How to operate your business safely during COVID-19

Running a hospitality business has changed immensely since the outbreak of COVID-19. Let’s look at how you can operate your business safely during COVID-19.

Workplace safety and hygiene within the hospitality industry

Whether you’re operating as take away only, or dine in with restrictions around the number of patrons allowed in your business, safety and hygiene procedures must be strictly followed. A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene at all times.

This includes - cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a clean tissue. - avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth. - dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, e.g. in closed bins. - wash and dry your hands completely before and after smoking a cigarette.
- wash and dry your hands completely before and after interacting with customers. - clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use, including the basin area. - wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day. - have no intentional physical contact, for example, shaking hands and patting backs.

Washing hands

Good hygiene requires everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them completely. Everyone must wash and dry their hands before and after eating, after coughing or sneezing, after going to the toilet, and when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
When drying hands, paper towels are preferable as they can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by drying the hands more thoroughly than hand dryers. Hand dryers can still be used, however, there is an increased risk of transmission if hands are not dried properly. When it’s not possible to wash hands, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serving customers and taking bookings if dine-in is allowed

Customers are to not enter the workplace if they are experiencing symptoms linked to COVID-19 such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, or, if they have been in close contact with someone who is confirmed as having COVID-19. Inform customers of these expectations when taking bookings. If customers are making a booking over the phone, have a template written out for workers to read to the customer. If booking online, add additional text to the booking confirmation setting out your expectations. Signs should also be displayed in your front window informing customers of expectations and not to enter if they or a close contact is unwell. Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations for customers and workers to use, such as entries and exits. Place signage and posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands. Encourage contactless payment where possible.

Dining-in and sit-down services

For businesses where dine-in has returned, there are going to be differences in how you interact with and serve your customers.

Are staff required to wear face masks?

From Sunday August 2 everyone in the state of Victoria must wear a face covering whenever they leave home unless an exemption applies. This is because of the higher rates of community transmission of coronavirus in Victoria. An employer must take reasonable steps to ensure an employee that is working at the employer’s premises wears a face covering at all times when working at the employer’s premises, unless a lawful exception applies. A business owner will not be fined if a customer refuses to wear a face covering without a lawful excuse. The penalty would be applied to the customer. As a business owner, you can ask someone not to enter your premises if they are not wearing a face covering unless they have a lawful reason not to wear a face covering.

People in NSW should consider wearing a face mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible. Wearing a mask can help protect you and those around you if you are in an area with community transmission, and physical distancing is not possible, like on public transport.

For those outside NSW and Victoria, it is important that you keep up to date with the recommendations and directions that apply in your state or territory. If you decide you want your workers to wear face masks, you must provide them. You must also provide appropriate training and instruction on how to put on, wear, remove and dispose of the mask.

What to do if an employee has symptoms of COVID-19

If an employee has symptoms of coronavirus, employers should direct the employee not to work, and ask the employee to get urgent medical advice as recommended by the Department of Health. The most effective control is to identify potential carriers of the virus and support them to self-isolate to avoid exposing others. Employees can’t go to work if they need to quarantine or self-isolate because they: - have been diagnosed with coronavirus - have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus - need to get tested or are waiting for a coronavirus test result - are prohibited from leaving their home because of an enforceable government direction - have arrived from overseas or interstate and need to self-isolate because of an enforceable government direction.

If an employee can’t work because they have to quarantine or self-isolate, they should contact their employer immediately to discuss leave or flexible working options. Employees have a responsibility, under workplace health and safety laws, to take reasonable care not to adversely affect the health and safety of others at work. This means that an employee can’t be dismissed in their employment if they need to quarantine or self-isolate to avoid the risk of spreading the virus in the workplace. Employees can also request not to go to work because of a health condition that puts them at higher risk of getting coronavirus.

In Victoria, the Federal Government has introduced a $1,500 disaster payment for workers who are required to self-isolate because of coronavirus but do not have leave entitlements. Infected people going to work has been blamed as a major cause of transmission in Victoria.

The Australian Government has announced it will extend the JobKeeper scheme until 28 March 2021. An employee can still take unpaid pandemic leave under their award at the same time as receiving payments under the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme. More information on Job Keeper can be found via the ATO.

JobSeeker Payment may also apply to employees if their work situation changes because of coronavirus. Find out more at Services Australia.

It’s important to keep your workers safe and healthy to limit the spread of COVID-19. You can find the latest information and resources for your industry at Safe Work Australia

Unfortunately the pandemic has hit small businesses within hospitality really hard. If you’d like to reach out to the community with any questions regarding operating safely during this time, the Jora Local Facebook and Instagram page specifically aims at building a welcoming and friendly community of hospitality business owners. Find Jora Local on Facebook and Instagram