By Friday, employees working on site in a huge number of industries in Victoria, will need to show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination status to their employer (at least one dose), a letter of exemption, or an appointment for a vaccination to be received before 22 October.
Employers are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to encouraging their vaccine-hesitant staff to comply with this public health mandate, as the fines that will be issued to businesses and individuals after the deadline are exorbitant, not to mention the health risk of contracting the virus in the workplace and the legal ramifications that might entail.
As owners of cafes, restaurants and bars, prepare to finally open up for dining, by the end of the month, when the lockdown is lifted, they are also expected to enforce the “no jab no entry” rule on their unvaccinated customers.
Irene Stavrakakis, owner of Lumberjack Café in Richmond says that the mandate on vaccines has not been an issue for her staff nor does she believe that it will deter her customers, on the contrary.
“All my staff will be fully vaccinated soon so that has been no issue for us,” she told Neos Kosmos, adding that she believes the majority of her customers have been vaccinated, and those who haven’t, can still be served with takeaway.
“I feel that the fear around the vaccine is unwarranted and I just think that people need to get on board to keep the community safe,” Ms Stavrakakis said, adding that people have had enough of lockdowns, but at the same time there is more virus load in the community than ever before, which means that they will want to have a sense of safety when they enter your premises.
Demitri’s Feast is a bar/ouzeri in Richmond that has been preparing Greek dishes for takeaway in the last months during the lockdowns, to survive. All his employees have been fully vaccinated for some time now so that wasn’t an issue of concern for the owner, Mr Demitris, when the mandate was announced by the Victorian government.
What worries Mr Demitris though, is the uncertainty on how he will manage to police his customers who might refuse to show their vaccination status on entry.
“I find it disturbing. What do I do if a customer refuses to show me their vaccination status and becomes aggressive?” he wonders, adding that being in a bar where people drink, that is a high possibility, and he can’t afford security.
The Greek Australian restaurant owner explains that they have yet to receive specific guidelines or what procedures they will need to follow once they open up on 5 November.
“What if someone comes in and gives COVID to another customer? Who is liable, who is responsible for that? What are the ramifications if someone falls ill? What happens if a customer has COVID? Will we have to shut down for two weeks, once we open up?”
Ms Stavrakakis believes that a lot of the finer details will be announced closer to the time of opening, and she thinks that it will look a lot like the COVID-normal we were living before we went into the last >lockdown.
“It is work in progress. That is why the government is doing the trials in the country. To see what works and what doesn’t, before they put everything in place.”
“No Jab No entry” will apply to many employees working onsite by 22 October
From 22 October onwards, those who no longer work remotely, or have a medical reason, will need to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate to work on site in a wide range of businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, churches, shops, food processing and distribution companies, factories, etc.*
For John Brumtis, director of Fratelli Imports, last week was extremely difficult as he found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to deliver the government’s message to those employees who had yet to be vaccinated.
“I am not opposed to the mandate, as I believe that vaccinating everyone is our only way out, but I felt uncomfortable. I believe this sort of conversation is not one that should take place between the management of a business and its employees,” he said.
Mr Brumtis also adds that the Victorian Government has not provided guidance to small businesses on issues relating to the pandemic and what will apply when the State exits the lockdown.
“Personally I follow the guidelines the New South Wales government is releasing, as they have been more proactive in showing the path out of lockdown for small businesses, and I hope that Victoria will adapt to the same measures.”
As the state prepares to “open up” to a new normal, abandoning the harsh restrictions of lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus, citizens and businesses, are requesting more clarity, and a framework of how the new guidelines will be implemented in all areas of life.