Find the latest information on coronavirus and the workplace issues being faced as a result in the construction industry. If your business is being impacted directly by this situation, please let us know about it here.
6/10/21 - Further easing of construction rules from 11th October
From 11 October, a number of current restrictions that apply to the building industry, including the vaccination requirements for authorised workers will be removed.
- All renovation work allowed to start again - the current limit of two workers for indoor work on occupied sites will be removed.
- Mandatory vaccination requirements removed - from Monday 11 October there wil be no vaccination requirement for workers to enter construction sites in Greater Sydney or any other part of NSW. Employers are able to give lawful and reasonable directions – depending on the circumstances. This means that the employer may require workers to be vaccinated for WHS reasons.
- Density limits of:
- 1 person per 4 square metres applies to all indoor premises.
- 1 person per 2 square metres applies to all outdoor premises.
QR Codes and COVIDSafe plans will continue to be required at unoccupied construction sites.
More detailed information will follow soon.
23/9/21 - Restrictions eased for construction on occupied premises
Occupied construction changes from Monday 27 September:
- the 5 worker cap is removed for outdoor work at occupied premises
- Workers from the LGAs of concern can leave their LGAs to do outdoor work at occupied premises. They will be required to meet the general requirement for authorised workers, which is they must have had one COVID-19 vaccination.
- At this time, there is no change for indoor work at occupied premises, or workers leaving LGAs to do indoor work at occupied premises.
An email has been sent to all members with full details.
21/9/21- 50% cap removed for unoccupied sites
From Monday 27 September, unoccupied construction sites in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains and Wollongong, can resume with 100% of workers on site. This includes in the LGAs of concern.
Currently, all construction sites in Greater Sydney are limited to the lesser of one person per 4 square metres or 50% of the maximum daily workforce of the site. From 27 September, the 50% cap will be removed. In the interim, sites where construction workers meet the current vaccination requirements that apply to authorised workers will be permitted to exceed the cap. This interim arrangement is available from midday today (21 September).
An email with full details has been sent to all members.
2/9/21 - No Fault COVID-19 Indemnity Scheme
The Federal Government has finalised the details of a no fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claim Scheme following extensive consultation with the peak medical, healthcare, business and insurance sectors, to ensure a comprehensive National Scheme.
The Scheme will provide Australians with quick access to compensation for COVID-19 claims related to the administration of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine delivered through a Commonwealth Government approved program.
From 6 September 2021, Services Australia will accept claims on a no-fault basis for anyone who suffers from severe side effects that may rarely occur from either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine.
This means that employers who want to encourage employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be protected by a new compensation scheme for anyone who suffers from the exceptionally rare but sometimes serious side effects of coronavirus vaccinations.
The scheme will only cover verified claims valued above $5,000 by a team of independent experts. It will pay out compensation based on their recommendations.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Scheme will be backdated to February 2021 and provide Australians with an alternative, administrative option to seek compensation, rather than a complex and costly court process.
Members can obtain further information regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine Scheme by clicking on this link.
For the avoidance of doubt, Master Builders advises that in the current absence of a Public Health Order (PHO) generally making vaccinations mandatory for all workers, members should assess, on a case-by-case basis; whether they can lawfully and reasonably direct an employee to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
29/8/21 - Updated Covid-19 safety plan for construction sites
The NSW Government has updated the COVID-19 Safety Plan for construction sites in the Greater Sydney Area. The NSW Government has amended four (4) sections of the Safety Plan and include:
- Wellbeing of Workers
- Ensure workers comply with COVID-19 vaccination, COVID-19 testing and Service NSW Permit requirements where applicable
- Ensure workers comply with COVID-19 vaccination, COVID-19 testing and Service NSW Permit requirements where applicable
- Physical Distancing (add in the following provision)
- Capacity at a construction site must not exceed the lesser of one person per four square metres of space on the construction site or, for a construction site with a resourcing plan, 50% of the maximum daily workforce of the construction site
- Remove provision for renovation and additions on unoccupied residential buildings. (This means that unoccupied residential construction sites of two storeys and under will now be subject to the same conditions as set out directly above. Further, the limit on trades on site at any one time, and the cap on the number of sites visited by tradespersons are removed.)
- Record Keeping - Employers must maintain records on their staff, including but not limited to:
- Records of other sites visited
- Place of residence to determine whether staff are required to undertake COVID-19 testing and / or be vaccinated against COVID-19
- COVID-19 testing results
- Vaccination status
Members are advised to update their COVID-19 Safety Plan
Sample plan: Click here to download a completed sample COVID-19 Safety Plan
29/8/21 - Revised vaccination requirements for authorised workers
NSW Health has announced changes in requirements for the vaccination of authorised workers and the use of rapid antigen testing in the workplace. In order to work outside of their LGA of concern, all authorised workers must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday 6 September.
Please note, there have been no changes to the vaccination and testing requirements for authorised construction workers leaving their LGAs of concern.
Authorised workers under the age of 16 years will be exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated.
These amendments are all contained in the Public Health (COVID-19 Additional Restrictions for
Delta Outbreak) Order (No 2) Amendment Order 2021.
18/8/21 - Priority COVID-19 vaccination booking for 16 to 39 year-olds
The majority of people with COVID-19 in NSW are under 40. To reduce the spread of the virus, people aged 16 to 39 living in areas of concern can now access priority vaccination appointments.
Who can book
People aged 16 to 39 who are residents of the following local government areas and suburbs can access priority vaccination appointments:
Local government areas of concern
- Georges River
NSW Health has set up priority clinics where you can get vaccinated.
You must book for 2 doses of the vaccine with the same clinic when you make your booking. You will not be able to book your first dose in one clinic and book the second dose in another.
The system will offer you a date for the second dose once you’ve chosen a date for the first one. Your second dose will be 8 weeks after your first dose.
You must not attend your vaccination appointment if
- you have any COVID-19 symptoms (get tested and self-isolate until you receive a negative test result)
- you are a close contact.
Choose a clinic for your bookings by selecting from the the locations below.
COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic
Bankstown Vaccination clinic
Bayside Vaccination Clinic
Sonic Healthcare Vaccination Clinic
St George Vaccination Clinic
South Western Sydney Vaccination Centre
Nepean Vaccination Clinic
Penrith Vaccination Clinic
Prairiewood Vaccination clinic
Sonic Healthcare Vaccination Clinic
NSW Health Vaccination Centre
Qudos Bank Arena NSW Health Vaccination Centre
Liverpool Vaccination clinic
15/8/21 - Test and Isolate support payment
If you need to self-isolate and are unable to work while waiting for your coronavirus (COVID-19) test result, you may be eligible for the COVID-19 Test and Isolate support payment.
NSW workers can apply for the $320 payment if they:
- meet the eligibility criteria
- agree to follow NSW Health self-isolation guidelines while waiting for their COVID-19 test result.
Applications are now open for tests taken on or after 13 August 2021. You'll need to apply for the payment within 7 days of having the test.
To be eligible you must:
- be aged 17 years or over
- live in one of the following local government areas (LGAs) of concern
- have had a COVID-19 test (nose and throat swabs known as PCR tests) due to experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or be the carer or guardian of someone who has had a test due to experiencing symptoms
- have needed to self-isolate after your COVID-19 test, or be the carer or guardian for someone who needed to self-isolate after their test
- be likely to have worked during the period of self-isolation and are unable to work due to:
- being required to self-isolate following a COVID-19 test
- having to care for someone who is required to self-isolate following a COVID-19 test.
You are not eligible if you:
- can work from home during your time of self-isolation
- receive any income, earnings or salary during your time of self-isolation
- have access to sick leave, carers leave or special pandemic leave
- receive income support from the Australian Government (including the COVID-19 Disaster Payment or Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment) or financial support from the NSW Government (such as the micro-business grant or JobSaver payment) during your time of self-isolation
- have been directed by NSW Health to test and isolate as you’re a close contact of a known case
- have had a rapid antigen test
- are an essential worker living in an eligible LGA and are required to test every 3 days.
What you need
- a MyServiceNSW Account – you can create one when you start your application
- details of the date, time and location of your COVID-19 test (including the reference number provided by NSW Health or the testing facility, if known)
- one proof of identity document such as your Australian Drivers Licence, Medicare card or passport
- proof of address such as a rates notice, lease agreement or utility bill
- proof of employment or self-employment such as a payslip, contract, letter from employer or ABN
- your bank account details for payment.
Note: You will have to repay the $320 payment if you:
- do not self-isolate while waiting for your results
- provide false or misleading information in your claim.
How to apply
- Check you meet the eligibility criteria.
- Have your documentation and evidence ready for uploading.
- Select the ‘Apply online’ button.
- Log in, or create your MyServiceNSW Account.
- Verify your identity.
- Confirm your personal details.
- Answer the eligibility questions.
- Enter details of your COVID-19 test.
- Attach supporting proof of employment and proof of address documents.
- Enter your bank account details.
- Review your application.
- Complete the declarations.
- Submit your application.
After you submit your application, you’ll receive a confirmation email with your application reference number.
Successful applicants will be paid the $320 lump sum within 3 days of submitting their application.
- You must agree to follow NSW Health's self-isolation guidelines while waiting for your COVID-19 test results.
- You can only apply for the COVID-19 Test and Isolate support payment once every 30 days, from the date of the COVID-19 test.
15/8/21 Delivery drivers to site must meet vaccination requirements
From 12.01am 21st August 2021, any driver of a vehicle who resides in an affected LGA cannot enter a construction site unless they comply with COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
If as a driver you don't meet the requirements, you must not enter or remain at a construction site in Greater Sydney. This includes the delivery or removal of goods (including but not limited to supplies, plant and equipment, water or spoil).
Evidence of vaccination or exemption
- carry evidence of your vaccination, COVID-19 test, or medical exemption and
- produce that evidence to your employer, the occupier of a construction site, a police officer or an authorised officer, if requested and
- carry proof of your address.
Evidence of your vaccination can include an
- online immunisation history statement or
- COVID-19 digital certificate from the Australian Immunisation Register.
Evidence of your COVID-19 test can include an SMS text message or email from the testing organisation.
Evidence of your medical exemption must be from a medical practitioner in the form approved by the NSW Chief Health Officer.
Construction workers can request a COVID-19 vaccination exemption for medical reasons. Evidence of your medical exemption must be from a medical practitioner in the form approved by the NSW Chief Health Officer.
Delivery drivers: temporary exemption
Until 11.59pm on Friday 20 August 2021, delivery drivers (including rubbish collectors) may enter a construction site without being vaccinated provided they
You may be asked to provide proof of your
- COVID-19 test, such as an SMS text message on your phone or an email addressed to you
- home address or temporary accommodation where you are currently staying.
14/8/21 Clarification about Covid-19 surveillance testing
There has been some confusion about COVID-19 surveillance testing.
COVID-19 surveillance testing is required for construction workers residing in the Greater Sydney Local Government Areas (LGAs) of concern where authorised workers have had one COVID-19 vaccination less than 21 days ago. This requirement was contained in the Public Health Order (PHO) dated 10 August 2021.
Importantly, the PHO only requires a person to have a surveillance test every 72 hours.
There is no requirement for a person to receive a negative result before proceeding to work at a construction site.
14/8/21 Stay-at-home orders for Regional NSW
The NSW Government has announced that new restrictions apply to Regional NSW from 5.00pm today (14 August 2021) until 12.01am Sunday 22 August 2021. Every employer across Regional NSW must require their employees to work from home unless it is
not reasonably practicable.
12/8/21 - Vaccination Super Sunday
NSW Health has released details inviting construction workers residing in specific Local Government Areas (LGAs) to take part in a Vaccination Super Sunday located at 1 Figtree Drive, Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday 15 August 2021.
Bookings will only be given to construction workers from the LGAs of Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta and the suburbs of Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair and St Marys.
Members should note that:
- Construction workers aged between 16 and 39 years can book an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine.
Book Online here for the Pfizer vaccine (bit.ly/mycovaxvc8)
- Construction workers aged 39 years or over can book an appointment for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Book Online here for the AstraZeneca vaccine (bit.ly/mycovaxvc1)
The vaccination centre at Sydney Olympic Park is easily accessible by car or public transport. Click here to plan your journey.
Construction workers will need to provide their photo ID as well as proof that they are a construction worker ie their white card.
We understand that 8,000 priority appointments will be available on Sunday 15 August 2021. NSW Health has advised it will provide more information regarding other clinics in Greater Sydney offering bookings for construction workers over the coming period.
If you are unable to attend on Sunday, there are also walk-in AstraZeneca vaccination clinics for people over the age of 18 in the most affected LGA’s. Construction workers can also use the NSW Health website to locate a growing number of locations across NSW to get vaccinated.
11/8/21 Dubbo lockdown from 1pm today
The Dubbo Regional LGA has entered a seven day lockdown starting 1pm today and will end at 12:01am, Thursday 19 August 2021
Can building work continue?
Yes. The health order does not close construction sites. All building activity can continue subject to ensuring all sites adopt COVID safety measures.
Persons may travel to the affected LGA to undertake construction work that is consistent with the ‘reasonable excuse’ provisions of the HO. Persons may also travel through the affected LGA in a vehicle if the person does not leave the vehicle and travels through using the most trafficable route.
Building work on occupied renovation sites
Renovation work on occupied sites is allowed to continue but must now meet limits on the number of construction workers on site.
For renovation work on occupied sites:
- Face masks are mandatory, including in all common indoor areas
- There must be no contact between workers and occupants.
- There are limits of 2 workers for indoor services and 5 workers for outdoor services.
Read the government Health Order in relation to this here
11/8/21 All Greater Sydney construction sites open from today
All construction sites across Greater Sydney can operate at 50% of their maximum project workforce from today, Wednesday 11th August 2021. This includes sites within affected LGAs. Enhanced COVID safety measures are now in place to keep the industry going and keep workers safe.
Construction workers from affected LGAs are considered authorised workers, which enables them to work on construction sites subject to vaccination conditions.
Based on data from a recent Master Builders NSW survey, this means up to $30 billion in construction projects can restart from today, albeit at a reduced capacity.
All sites in Greater Sydney can reopen
- This includes sites within the eight affected local government areas: Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta.
- Construction sites (unoccupied) will be capped at 50% of their maximum daily project workforce to reduce contacts and mobility
- It will be up to principal contractors and/or site owners to determine how that 50% is allocated between different types of personnel and workers. This recognises that worksites have different needs depending on the stage of construction.
- Sites are still required to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.
- These initiatives complement the COVID safe measures already put in place right across Greater Sydney, for which industry is to be commended.
Construction workers on unoccupied sites will be added to the authorised worker list
- This means construction workers from the eight affected LGAs of concern can work on unoccupied sites within their LGA or leave their LGA for work, but they must meet vaccination conditions.
- The Public Health Order only allows the workers to leave for the purposes of work. That means when they are not working, all stay at home restrictions still apply.
- Workers from the affected LGAs who do not meet the vaccination conditions may not attend a construction site for work, including a construction site in the LGA of their residence.
- Workers outside the affected LGAs may travel into the LGAs for work and are not subject to vaccination requirements.
- Vaccination requirements have been put in place for workers who reside within the affected LGAs due to the high prevalence of COVID infections in those areas. There are known benefits of vaccinations for protecting those inoculated, as well as reducing the risk of passing on the infection.
- Construction workers from affected LGAs will be permitted to work within their LGA or leave their LGA only if they have evidence of one of the following:
- both vaccinations, or
- one vaccination at least three weeks prior, or
- one vaccination less than three weeks prior and a negative COVID-19 test no older than 72 hours. (NSW is currently trialling rapid antigen testing and when approved by NSW Health, that form of testing may be used.)
- Evidence of vaccination is available via the Medicare app or website.
- Exemptions will be in place for individuals with medical or other conditions that make vaccination unsuitable.
Super Sunday vaccine clinic
- Construction workers will be prioritised for vaccination at a dedicated clinic to be hosted at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday 15 August.
- The clinic will administer the Astrazeneca, which is also readily available at some GPs and pharmacies.
- We understand there continues to be a wait for Pfizer vaccinations and we are unable to facilitate priority vaccinations of Pfizer at this time.
- Vaccinations help protect the health and wellbeing of our construction workers, their families and the broader community, reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death
- All construction workers, including those outside of the affected LGAs, are encouraged to get vaccinated. In particular, workers from the affected LGAs are urged to get their vaccination as soon as possible.
Read the Health Order (HO) here.
The HO contains a number of Directions from the NSW Minister for Health. Included in these Directions is information which applies to a person whose place of residence is in a declared area (namely the Local Government Areas of Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta), must not enter or remain on a construction site in Greater Sydney unless the resident.
9/8/21 Renovations, repairs, maintenance and cleaning of homes
The NSW Government has issued varying levels of restrictions for renovations, repairs, maintenance, and cleaning of homes in NSW.
- Work in occupied premises can resume where there is zero contact between the tradie and the resident/s;
- There is a limit of up to two workers for indoor services and five workers for outdoor services
- Unoccupied sites are subject to one person per 4sqm rule and a COVID-19 safety plan in place
Click here to read the full rules and restrictions.
8/8/21 12 suburbs identified in the Penrith LGA with tighter restrictions enforced from 5.00pm today
The NSW State Government announced today that the following suburbs within the Penrith Local Government Area (LGA) will have travel and gathering restrictions applied from 5.00pm 8 August 2021.
The suburbs identified in the Health Order (HO) are as follows:
- Claremont Meadows
- Erskine Park
- Kemps Creek
- Mount Vernon
- North St Marys
- Orchard Hills
- Oxley Park
- St Clair
- St Marys
Residents of all these suburbs who meet the definition of ‘authorised worker’ may leave their LGA for work purposes if they cannot perform that work from home and the business they work for is allowed to be open. In the case of construction workers (who are not noted as being an authorised worker) working on site, these persons are not permitted to travel to a construction site to work either inside or outside the abovementioned suburbs until Wednesday 11 August 2021, subject to certain conditions (refer e-Circular Issue 43 of 2021 – 7 August).
Click here to go to the NSW Government website for more information on rules and restrictions for the 12 suburbs in Penrith LGA to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
7/8/21 LGA restrictions to ease for construction workers
Unoccupied construction sites across Greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour, will operate at 50 per cent capacity from this Wednesday with enhanced COVID safe measures helping to sustain industry, boost the economy and keep workers safe.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade John Barilaro said next week unoccupied construction sites will resume work with new worksite capacity limits and introduce minimum vaccination requirements for workers from the eight affected local government areas (LGAs) including Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta.
“We want workers back on the tools, but we need to continue to keep this virus at bay, and so by opening unoccupied worksites at 50 per cent capacity and vaccinating workers from within those affected LGAs, we can achieve both,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Construction workers from the affected LGAs will be added to the list of authorised workers allowing them to work on unoccupied construction sites in Greater Sydney if they meet the vaccination conditions.”
Construction workers from affected LGAs must provide evidence that they have received:
- two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or
- one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least three weeks before attending work, or
- one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and, if less than three weeks since that vaccine was administered, a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours. NSW is currently trialling rapid antigen testing and when approved by NSW Health, that form of testing may be used as an alternative to a negative PCR test.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said construction was critical to the state’s economy and employed hundreds of thousands of workers.
“Construction has helped maintain our strong economy throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, but many of our projects and workers are located within the eight affected local government areas,” Mr Perrottet said.
“For the industry to remain viable, we need to restart those projects and get construction workers where they are most needed. But we also need to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission to keep our communities safe, and these measures will help us achieve that balance.”
Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said construction workers would be prioritised for vaccination at a dedicated clinic to be hosted at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday 15 August.
“We hope to vaccinate about 8000 workers at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday 15 August, with vaccines also available at some GPs and pharmacies,” Mr Ayres said.
“We are also working with industry to facilitate rapid antigen testing trials on a number of public and private sector construction sites and that will soon provide added COVID-19 surveillance capability when approved by NSW Health for wider use.”
These changes will take effect at the beginning of Wednesday 11 August 2021. In the meantime, construction workers in the affected LGAs are urged to get their vaccination shot if they have not already done so.
Exemptions will be in place for individuals with medical or other conditions that make vaccination unsuitable.
31/7/21 COVID-19 Safety Plans required on all sites
COVID-19 Safety Plan
From Saturday 31 July, construction can resume, provided principal contractors comply with the COVID-19 Safety Plan for Construction Sites in Greater Sydney. Once you complete the COVID-19 Safety Plan, a confirmation email will be sent to you with a copy of your plan attached as a PDF.
To complete the COVID-19 Safety Plan offline, print a blank copy of the form using the print button. You must keep a copy of your COVID-19 Safety Plan on your site at all times.
Sample plan: Click here to download a completed sample COVID-19 Safety Plan
28/7/21 - Construction sites to re-open
From Saturday 31 July, construction can resume, provided contractors comply with the COVID-19 Safety Plan for Construction Sites, developed by government and industry. This will be made available to complete on the NSW Government website.
Measures include controls on movements between sites, reduced contact between workers within sites, improved tracing capability and a focus on encouraging workers to get vaccinated.
All worksites must complete the checklist as an enforceable condition of resuming operations from 31 July. Worksites will be able to operate on Sundays and public holidays up until Christmas to make up for any time lost.
Works in occupied residential premises will also resume where there is no contact between workers and occupiers. There will be a limit of up to 2 workers for indoor services and 5 workers for outdoor services, and works will only be possible where it is feasible for residents to vacate the area of works.
Please note that construction sites will remain closed in the Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Campbelltown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Liverpool, Parramatta and Georges River local government areas.
Manufacturing businesses which are critical to the construction supply chain will be permitted to continue operations within those LGAs.
Residents from the identified LGAs cannot leave their local area to attend work, unless they are an authorised worker. Workers at those businesses critical to the construction supply chain are authorised workers, including workers engaged in manufacturing of construction materials, plant and components. General construction workers are not authorised workers.
- From 31 July, work can recommence on construction sites, subject to the site to completion of a COVID-19 Safety Plan for each site in Greater Sydney.
- Note that construction sites in the identified LGAs with additional restrictions will remain closed. Construction workers who reside in these LGAs may not leave their local area for work.
- The COVID-19 Safety Plan is available to access at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid- 9/covid-safe. You must address how each requirement will be met on each site, recognising that there may be some common practices across sites.
- Plans must be completed before works can recommence on Saturday 31 July (or whenever construction recommences) and a printed copy of your plan must be available for inspection on site.
- An updated Public Health Order will also enable preparatory works to be conducted on site from Thursday 29 July.
- Urgent works on construction sites can also continue to be undertaken until 31 July. This also applies after 31 July in the identified LGAs.
- Work at occupied residential premises will be permitted from 31 July providing there is no contact between workers and occupiers.
- There will be a limit of up to 2 workers for indoor services and 5 workers for outdoor services, and works will only be possible where it is feasible for residents to vacate the area of works. This will require real physical separation between workers and residents.
- Works are not permitted within the identified LGAs, and workers from those LGAs are not permitted to leave their local area to provide services.
- Urgent works can continue to be undertaken until 31 July. This also applies after 31 July in the identified LGAs.
Supply chain businesses
- Businesses which are critical to the construction supply chain will be permitted to continue operations if they are located within an identified LGA.
- Workers for the construction supply chain will be added to the authorised worker list. This includes workers engaged in manufacturing of construction materials, plant and components.
- This means that if they live in an identified LGA, they may leave home to attend work. Please note that COVID-19 testing requirements may apply.
- General construction workers are not authorised workers.
17/7/21 - ALL Construction work to cease in Greater Sydney area
The NSW State Government has announced today that ALL Building and Construction work being performed in the Greater Sydney Area shall cease from 12.01am on Monday 19 July 2021 until 11.59pm on Friday 30 July 2021. This includes all non-urgent maintenance, cleaning services and repair work on residential premises. However, tradespersons will still be allowed to work at residential premises to fix emergency issues like, but not limited to, a broken hot water system, or a hole in the roof.
All MBA members have now received an MBA email with full details and more information on the rules and exceptions.
Read the governments Health Order here
8/7/21 - Updated Health Order for QR Codes on site
The Order confirms Master Builders’ earlier advice to Members that the use of the Service NSW QR Code is mandated for construction sites from 12 July 2021. The Order places an obligation for ensuring that the QR Code is complied with on the person who has the management or control of the site. You can apply for your QR Code here
A construction site is defined for the purpose of the Order as follows; “Construction site means a place at which work, including related excavation, is being carried out to erect, demolish, extend or alter a building or structure, but not work carried out in relation to a dwelling in which a person is residing.” (our emphasis)
Relavant extracts from the updated Health Order.
You can read the full updated Health Order here.
Members are also advised that some sensible strategies for managing COVID-19 on construction sites can include the following:
- Anybody with the slightest of symptoms should not come to work – doing so will put the whole site at risk. They should get tested immediately and isolate until they have a negative result.
- Head contractors should be vigilant to ensure that any person with symptoms or cause to get tested should not be allowed on site.
- Time in meal sheds should be minimised, and to the extent they are required, distancing should be practiced and different groups kept separate.
- Construction is exempt from mask wearing, but to the extent it is practical to wear masks in any indoor area, that will reduce the risk of spread.
- NSW Health is keen to assist construction contractors who have any reason to believe there has been an on-site infection. Infrastructure NSW can provide a contact.
7/7/21 - Service NSW QR code made mandatory
From Monday 12 July 2021, it will be mandatory for all workplaces to use the NSW Government QR code. Customers, staff, and other visitors will need to use the Service NSW app to check-in.
The NSW Government QR code will also be required for every building site, with exceptions for some smaller “trades people only projects” in the residential sector. All workers and visitors to sites must check-in.
Full details and Q&As here
29/6/21 - AMENDMENT TO PUBLIC HEALTH (COVID-19 GREATER SYDNEY) ORDER 2021
The NSW State Premier announced today Saturday 26 June at 2.00pm that a further extension to previous Stay-at-Home Order will come into force from 6.00pm today the Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong will be subject to a Stay-at-Home Order. This new Order remains in force until midnight Friday 9 July 2021.
It remains Master Builders advice to Members that construction sites meet both the reasonable excuse requirement to travel to a place of work, where that work cannot be performed at home, and as a permitted place of work even if more than 10 persons attend. Further, members are advised to observe all the usual COVID-19 safety protocols whilst working on construction sites.
Members are also advised that the Order contains a direction from the Minister that a person must not conduct an open inspection of premises for the purposes of the sale or lease of the premises, but a person may show a single person the premises after the person has made an appointment for that purpose.
Also, a person must not conduct an auction at which persons attend in person.
28/6/21 Amendment to Public Health (Covid-19 Greater Sydney) Order 2021
Further to e-Circular Issue 16 dated 26 June 2021, we now provide a link to the complete Health Order.
Of particular note are the following relevant points in relation to the ability for construction work to continue during the Stay-at-Home Order:
- allows leaving home for work, where it is not possible do the work at home - Section 20(2)(a) and Schedule 1(3)
- exempts construction from the requirement to wear face masks for purposes of this order - Section 17(3)(m)
- exempts construction from the restriction of gatherings to no more than 10 people - Schedule 2(10) and Section 23(3)(a)
- Employers should ensure that they observe all the usual COVID-19 health and safety protocols where Employees continue to work on construction sites.
Members are advised to read the Order in the link above for a complete understanding of its contents.
25/6/21 NSW announces lockdown for four Sydney local government areas
NSW has announced a week-long lockdown for four local government areas of Sydney. Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney now have stay-at-home order lasting until midnight next Friday. If you live in these areas you must now stay at home for the next seven days, and may only leave for an essential reason. The reasons you may leave your home include:
• Shopping for food or other essential goods and services
• Medical care or compassionate needs
• Exercise outdoors in groups of 10 or fewer
• Essential work, or education, where you cannot work or study from home
Master Builders understands that a further Health Order will be issued by the Government clarifying that work on construction sites will continue to be identified as essential work as it cannot be performed at home. As soon as this Order is issued, Master Builders will publish a new update.
Builder licence fees to be waived for 12 months
From 15th April, the NSW Government is waiving a range of licence and permit fees for 12 months. This includes:
- Home building contractor licence
- Trade or specialist contractor licence
- Asbestos removal licences and asbestos assessor licence
- Demolition licence
- High risk work licence
Read more here on NSW Fair Trading website
WH&S incident notification COVID-19
Safe Work Australia has published a Fact Sheet that provides information for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) on the approach to COVID-19 incident notification laws in each State and Territory jurisdiction, including details on how to notify when required.
Should Members have any enquiries regarding this matter, please contact the Association’s Safety Department on 02 8586 3555.
$10,000 grants for small businesses
Published 3rd April, 2020
Thousands of small businesses across NSW struggling to cope with the COVID-19 shutdown will receive grants of up to $10,000 under a new assistance scheme announced today by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope.
The NSW Government will put $750 million into the Small Business Support Fund as the centrepiece of a third wave of support measures to keep small businesses afloat.
Ms Berejiklian said the new fund was based on the hugely successful scheme rolled-out during the recent NSW bushfires, which provided $42 million to 4200 businesses within the first ten days of launching.
“This is about getting cash into small businesses when they are struggling right now in the face of an unprecedented situation,” Ms Berejiklian said.
These grants will provide a big boost, and we will make the application process easy to ensure small businesses can receive some cash-flow as soon as possible to meet pressing needs.”
Mr Perrottet said the fund was designed to provide help fast and would benefit tens of thousands of businesses across NSW.
“Many local cafés, restaurants, corner shops, gyms and small accommodation providers will be eligible to apply,” Mr Perrottet said.
“We have the structures in place after the bushfires and expect to see this money rolling out the door shortly.”
“This is real, rapid relief for tens of thousands of businesses and it will help ensure many businesses that are not eligible for payroll tax waivers and deferrals can live to trade another day.”
Mr Tudehope said the fund would offer a vital lifeline for businesses across NSW.
“This is the largest support package for small businesses in the history of NSW, it will make a huge difference to many lives,” Mr Tudehope said.
To be eligible, businesses will need to:
- Have between 1-19 employees and a turnover of more than $75,000;
- A payroll below the NSW Government 2019-20 payroll tax threshold of $900,000;
- Have an Australian Business Number as at 1 March 2020, be based in NSW and employ staff as at 1 March 2020;
- Be highly impacted by the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 issued on 30 March 2020;
- Use the funding for unavoidable business costs such as utilities, overheads, legal costs and financial advice;
- Provide appropriate documentation upon application.
Applications for a small business grant of up to $10,000 will be available through Service NSW within a fortnight and remain open until 1 June 2020.
This latest move follows two assistance packages from NSW in the past fortnight, whose combined value far exceeds the support offered by any other state, including:
- More than $5 billion in payroll tax waivers, deferrals and other tax deferrals;
- A $1 billion Working for NSW fund to create jobs;
- $700 million in additional funding for the health system;
- $250 million to bring forward capital works and maintenance on public assets;
- $500 million to bring forward capital works, maintenance and shovel ready infrastructure projects;
- $80 million to waive a range of fees and charges;
- $80 million to help the vulnerable through a range of measures.
JOBKEEPER PAYMENT - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Under the JobKeeper Payment, businesses impacted by the coronavirus will be able to access a subsidy from the Government to continue paying their employees. Affected employers will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum period of 6 months.
The JobKeeper Payment will support employers to maintain their connection to their employees. These connections will enable business to reactivate their operations quickly – without having to rehire staff – when the crisis is over.
COVID-19 Best Practice Guide for Building Industry
Master Builders NSW has produced a detailed best practice guide for running building sites in the current COVID-19 environment. This guide is current as at 1 April 2020.
Banks provide loan deferrals to 30,000 businesses
Australian businesses can now access the six-month loan repayment deferral program after the Australian Banking Association (ABA) decided to extend the relief.
Businesses with total loan facilities of up to $10 million will now be able to defer repayments for loans attached to their businesses for six months.
The ABA's support now extends to 98 per cent of all businesses with a loan from an Australian bank.
The new measures will apply in all sectors of the economy, and on an opt-in basis, under the conditions that:
- For commercial property landlords, they provide an undertaking to the bank that for the period of the interest capitalisation, they will not terminate leases or evict current tenants for rent arrears as a result of COVID19;
- the customer has advised that its business is affected by COVID-19;
- the customer was current in terms of existing facilities 90 days prior to applying; and
- interest is capitalised (meaning either the term of the loan is extended or payments are increased after the deferral period).
NATIONAL CABINET STATEMENT 29/3/20
Australian governments met again today as the National Cabinet to take further action to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives and to save livelihoods.
We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives and help Australia to keep functioning.
National Cabinet noted the latest statistics and medical advice in relation to coronavirus.
Our public health measures are taking effect, with over 211,000 tests undertaken and 3,966 confirmed cases in Australia.
The rate of increase in the virus curve is slowing, but overall numbers are still increasing. While the majority of cases in Australia are connected to travellers returning to Australia from overseas, there has been some sustained community transmission in areas of Sydney and Melbourne.
National Cabinet noted the extensive work underway to procure more masks, ventilators, gloves, gowns and hand sanitiser from both international suppliers and domestic manufacturers. National Cabinet further noted that the Commonwealth had announced a package of $1.1 billion to boost mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief.
National Cabinet welcomed the new coronavirus app and WhatsApp channel that were released today by the Commonwealth Government. The app is now available on Apple and Android devices. The WhatsApp channel can be accessed by entering aus.gov.au/whatsapp into your internet browser.
These new platforms provide a trusted source of information for Australians looking for important advice on how they can protect themselves and others, current restrictions on social gatherings, how they can access support and the latest data on Australian cases.
The app also allows Australians to voluntarily register if they are self-isolating to provide governments with important information to protect public health and safety.
National Cabinet noted that there have been significant measures put in place that restrict gatherings including limits on retail premises. In some jurisdictions, retail outlets need to be prepared for further measures and adapt to different ways of engaging customers such as online and home delivery services.
Indoor and Outdoor Public gatherings
National Cabinet agreed to limit both indoor and outdoor gatherings to two persons only.
Exceptions to this limit include:
- People of the same household going out together;
- Funerals - a maximum of 10 people;
- Wedding - a maximum of 5 people;
- Family units.
Individual states and territories may choose to mandate and/or enforce this requirement.
National Cabinet’s strong guidance to all Australians is to stay home unless for:
- shopping for what you need - food and necessary supplies;
- medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements;
- exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements;
- work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.
National Cabinet agreed that playgrounds, skate parks and outside gyms in public places will be closed. Bootcamps will be reduced to two persons, including the trainer.
These measures will be in place from midnight tomorrow night.
Social Distancing - further measures
National Cabinet discussed further restrictions on activities and venues. Overseas experience indicates further restrictions on personal movement and businesses will be required should the severity of the outbreak worsen in Australia.
States and territories agreed they would implement further measures specific to their own region, including closing categories of venues, where medical advice supported this action. These measures would be risk-based and targeted at non-essential activities.
Australians will still be able to access the goods and services needed to safely and sustainably live their lives.
Advice for Senior Australians including those with existing health conditions
The care and wellbeing of senior Australians remains a priority in this uncertain time.
All Australians respect and value the contribution that older Australians make to our community.
Coronavirus has more serious impacts on older Australians, those over 70 years of age and Australians with existing health conditions or comorbidities.
National Cabinet’s strong advice is for self-isolation at home to the maximum extent practicable for Australians:
- over 70 years of age;
- over 60 years of age who have existing health conditions or comorbidities;
- indigenous Australians over the age of 50 who have existing health conditions or comorbidities.
These groups should limit contact with others as much as possible when they travel outside.
Commercial and residential tenancies
As part of its work on helping businesses hibernate, National Cabinet agreed that short-term intervention is needed for commercial tenancies. Work on this has begun, but there is more to do, including for residential tenancies.
National Cabinet agreed to a moratorium on evictions over the next six months for commercial and residential tenancies in financial distress who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.
Commercial tenants, landlords and financial institutions are encouraged to sit down together to find a way through to ensure that businesses can survive and be there on the other side. As part of this, National Cabinet agreed to a common set of principles, endorsed by Treasurers, to underpin and govern intervention to aid commercial tenancies as follows:
- a short term, temporary moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent to be applied across commercial tenancies impacted by severe rental distress due to coronavirus;
- tenants and landlords are encouraged to agree on rent relief or temporary amendments to the lease;
- the reduction or waiver of rental payment for a defined period for impacted tenants;
- the ability for tenants to terminate leases and/or seek mediation or conciliation on the grounds of financial distress;
- commercial property owners should ensure that any benefits received in respect of their properties should also benefit their tenants in proportion to the economic impact caused by coronavirus;
- landlords and tenants not significantly affected by coronavirus are expected to honour their lease and rental agreements; and
- cost-sharing or deferral of losses between landlords and tenants, with Commonwealth, state and territory governments, local government and financial institutions to consider mechanisms to provide assistance.
National Cabinet will meet again on Monday 30th March 2020.
Governments Must Not Shut Down Civil Construction Sector
Joint Media Statement - Australian Workers’ Union & Master Builders Association 27/3/02
The AWU and Master Builders Australia are jointly calling on governments to ensure the building and construction industry continues to operate, because without it the economic knock-on effects would be devastating on a scale that would dwarf what we have seen to date.
The shutdown of the construction industry would jeopardise not just those employed directly, but the whole livelihoods of millions of Australians employed in precarious sectors like manufacturing. It would devastate nationally important industries in the building supply chain, like the $30 billion steel industry.
Forcing the industry’s closure would also blunt the impact of federal, state and territory government stimulus packages as infrastructure projects would immediately grind to a halt. Civil construction, in particular, must continue to build the nation and can do so safely given the nature of its sites.
Indeed, the catastrophic threat of a construction shutdown means the whole construction industry has a civic duty to impress upon authorities it can operate while ensuring compliance with social distancing and hygiene requirements.
That means everyone in the industry has to step up and be accountable. Construction companies and project managers must ensure that protocols at their site are enforced. Construction workers owe it to each other and their families to be responsible and do the right thing. This is only the only way the industry can continue working while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
In times of crisis people look to unions, industry, and government to work together. We have to show we can not only slow the spread of COIVID-19 but ensure there's an economy left when the crisis is over.
Scott Morrison Media Release 27/3/20
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced a plan to “hibernate Australian business” during the coronavirus crisis. He also said every Australian returning home from overseas will now be quarantined to hotels or other facilities in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
Queensland border restrictions - building/construction workers exempt
- As a NSW based builder, you can still enter Queensland to work;
- But you need to apply for an entry pass
The QLD Government has implemented restricted entry to Queensland from 12:01am on 26 March 2020. Anyone who arrives in Queensland (including by road) from another State from this date must self-quarantine for 14 days, unless they are an “exempt person”.
Construction is considered a critical service and therefore building and construction workers are exempt. But if you are a NSW resident you are required to to apply for an entry pass.
The entry pass online application is an easy process and only takes a minute. Choose 'Specialist skills worker' in the category list.
Once complete a 'Queensland Border Pass' document will be emailed to you. This must be displayed on your passenger-side visor, windscreen or dashboard.
Queensland police and other emergency officers under the Public Health Act 2005 will be responsible for enforcing the measures.
Further restrictions throughout the community
Last night Prime Minister Morrison announced further restrictions which will apply throughout the community from midnight tonight (25 March 2020).
Whilst the Building and Construction Industry remains largely unaffected by the Prime Minister’s latest announcement, particular note should be made to the following:
Auction Houses - closed from midnight 25 March 2020. Real Estate auctions and open house inspections – by private appointment only
Whilst no specific mention was made of display homes, it would be appropriate to open them by appointment only.
To read the full list of restrictions click here
NSW government passes flexible long service leave changes
Yesterday, the NSW Parliament passed changes to the long service leave law which will create greater flexibility for employers and employees to access leave during the on-going COVID-19 crisis.
The amendments to the Long Service Leave Act 1955 will allow employees to take leave in shorter blocks, such as one day a week, and without the traditional one-month notice period, by agreement with their employer.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who introduced the changes into the NSW Parliament, said the flexibility was very important during a time when businesses are looking at every option to keep staff on their books.
“These changes will provide another way for businesses to help maintain their workforce during what will be an extended period of disruption,” Mr Perrottet said.
“We expect this to be an option which will help people get through the next few months and effectively put money in their weekly budgets.”
The legislation took effect for six months from yesterday with the possibility of an extension to one year.
Managing your workers insurance during COVID-19
25/3/20 - icare workers compensation update:
We understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on NSW businesses and we’re here to support you.
First and foremost, we encourage our customers experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 disruptions to discuss how we can support you and your policy needs.
One of the key impacts facing many of our customers is the need to reduce staff. We understand how this can impact your wage estimates which in turn impacts your premium.
If you have recently had to reduce your workforce in response to COVID-19 impacts, please get in touch and let us know your revised estimated wages so we can adjust your premium.
You can reach out to us on 13 44 22.
COVID-19 and insurance policies
Many governments, including the Australian Government, have now introduced strict travel restrictions and travel advice relating to international travel and most recently Victoria and ACT declaring a State of Emergency.
While much of this will be a test over the coming months, it is likely insurance will not be the remedy to the economic challenges ahead. Unfortunately, many policies either exclude a pandemic or have insuring clauses that would not trigger in this instance.
Contract Works & Liability
Cessation of Works clauses vary between insurers and can be as low as 30 days which can trigger policy exclusions. While self-isolation timeframes are only generally 2-3 weeks, should these periods extend beyond the initial isolation, these exclusions could impact cover. Where staff are not attending site, maintaining a clean safe and secure site is critical. If you feel you will be offsite for an extended period, please contact MBAIS so we can speak to your insurer about the potential of arranging an extension to cover.
Specific to Northern Territory and other regions where indigenous communities have been isolated, this exposure will be more pronounced with exclusions likely to impact cover if sites are left dormant for extended periods, and there is damage resulting. Where sites are abandoned, precautions should be taken to minimize the period of site abandonment, and site security should be maximized where possible.
Lack of availability of materials sourced overseas could potentially allow a contract to be deemed to be 'frustrated' which could allow the builder to argue for time extensions. If locally produced products are available, this would likely not 'frustrate' the contract and would be worn by the builder under most fixed-price contracts. If local/federal governments implement a complete shutdown, this may trigger a force majeure event, but often contracts signed will push liabilities onto the builder for these scenarios.
Generally, in construction insurance much like property insurance, there must be physical damage to the construction site for a loss to trigger. While some may argue that COVID 19 is an unforeseen event, the cover is very unlikely to trigger due to several standard policy exclusions.
Public liability insurance would respond to applicable third party bodily injury (Disease) claims relating to COVID-19, as long as there is no exclusion or if the exclusion only applies to specific policies. However, if somebody held an event in defiance of a government order, there is likely to be no cover.
Travel insurance policies commonly include exclusions for pandemics and epidemics, which includes viruses such as SARS, Avian and Swine Flu. For these exclusions to be relied upon, the insurer must be able to demonstrate that the virus fits within the exclusion. They must be able to provide evidence such as the Department of Affairs & Trade (DFAT), WHO warnings and also medical evidence.
Whether an insured is covered for cancellation depends on which policy they have taken out and what date they purchased it. Some insureds will not be covered for trip cancellations. Cover for cancellations depends on when the travel policy was taken out. If it was after the Coronavirus was deemed to be a Public Health Emergency, then it will not be covered.
Some travel insurance policies might cover insureds who cancel the remainder of their trips if they were already in China before DFAT raised its travel advice to level 4 (23 January 2020, when the outbreak became a known event). However, after that date, the cover will not be extended due to the exclusion, which is in most, if not all, travel policies.
Travelers may not need to rely on insurance as some airlines are offering full refunds for customers who bought tickets to, from, or via mainland China and issued before the deemed date of knowledge of the Coronavirus.
Likewise, travel policies may cover insureds in the affected region for medical expenses relating to Coronavirus if they commenced the travel before the DFAT advisory was lifted to level 4, which means that policies purchased after that date may not have cover. While this is the case, many insurers are now putting in place exclusions which will mean no medical cover is provided for any international travel which is triggering cancellations for a number of our clients.
Coronavirus is a disease which falls within the definition of injury in section 32(1) of the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) (the Act). Comparable legislation applies to other States and Territories. Section 32(3) of the Act specifically provides that an injury includes:
"a disease contracted in the course of employment, whether at or away from the place of employment if the employment is a significant contributing factor to the disease."
If an employee is required to be isolated and is suspected of having the virus but hasn't contracted it, they will not be entitled to a worker’s compensation claim. If, however, an employee contracts Coronavirus and can prove it was contracted in the course of employment and employment was a significant contributing factor, the employee would arguably be entitled to workers' compensation. Within Australia, with the virus being not as widespread as other countries, this is still a possibility. Yet, as the virus becomes more prolific, it will be less likely that an employee can identify a link between the virus and their employer.
MBAIS will continue to communicate with clients in the coming days and weeks, but if you have specific queries, please do not hesitate to contact the team on 02 8586 3555.
Letter from NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, to the construction industry
Below is a letter from the NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, to the construction industry. It sets out the NSW Government’s determination to continue to deliver the NSW infrastructure pipeline during this COVID-19 event. Infrastructure NSW and Government agencies charged with delivering the infrastructure program have been in discussions about how to best work cooperatively with the industry to maintain cash flow, employment and delivery on our projects. Read letter here.
No Shutdown of the Building and Construction Industry
There was NO shutdown of the building and construction industry announced following the meeting of the National Cabinet on Covid-19 (which comprises the PM, State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers) on 22 March 2020. Read more on this and other stimulus measures for the industry.
New COVID-19 restrictions begin but construction sites exempt
Media Release from Gladys Berejiklian -
In line with health advice, from midday today, the following non-essential activities and businesses will be temporarily shut down:
- Pubs, registered clubs
- Gyms, indoor sporting venues
- Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
- Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
- Religious gatherings, places of worship (excluding small weddings and funerals that comply with the 4m2 rule, which can proceed).
It is important to note essential gatherings at places such as hospitals, workplaces, constructions sites and for public transport are exempt and will continue.
Read full press release here.
Urgent stimulus needed to keep building and construction businesses viable
The Federal Government must urgently provide a new and expansive stimulus package with measures targeted to keeping the building and construction industry and the broader economy strong in the face of the Covid-19 shock.
Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said, “Building and construction is vital to the national economy and to local communities right around the country. The livelihoods of the 1 in 10 Australians employed in the industry are at stake as is the viability of the nearly 390,000 small businesses that make up the industry and the thousands of enterprises that supply them.”
“Master Builders commends the Federal Government for the measures it has already announced including the $17.6 billion package for small businesses and households and also the move by the Reserve Bank to provide funds for banks and non-bank lenders to provide support to small businesses through this challenge,” she said.
“They are important measures, but builders and tradies will not have the necessary confidence to take up tax incentives or keep employees and apprentices on their books if they do not have a pipeline of work,” Denita Wawn said.
“We are calling for measures such as commissioning local builders to immediately commence maintenance, refurbishment and renovation works on government buildings and facilities around the country. This will not require extensive planning, could be actioned quickly and will provide work for thousands of small businesses in local communities,” she said.
“Bringing forward already budgeted spending on social and transport infrastructure projects, for example, accelerating construction work on projects under way by spending the money allocated for 2021 now will provide an immediate boost,” Denita Wawn said.
“Broad eligibility and simplicity of application and tendering is also important. Too often stimulus measures cannot be accessed by many SMEs due to restrictive eligibility criteria. The shackles must come off and money must be immediately injected into the economy by ensuring that eligibility requirements are as broad and as simple as possible. Giving stimulus measures sunset clauses will ensure that they are targeted only to meet the present danger,” she said.
“These measures could also easily be replicated by state governments and local councils to great effect,” Denita Wawn said.
“The Government must also urgently address the major threat to current building and construction projects posed by the potential enforcement of liquidated damages clauses due to delays caused by a range of Covid-19 related factors including compliance with government measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 such as social distancing, supply shortages and/or labour shortages due to quarantine arrangements,” Denita Wawn said.
“The threat of millions of dollars in liquidated damages will quickly be hanging over the heads of the nation’s major construction companies and thousands of sub-contractors and threatening their viability. Many businesses will be compelled to close their doors with a resulting loss of jobs that will hurt families and communities,” Denita Wawn said.
CFMEU and MBA join forces to battle impact of coronavirus
The MBA and the CFMEU National Construction Division are joining forces to ensure the construction industry remains a backbone of the Australian economy and able to sustain the millions of people dependent upon it throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Read full media release here
Assistance available to businesses
Please find below a further update on the assistance for businesses as a result of the impacts of COVID-19.
The Government will today announce a second stage of measures to keep businesses in business and to keep workers in jobs.
This stage of measures is squarely focused on getting businesses and their workers through to the other side of this crisis.
The measures include:
- A wage subsidy for small and medium businesses to save jobs; and
- A guarantee on loans to small and medium businesses so they can keep in business.
1. Support to Keep Australians in Jobs
We are giving businesses a cash payment of up to $100,000 for the period March 2020 to September 2020.
That payment will be worth 100% of the tax those small and medium businesses, with a turnover less than $50 million, are withholding from their employees salary and wages.
The payment will be tax free. It will now also be available to eligible charities or other not-for-profit entities.
How the Payment Works
Eligible businesses that withhold tax to the ATO on their employees’ salary and wages – they report it each month or quarter anyway - will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of the amount withheld, up to a maximum payment of $100,000.
Eligible businesses that pay salary and wages will receive a minimum payment of $20,000, even if they are not required to withhold tax.
In our first package we announced the cash payment would be 50% of tax withheld worth up to $25,000 in payments or a minimum of $2,000.
This announcement builds on the cash flow boost from the first package worth $6.7 billion. This new measure is worth $25.2 billion so in total it’s worth $31.9 billion.
The Government expects it will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people and 30,000 not-for-profits.
We estimate these businesses employ:
- NSW – Around 2.5 million people
- Vic – Around 2 million people
- Qld – Around 1.5 million people
- WA – Around 810,000 people
- SA – Around 480,000 people
- TAS – Around 155,000 people
- NT – Around 63,000 people
- ACT – Around 115,000 people
2. Supporting Small Business to Get to the Other Side With Loans
We are announcing a new Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme to support small and medium business with a turnover less than $50 million.
This measure complements the $8 billion worth of measures the banks announced this week to defer repayments for 6 months for small and medium businesses battling the impacts of coronavirus.
The Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme will be able to be accessed by eligible banks and non-bank lenders.
Under the Scheme, the Commonwealth will guarantee 50%, through the participating banks, of an eligible loan to small and medium enterprise customers that have been impacted by the coronavirus.
The Scheme will have the capacity to support lending of $40 billion to small and medium businesses.
Loans will be used for working capital purposes and be unsecured and it will be for loans granted within 6 months starting 1 April 2020.
The Scheme will apply to new or existing customers of banks and non-bank lenders.
Lenders will not be charged a fee for accessing the Scheme.
It will be repayment free for 6 months.
The maximum loan will be $250,000 for a term up to 3 years.
It will not apply to re-financing of existing customers. Those already have existing loans that will benefit from the ABA announcement.
Through this measure, the Government is offering to guarantee $20 billion.
The Australian banking sector announced on 19 March 2020 significant measures – that many individual banks went further than – to support existing loans. Click here for more info.
Today’s announcement also follows the announcement by the Government on 19 March 2020, together with the Reserve Bank, to inject more than $100 billion into the Australia’s financial system. Please click here for the Government’s release and here for the Reserve Bank’s release.
Coronavirus and building contracts
The impact of the Coronavirus is profound and may well extend for some time. MBANSW members should note the following in relation to their contracts.
Delays may occur for several reasons in the current circumstances but predominately for lack of materials or people.
Contracts need to be checked for appropriate clauses that may deal with such delays and possibly provide an entitlement to an extension of time. If a contract has an entitlement to an extension of time there may be particular notice requirements.
For example both the MBANSW BC4 Residential Building and Cost Plus Residential contracts have provision for extensions of time due to shortages or delays in trades or materials which affect the builder’s ability to continue with the work. No costs are claimable.
Frustration and Force Majeure
The doctrine of frustration may apply if there is an event beyond the control of the parties that makes the contractual obligation incapable of being performed because the changed circumstances renders it radically different from what was agreed in the contract.
Frustration is difficult to prove and an event that makes it more difficult or costly to perform the contract will not render the contract frustrated. Careful consideration must be made as to a party’s ability to perform its contractual obligations. This can be very complex.
Force majeure relief would require a specific provision in the contract and depends on the exact terms. They are not common in residential or smaller contracts.
What To Do
- Check your current contracts for extension of time entitlements, force majeure clauses and notice requirements (be careful of time bars).
- Shortages in materials or trades may entitle you to an extension of time but if the materials or trades can be sourced but at a greater cost then you may be obliged to use them.
- Check with suppliers if they can deliver and what if they can’t.
- Reconsider entering into contracts that you are contemplating and/or whether special conditions are needed to take into account COVID-19. You should be particularly careful about entering into a fixed price contract as the cost of materials in the future is unknown. Consider the use of provisional sums and prime cost items or using a cost plus contract instead.
- If you do contract, consider plenty of extra time or perhaps don’t have a completion time at all. Also consider a cost plus contract if possible. For a fixed price contract the question of the cost of materials and trades in the future is problematic.
- Discuss any difficulties with your client.
If you have any difficulties or enquiries then please contact MBA Lawyers on (02) 8586 3517.
Questions to ask your workers in relation to covid-19
The following set of questions may be used as part of an induction, a toolbox talk or through other consultative arrangements to ascertain the level of risk to your workplace.
Ideally, this should be delivered outside in an open-air environment standing 1.5m away from the nearest person(s).
Corona Virus (COVID-19) Questionnaire
- Have you recently returned from overseas travel in the last 14 days?
If yes - Required to Self-Isolate for 14 days from date of arrival into Australia.
- Have you been in contact with a person confirmed sick with COVID-19?
If yes - Required to Self-Isolate for 14 days from date of contact.
- Do you have any of the following symptoms “Having travelled overseas” in last 14 days: Fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath & other symptoms.
If yes - Call GP to arrange appointment & Required to Self-Isolate for at least 14 days pending examination.
- Do you have any of the following symptoms “Without having travelled”: Fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and other symptoms.
If yes - Call GP to arrange appointment and discuss symptoms.
- Are you planning on travelling overseas in the near future?
If yes – Let your employer know prior to leaving to arrange a return to work timeline.
Protecting against COVID-19 (Procedure)
- Include Corona Virus (COVID-19) Questionnaire / Screening into your organisations induction agenda, along with signed declaration by the site management representative that “to the utmost of my powers, I have communicated (or have had someone translate) the Corona Virus (COVID-19) Questionnaire and Procedure to the inductee / toolbox attendee.
- Consult with all interested parties associated with your organisations business or undertaking to request they screen themselves and their workers for COVID-19 prior to attending a workplace under the management or control of your organisation.
- Ensure the Corona Virus (COVID-19) Questionnaire is communicated and / or translated to all persons undertaking an induction.
- Consider limiting or reducing recirculated air-conditioning in workplaces.
- Monitor, communicate and amend Corona Virus (COVID-19) Questionnaire with daily updates by the NSW Health Department as necessary.
- Ensure regular consultative arrangements include current updates from the NSW Health Department and allows for participative engagement by the workers to raise any concerns they may have.
- Provide additional hand sanitizers and washing stations where reasonably practicable.
- Display signage relevant to maintaining a hygienic work environment (see below links for signage).
- Avoid crowds and mass gatherings where it is difficult to keep the appropriate distance away from others.
- Avoid small gatherings in enclosed spaces.
- Endeavor to conduct consultation meetings in large open areas (outside if possible and ensure participants stand apart by at least 1.5m and safe to do so).
- Avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing other people.
- Avoid visiting or conducting works near vulnerable people.
- If you are self-isolating you should stay in a different room from other people or be separated as much as possible, especially with those at risk of severe diseases (such as elderly people with heart, lung or kidney conditions and diabetics). People who have symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 should wear surgical face masks when in the same room as another person & when seeking medical advice to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to anyone else. Face masks are not recommended for the general population.
- If someone in your household is self-isolating the aforementioned control measures should be adhered to. Other members of the household are not required to be isolated unless they have been overseas in the last 14 days or have been in close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.
More Information and Support
NSW stimulus package to help mitigate coronavirus impact
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the stimulus package is designed to keep people in jobs throughout the corona crisis and to boost a range of medical services throughout the State.
As part of the recently announced measures, $450 million has been allocated to waive payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months.
Master Builders understands that this will become effective from May 2020, which means these businesses will not have to pay payroll tax for the rest of the financial year.
The next round of payroll tax cuts has also been brought forward. This means that for the next financial year 2020-2021, the threshold limit for a business in NSW to have to pay payroll tax will be $1 million.
Other parts of the stimulus package include:
- $80 million for fees and charges to be waived for small businesses such as cafes, restaurants and those in trades;
- $250 million for public schools and state-owned buildings to employ more cleaners;
- NSW Health will receive $700 million to help double the capacity of intensive care units State-wide.
Coronavirus and workplace issues
Coronavirus is likely to present challenges for businesses regarding workplace safety and industrial relations. From a health and safety perspective, information can be found by clicking on the following links:
Department of Health – for the latest information and advice about Coronavirus
Safe Work Australia – for information and referrals about dealing with Coronavirus in the workplace
What happens if an employee or their family member is sick with Coronavirus?
Full and part-time employees who can’t come to work because they are sick can take paid sick leave. If an employee needs to look after a family member or member of the employee’s household who is sick with Coronavirus, or suffering an unexpected emergency, they are entitled to take paid carer’s leave.
Casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full and part-time employees can take unpaid carer’s leave if they have no paid sick or carer’s leave left.
An employee must give their employer evidence of the illness or unexpected emergency if their employer asks for it.
What if an employee is stuck overseas or require to be quarantined?
Employees should contact their employer immediately if they are unable to attend work because they can’t return from overseas or are required to enter quarantine because of the Coronavirus.
You can find up-to-date information on quarantine requirements on the Department of Health’s website.
What if an employee wants to stay home as a precaution?
If an employee wants to stay at home as a precaution against being exposed to Coronavirus, they will need to make a request to work from home (if possible) or take some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave. These requests are subject to the normal leave application process in the workplace.
Employees are encouraged to discuss their level of risk of contracting Coronavirus with their doctor and their workplace health and safety representative.
What if an employer wants their staff to stay home?
You can find up-to-date information on quarantine requirements on the Department of Health’s website.
Under work health and safety laws, employers are required to ensure the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace (as far as is reasonably practical). Workers also have responsibilities under those laws.
If an employee is at risk of infection from Coronavirus (for example, because the employee has recently travelled through mainland China, or has been in close contact with someone who has the virus), you should request the employee seek medical clearance from a doctor and to work from home (if possible), or not work during the risk period. Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee not to work, the employee would ordinarily be entitled to be paid while subject to the direction. You should consider your obligations under any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ contracts of employment, and workplace policies. Members can seek advice from the Association’s Industrial Relations Department on this point.
Under the Fair Work Act, an employee can only be stood down without pay if they can’t do useful work because of equipment break down, industrial action or a stoppage of work for which the employer can’t be held responsible. The most common scenario usually involves a natural disaster. Enterprise agreements and employment contracts can have different or extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay. Again, the Association’s Industrial Relations Department can assist members in this regard.
Members need to balance their legal obligations, including those relating to anti-discrimination.
Construction sites are an essential service and will remain open
The Prime Minister in his statement updating the community on Coronavirus measures explicitly stated that construction sites are an essential service and will remain open.
In reference to non-essential gatherings of greater than 100 people not being permitted from 20 March, the Prime Minister stated that:
“This does not apply to essential activities such as public transportation facilities, medical and health care facilities, pharmacies, emergency service facilities, correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals, Parliaments, food markets, supermarkets and grocery stores, shopping centres, office buildings, factories, construction sites, and mining sites, where it is necessary for their normal operation (although other social distancing and hygiene practices may be required in these settings).”
The full statement can be found on the Prime Minister’s website https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures