New South Wales unveils 'roadmap to freedom'

The roadmap was described as a 'light at the end of the tunnel'

New South Wales unveils 'roadmap to freedom'

New South Wales has finally issued their ‘roadmap to freedom’ that will see restrictions loosened and businesses re-opened throughout the state. Released on Thursday, the roadmap set a goal of re-opening once 70% of the population had their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to The Guardian, this could be as early as 18 October.

"I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to get vaccinated – if you have not had both doses of the vaccine by the time we hit the 70% milestone, you will not be able to take advantage of these freedoms," added NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Under the roadmap, up to 20 people can gather outdoors, while up to five visitors may be allowed in homes in which adults are vaccinated. Hospitality venues, retail stores, nail salons, gyms, as well as sporting and recreational facilities may also be permitted to re-open with some restrictions. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet described the easing of restrictions as the "light at the end of the tunnel" that will help businesses and workers.

Read more: NSW mandates COVID-19 vaccine for certain workers: What does it mean for employers?

What does this mean for employers?

According to the roadmap, employers should continue allowing their employees to work from home if they’re able to do so. Businesses in NSW have been struggling due to recent lockdowns implemented across the state. Thus far, the government has been providing companies with support measures to keep them afloat, with its pandemic relief programmes for businesses extended.  What’s more, the JobSave programme and Micro-business Grant will be extended thanks to the additional 3.9 billion funding, with $1.5 billion from the Commonwealth.

"We know businesses and communities are doing it tough and this ongoing support will not only help get them through the depths of the pandemic but will also provide them with a springboard to bounce back once restrictions ease," Perrottet explained.

The state's roadmap may still change depending on the ongoing COVID-19 situation, according to authorities. Once the state hits its 80% double dose target, more freedoms on international travel and major events will be granted.

Hidden concerns for HR?

Earlier this month, Berejiklian hinted at this reopening plan – however, employment lawyers have warned that these kinds of freedom incentives for employees could be seen as a government mandate. As such, HR needs to tread carefully.

“There are two overarching questions when it comes to those types of directions or incentives,” Trent Hancock, principal at Jewell Hancock Employment Lawyers, told HRD. “The first of which is going to be whether vaccination is an inherent requirement of a particular position. The second is going to be whether the direction to be vaccinated is a lawful and reasonable one. There has obviously been a lot of discussion recently around that second question as to whether or not a direction to be vaccinated is a lawful and reasonable one.

“It will require an assessment on a case-by-case basis as to whether a particular policy, for example one that provides incentives to employees to be vaccinated to receive work, will have a disproportionate impact on those in the workplace who can't be vaccinated.”

To learn more about the HR issues surrounding vaccines, read our full interview with Hancock here.

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