"Like the rest of the Victorian community, the state’s businesses are looking forward to the Government’s announcement on Sunday of its plan to ease restrictions.  As a community, we need to refocus and look ahead and we need the plan to show there is light at the end of the tunnel and how we can get there," Tim Piper, Victorian Head of the peak employer association Ai Group said today.

"Strategies that are simple, targeted and that adopt a balance of risk approach should underpin the Victorian government’s approach to their COVID-freedom plan.

"A good starting point for planning to deliver the freedoms the community and businesses are hoping for would be to follow these seven principles:

"Firstly, keep it simple and straightforward. Businesses, especially smaller businesses, need clear guidelines that can be readily understood. The last thing businesses need is to hire a lawyer or specialist advisor just to help them digest a new set of overly complex plans layered with bureaucracy. Requirements that are kept simple for businesses and the public will be more readily embraced and more readily complied with.

"Secondly, government strategies need to be targeted, risk based and proportionate.  In addition to health advice, balancing risks means that living with COVID-19 requires our leaders to also consider factors such as our community’s mental health and impacts on our economy and jobs. Ending the curfew, a clear timetable for re-opening schools, access to child care centres would contribute to improving mental health and take the weight off parents.

"Thirdly, set a direction that will help businesses and households plan and invest.  Of course, some flexibility needs to be built into the goals and thresholds that will mark the path ahead. But as much transparency and certainty as possible needs to be spelt out in advance. Part of that will be to tell us what it means for businesses and the public to have 70% and 80% first vaccinations and 70% and 80% second vaccinations.

"Fourthly, employers have broad health and workplace safety responsibilities and businesses should be given greater independence to determine their own responses to the management of COVID-19 cases in their workplaces. They are frustrated with current requirements that show little distinction between responses to close Vs casual contacts and that have the potential to shut down critical industries despite their following COVID-safe plans.

"Fifthly, open our state and international borders as quickly as possible with a broader range of quarantining arrangements, where they remain necessary, and with greater use of rapid testing to manage risks in a cost-effective way.

"Sixthly, rules around the use of proof of vaccination status need to be unambiguous. Ideally, such proof should only be required in higher-risk situations and clearly mandated by government in other cases such as where mandatory vaccination health orders are in place or in potentially high spreading situations such as large indoor events and religious gatherings. Critical retail needs to be open to all as soon as practicable. The Government should encourage companies to mandate vaccinations if that’s legal, reasonable and appropriate for the business.

"Finally, the Government and its agencies need to work in close consultation with businesses and their representatives both in fine tuning the plans to ease restrictions and as the pathways to a return to full freedoms are fine tuned.

"Businesses, like the rest of the Victorian community, are looking for Sunday’s announcement to inspire confidence and hope. We are looking for a positive plan that outlines a future of freedoms beyond COVID-19 and a clear plan to fast-track our economic and social revival," Mr Piper said.

Further comment:

Tim Piper  0411 430 301