation

On 30 July face coverings also became mandatory throughout all of Victoria, meaning that anytime a person leaves their home, they must be wearing a face mask, regardless of their activity.

Those who do not wear face coverings can be fined $200 unless that person is exempt for medical purposes. Children under 12 years of age do not need to wear a face covering. 

Business grants

In order to cope with the restrictions, the Victorian Government have announced further grants for Victorian businesses to cope during these difficult times – amounting to nearly and additional $600 million in support.

Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire businesses will be able to apply for an additional $5,000 grant – on top of the existing $5,000 grant available through the Business Support Fund – Expansion Program.

Regional Victorian businesses that are forced to close can also apply for a $5,000 grant to support their business as the rest of the state falls under Stage 3 restrictions. 

How the VCCI can help

If you, as an employer or an employer’s representative feel unsure about what your organisation has in place or would like help in putting a plan in place, please do not hesitate to contact the Victorian Chamber’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing (HSW) team on 03 8662 5196.

The HSW team can also ensure you are fully aware of the duty to report cases of COVID-19 at the workplace under the reporting laws that came into place on the 28th July.

For more information on our HSW consulting, training and other support services, please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or to discuss your needs.

Members can also call our Advice Line on 03 8662 5222, or can register to be notified of any changes to awards applicable to your business. Award subscription via the Victorian Chamber will allow you to receive summarised, user-friendly tables which highlight the key differences that occur when awards are modified. 

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