cafe with people sitting at tables

In May, the National Cabinet agreed on a 3-stage framework for the gradual easing of restrictions on social movement and gatherings in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Each state and territory has their own timetable for removal of restrictions based on the level, location and cause of infections.

Some businesses and industries have had to close due to Government directions, whereas others have been able to continue to operate as normal.

Generally, businesses that are not listed as restricted in the various state/territory directions can operate as usual, provided they comply with social distancing and in some cases, have an approved COVID Safe plan in place.


All businesses should be following the work health and safety guidelines as set by WorkCover Queensland and ensure that the social distancing measures are in place:

  • All businesses must maintain a one person per 4 square metres rule and keep up with hygiene and cleaning practises.
  • There must be enough space in the public areas of the business for one person per 4 square metres. The rule will apply to customers, workers, visitors which may mean that a business will need to limit the number of customers on the premises at any one time.
  • Physical distancing rules still apply.

New South Wales

New South Wales also had some restrictions lifted on 1 June. However the NSW State Government continues to advise people to follow the four square metre rule, practise physical distancing by keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres wherever possible, ensure proper hygiene and regular handwashing.

People in NSW are also being encouraged to continue to work from home where possible. Employers can find further guidance on working from home here.

Further information on how to make your business COVID safe is available.

Australian Capital Territory

Businesses in the ACT must comply with the 1 person per 4 square metre rule and ensure that employees are 1.5 metres apart.

It is a requirement in the ACT that all businesses have a COVID-19 Safety plan in place.

ACT’s COVID-19 website has some valuable information and resources.


On 20 June 2020, the Premier announced a number of changes:

  • the work from home rule will stay in place until at least the end of July.
  • the proposed increase of up to 50 patrons in restaurants and pubs will not go ahead – numbers will stay at a maximum of 20 people in any one space until 12 July.
  • businesses which were scheduled to open on Monday 22 June like gyms, cinemas and theatres can still open but with a maximum number of 20 people.
  • a new $1500 payment will be made available for those people who have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or are a close contact to a confirmed case and have no sick leave available. At the time of writing there is limited information available regarding this payment.

The State of Emergency in Victoria has also been extended until 11:59pm on 19 July 2020.

Businesses which have customers on their premises must comply with three special requirements:

  1. Measure publicly available floorspace and identify the maximum number of customers allowed on the premises at one time.
  2. A sign must be at each entrance to the premises indicating the maximum capacity and ensure that no more than this number of customers are in the premises at any one time.
  3. Initiate a cleaning regime that ensures:
    1. frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and benchtops are cleaned and disinfected as least twice a day
  4. all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected when visibly soiled
  5. all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected immediately if there is a spillage.

The Department of Health and Human Services have produced a document called Cleaning and disinfecting to reduce COVID-19 transmission which is available on this page under the heading ‘Requirements for shops, retail and restaurants’ to assist businesses develop an appropriate cleaning regime.

Retail shops must follow the one person per four square metres rule. This rule will apply to the number of customers or visitors but not the number of workers, and only applies to places with indoor spaces that are accessible to the public.

The four square metre rule does not apply to workplaces that don’t have public access such as factories and workshops, however it is recommended that businesses apply the rule where possible and encourage staff to remain 1.5 metres apart.

Further information is available on the Department of Health and Human Services website and on Business Victoria.

South Australia

South Australia entered stage 2 of their Roadmap to Recovery on 1 June 2020. All businesses must follow the 1 person per four square metre rule, maximum occupancy requirements and practise social distancing of at least 1.5 metres.

More information can be found here.


Tasmanian businesses which are reopening are required to have COVID-19 Safety plan in place, and workplaces which have continued to operate should consider having a safety plan in place by 15 June 2020.

All workplaces will be required to demonstrate compliance with the Minimum Standards, set out in the COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Framework in Tasmania. All workplaces must comply with the Minimum Standards from 15 June 2020.

Western Australia

The restrictions on gatherings do not apply to office buildings and factories. Premises that were not required to close may choose to voluntarily complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan and display a COVID Safety Plan certificate. This is recommended as it shows commitment to the health and safety of staff and customers.

See WA’s COVID-19 coronavirus: Business and industry recovery webpagefor more information.

Northern Territory

The current advice in the NT is to practise good hygiene and follow the physical distancing rules. All businesses must complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan checklist by 5 June.

Advice or assistance

Our advisers are ready to answer your questions. For advice on this topic, or any other workplace relations matter, Employment Plus clients who have placed two or more candidates have free access to the Ai Group Workplace Advice Line.

Call 1300 862 217.

The information contained in this article is based on information available at the time of writing (4 June).