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COVID Safe Business: Guide for Compliance

The NSW Government has announced this week that it is now compulsory for businesses in the hospitality and indoor-gym industries to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and to be registered as a COVID Safe business via their online website.

In today’s post, we will discuss the COVID Safe business program and provide a guide for how businesses should implement in practical terms.   

What is COVID Safe?

COVID Safe is the NSW government’s program that is designed to assist businesses in meeting their public health obligations as part of the response to coronavirus.

It is mandatory for a number of types of businesses to participate and register, including hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, food and drink premises, micro-breweries, casinos, registered clubs, small bars, casinos, and indoor gyms. The list of mandatory businesses is regularly updated in line with public health advice. For this reason, it is important that business owners keep themselves up to date with the ongoing situation to ensure they remain compliant, because even if your business is included today it could be in the coming weeks.

For businesses where registration is not mandatory, their participation is optional but nonetheless recommended.

How does my business become COVID Safe?

In order to meet the requirements of the program, there are three steps that businesses should follow. These are:

Step One: Complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan

All businesses that are required under the public health order to participate in the COVID Safe program need to complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan. The NSW Government provides these programs at their website, with a different safety checklist for each industry approved by the NSW Chief Health Officer. Each plan will provide advice specific to each industry on the following topics:

  • hygiene and safety;
  • physical distancing;
  • recording contact details of staff and customers; and 
  • staff wellbeing. 

 Step Two: Register your business as COVID Safe

Once you have completed the COVID-19 Safety Plan, you can now register your business via the NSW Government website. As outlined, registration is mandatory for certain industries.

Registration will also allow customers to provide you with feedback as to how COVID safe your business environment is. You will be able to access this in real time as it is provided.

Step 3: Show that you’re COVID Safe

Now that you have successfully registered, you will be provided with digital posters which you can download and display. This will demonstrate to your customers that you are compliant with public health regulations.

You can also consider using a contactless method such as QR codes to collect customer details for tracing.

You should ensure that you have the COVID Safety Plan readily available for your staff, and train existing and new staff in how they can comply with the Safety Plan.

Importantly, as the pandemic evolves and health advice and regulations change you need to ensure your plan is kept up to date to ensure compliance with the ongoing Public Health Orders.

Are there penalties for non-compliance?

Under the Public Health Orders there are heavy fines for businesses that are found to be in breach. A maximum penalty of up to $55,000 and a further $27,500 for each day an office continues applies. Furthermore, on the spot fines can also be issued by inspectors.

Generally, non-compliance fines will be $5,000. Health inspectors also have powers to close businesses if they have been found to be in breach of the Public Health Orders on multiple occasions.

Conclusion

Many industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus impact and response. The NSW Government’s strict public health measures are designed to reduce the spread of coronavirus as much as possible. Small business owners need to review as to whether their business is required to complete a COVID Safe plan, registration, or both. If you are facing issues related to the coronavirus impact or compliance with Public Health Orders, get in touch with our experienced team today to get advice and explore options.

Harris Gomez Group is an English and Spanish speaking law firm with 25 years experience based in Sydney, with sister offices in Chile and Colombia. We specialise in business, technology and corporations law, property law, and cross-border issues. We assist individuals, entrepreneurs and small to large sized Australian businesses with a variety of issues, including corporations law, property law issues (such as retail and commercial rental contracts) and contract disputes. We are members of both Australian Latin American Business Council (ALABC) and Auscham.

To better understand how we can support you, please contact Harris Gomez at hmg@hgomezgroup.com

Our Sydney office is located at Level 7, 92 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.