Greater Sydney lockdown FAQ #2: what you need to know
Following two webinars focusing on the ongoing and changing restrictions in Greater Sydney, MEA’s Employer Advice Team and Safety Team have answered some of the most common questions from electrical contractors.
Q. What work can continue outside the hotspot LGAs
A. Outside the 11 designated hotspot council areas, construction work can resume in non-occupied settings. There is a one person per square metre maximum capacity, and COVID Safe plans needed.
When it comes to working inside premises. There is more scope to recommence but there is focus on zero contact with residents. And restrictions on numbers.
If you can’t make it so there is no contact between workers and residents, then the job cannot go ahead. A written agreement is not enough, it needs to be a safety measure. You stay over there, we’ll stay over here and if you can’t do that then the workers will leave site. Follow our safety plan or the work doesn’t continue.
In an outdoor area, no more than five people can undertake work at the same time
In an indoor area, no more than two persons can undertake work at the same time
If work is occurring in an indoor area on the premises, and the other persons, such as members of the household, are present at the premises, the other persons must stay in a separate indoor area of the premises from those undertaking the work at all times.
Q. What work can continue inside the hotspot LGAs
A. There are limited circumstances where repairs maintenance or cleaning services are allowed.
- To ensure the health, safety, or security of premises or household.
- In an emergency.
- For the installation, maintenance or repairs of essential utilities including electricity, water, gas, internet, television, or telecommunications services.
- For fire protection and safety.
- To prepare an unoccupied place of residence for sale or lease.
For example, if a premise only has one bathroom, and needs electrical work finalised so the bathroom is operational, that work can continue. But finalising work on a kitchen to make it operational is not considered essential and cannot take place, as it is ruled there are other ways to obtain food, for example buying take away.
Q. Do restrictions around residential also restrict work on commercial spaces?
A. Look to the restrictions with respect to zero contact, or non-occupied.
If a commercial premise is unoccupied, which many are during the lockdown, then the work would be able to continue as long as COVID Safe plans are in place and distancing rules are followed.
Outside the hotspot LGAs, all work must be zero contact, or cannot take continue. Zero contact is the chief reason for being able to carry out, or not being able to, work in commercial spaces.
Q. Can electrical work continue as an “authorised worker”?
A. This exemption from previous lockdowns is not relevant during the current July-August 2021 lockdown.
Exemptions around “telecommunications service” refers to work on essential communications networks, for example phone or internet services, not running Cat 5 cable for a client.
Similarly, exemptions around “electricity services” refers to electricity distribution networks, not electricians.
As a general rule the table does not provide an exemption for electrical contracting.
Q. My business is based in a hotspot LGA, but I have workers who live and work outside the hotspot. Can these workers carry out work?
A. Yes. If you have work for these employees that is outside the hotspot LGAs, then they can continue to work. The location of a business’s office does not restrict workers who are outside the hotspot zone.
Q. Can I stand workers down?
A. The current NSW Government restrictions qualifies as a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be reasonably held responsible. This means workers can be stood down.
Employers need to consider if the worker can be usefully engaged before they can be stood down. Can the employees carry out any other useful work that is not in breach of the government restrictions? This could include estimating, or administrative work that can be carried out from a home office.
Under the current NSW hotspot restrictions, there is very limited work that can still be carried out.
If they cannot be usefully redeployed, then they can be stood down without pay.
A stood down worker is not terminated. They can still access annual leave, RDOs, and long service leave. A worker is not entitled to sick leave during a stand down, but if a business wants to offer it to employees they can.
Workers should be informed that they are to be stood down without pay in writing.
These workers can still be tasked to carry out emergency work, for which the Award applies. There is a minimum engagement time of four hours, and if work occurs outside of regular working hours, overtime will apply. Emergent work should be shared around employees who can carry it out according to their skills and competency.
Q. If an apprentice is normally paid for TAFE learning and that continues during the lockdown, is that still considered useful work during the stand down.
A. Yes. If this was considered work prior to a stand down, it is considered work during a stand down. TAFE counts as timed work. That apprentice would then be stood down for the days they are not studying.
Q. If my business is located inside the Greater Sydney lockdown, but outside the hotspot LGAs, can I travel more than 10km for a job.
A. You can travel for work but you must ensure you do not travel outside the locked down council areas. This is the case even if you have a negative recent COVID test. The restrictions are aimed at minimising movement, so the virus does not infect a person one in area, who then spreads it back to where they live.
For further information please contact the Employer Advice Line. Master Electricians have unlimited, direct access to the MEA Employer Advice line. Phone 1300 889 198.