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Business Tasmania

End of Public Health Emergency Declaration

Management of COVID-19 after the Public Health Emergency

From 1 July 2022, there will no longer be a public health emergency declaration due to COVID-19 in Tasmania. We still need to manage COVID-19 carefully. This webpage provides information about the ongoing management of COVID-19 in Tasmania and our individual and workplace responsibilities.

To find out how these changes apply to your business review the below Frequently Asked Questions, watch the COVID-19 Transition Information for Business video or contact Business Tasmania on 1800 440 026 or via email to ask@business.tas.gov.au.

This information is correct as at 29 June 2022. Please visit www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au for the latest advice.

What is staying the same?

  • positive cases are still required to isolate for at least 7 days.
  • close contacts are still required to follow close contact rules, including testing daily if leaving their home and wearing a mask when outside their home.
  • anyone with symptoms, even mild, should still stay at home, get tested and report a positive RAT. The Department of Health will continue providing testing for COVID-19 including access to PCR testing and RATs.
  • workplaces need to continue to include COVID-19 as part of workplace health and safety practices and consider what they can do to reduce risks .
  • masks are no longer mandated in most settings but are still recommended.
  • COVID-safe behaviours are still recommended, including physical distancing and wearing a mask where it is not possible or where there are individuals who are at risk of severe illness.

What is changing?

Now the public health emergency declaration has ended, the Director of Public Health will regulate and manage COVID-19 using ordinary powers, rather than emergency powers, under the Public Health Act. There are 76 other diseases that the Director of Public Health already regulates using ordinary powers under the Act.

Directions relating to the below three situations will be replaced by enforceable public health orders and guidelines under the Public Health Act:

  • the isolation of cases (people who test positive to COVID-19),
  • restrictions on close contacts, and
  • management of large events.

Frequently asked questions

What am I legally required to continue to do now that the Public Health emergency has ended?

Under the Public Health Act 1997:

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012:

  • Businesses must provide a safe working environment for workers, contractors and visitors.
  • Review your risk assessment to effectively manage the risk of COVID-19 in your workplace. If you haven’t done a risk assessment, you must do one to meet your WHS duties. You can document the measures you identify for your workplace in your COVID-19 safety plan or a similar document.

Who will check if I have suitable controls in place?

Businesses are required to either review, or do, their own risk assessments. They should also then either review the measures they have in their COVID-19 safety plan or, if they don’t have one, document them so they are available for all workers to follow.

A COVID safety plan is a good way of doing this. WorkSafe Tasmania inspectors will continue to visit workplaces to respond to incidents and workplace issues and educate businesses on their continued responsibilities to manage COVID, while inspecting the workplace for compliance with WHS laws and, if necessary, taking enforcement action.

Am I liable if I have an outbreak in my business because I do not have suitable controls in place?

COVID-19 is a workplace hazard like any other workplace hazard. As an employer, you have duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 to provide a safe working environment for your workers, contractors and visitors to your workplace. A safe working environment means hazards, such as COVID-19, are identified and controlled so far as is reasonably practicable.

If a business has effective controls in place it would be less likely to be found to have breached WHS laws if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in its workplace. If you have breached WHS laws, an inspector may issue you with an improvement notice. If you fail to comply with that notice, you may be fined $3,600. You may also be prosecuted for failing to comply with a work health and safety duty which, depending on the severity of the breach, may result in a fine of up to $1.5M.

Tasmania’s workers compensation scheme is a ‘no fault’ scheme. If a worker contracts COVID-19 and their employment has been the major or most significant factor in them contracting the illness, the worker is entitled to make a claim for workers compensation.

Can I discipline an employee who does not comply with COVID-19 measures in my workplace?

Yes you can, as long as you have clearly informed the employee of the measures the employee is required to comply with and made sure that the employee understands those measures. If you are going to take disciplinary action, you will need to make sure that your actions are in line with any disciplinary procedures you may have in place and that the employee is afforded natural justice throughout the process. If you are considering serious disciplinary action, such as termination, you should seek legal advice.

Can I legally require a customer to leave who is not observing COVID-19 measures in my workplace?

Yes you can, but only if the COVID-19 measures you require them to observe are obvious to anyone who enters the workplace. This may be through a sign at the entry to the premises. The measures should be clearly described and easy to read.

Is there a simple, general template I can use for my risk assessment/safety plan/actions to meet specified requirements?

Yes, WorkSafe Tasmania have risk assessment tools and templates available on their website.

Where can I get legal advice / support for the measures I’m implementing to manage COVID-19 – how will I know I am legally able to apply a certain restriction on customers / staff?

WorkSafe Tasmania advisors or the TCCI WHS Advisory Service are able to provide guidance on how to do a risk assessment and the COVID control measures best suited for your business. Businesses need to seek their own legal advice if they are unsure about the measures they want to implement in their workplace. The Tasmanian Government’s COVID-19 Small Business Advice and Financial Guidance Program will open on Friday, 15 July 2022. Under this program a business can apply for $1,500 to engage a suitably qualified service provider that will provide specialist advice.

If I am usure about how to conduct a risk assessment, is there somewhere I can go to for help?

The WorkSafe Tasmania Advisory Service or the TCCI WHS Advisory Service are able to provide guidance on how to do a risk assessment and the COVID control measures best suited for your business You can contact WorkSafe Tasmania on 1300 366 322. The TCCI advisory Service can be contacted on 1300 559 112.

I already have a COVID-19 safety plan in place, do I need to do anything more?

If you already have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place – that’s great. You should now review it to make sure it is up to date and make any changes if the risk has changed. You might want to consider, for example, whether you still need density requirements in place or whether you still need to require the wearing of face masks when people can’t socially distance. Walk around your workplace with some of your staff to make sure all the measures are in place and working well. Identify a person or a resource for staff seeking additional information or support on the measures.

I have a COVID-19 safety plan in place, why do I need to do a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a normal part of managing WHS risks in your workplace, such as COVID-19. A risk assessment helps you to identify the likelihood of COVD-19 being transmitted in your workplace and the degree of harm the transmission might cause. You then identify the measures that you will put in place to reduce either the likelihood or the harm that could be caused, or both.  These measures are documented in your COVID-19 Safety plan.

As the likelihood and harm can change over time, for example when seasons change or if employee vaccination rates change, you should review your risk assessment and COVID-19 safety plan as changes occur or on a regular basis.

Can I legally ask my employee to go home if they seem sick and what will I have to pay them if they don’t have any leave available / are casual?

Yes. You can ask and employee to go home if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Requiring workers to leave the workplace is a reasonably practicable step under WHS laws to protect the health and safety of other workers and visitors to the workplace. Best practice would be to document this measure in writing, so that your employees and visitors are aware of the measure in advance.

If you send an employee home, their pay and entitlements will depend on the provisions in their employment contract, industrial award or industrial agreement. You should seek legal advice to clarify your obligations or contact the Fair Work Commission.

Can I ask my employee for evidence of a negative RAT if they are unwell?

Yes - Some workplaces may require proof of a negative test to protect vulnerable people from respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 and flu. Best practice would be to document this measure in writing, so that your employees and visitors are aware of the measure in advance.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, it is recommended you get tested.

I have a business that deals with vulnerable population groups. Where can I go to get expert advice regarding infection risks and associate mitigation measures?

Infection prevention and control advice in regards to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses is available at Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and expert advice is available for service operations dealing with vulnerable people from the Department of Health.

High-Risk and Priority Settings & Populations

Identified high-risk settings are:

* residential aged care facilities

* healthcare facilities

* disability service facilities

* correctional facilities.

Identified priority settings and populations are:

* Aboriginal communities

* schools and early childhood education and care services

* specialist housing and homeless shelters

* food processing, distribution and cold storage facilities

* essential services

* remote industrial sites with accommodation

* migrant workers’ accommodation

* remote communities, including Bass Strait islands