Restrictions set to ease in Melbourne as workers prepare for office return

From Monday, 50% of employees will be allowed back to their desks

Restrictions set to ease in Melbourne as workers prepare for office return

The Victorian Premier has announced the easing of restrictions from Monday, allowing 50% of Melbourne workers back to the office.

Employees will also no longer be required to wear masks inside workplaces after eight days with no community transmission.

Premier Daniel Andrews praised Victorians for their compliance as the authorities raced to get the latest COVID-19 cluster under control.

"To get to eight days in a row of zero is no small thing and it's a credit to all of our public health team and a credit to all Victorians who play their part in doing so," he said during yesterday’s press conference.

Masks will still be mandatory inside shopping centres, supermarkets, hospitals and public transport, mirroring the rules across the border in New South Wales.

Andrews noted that while employers will now legally be allowed to bring up to half of their employees back, many businesses will choose to continue with a flexible model of working.

"I've had nothing but positive feedback from many, many very big employers about productivity not really being impacted. In fact, in many cases, actually being enhanced by people working in a much more flexible way,” he said.

Read more: Tech HR head shares return to work plans

Victoria has employed a staggered approach to bringing office workers back to the city after first allowing 25% to return in November.

But the fresh outbreak over Christmas forced the Premier to rethink return-to-work plans as they  scrambled to test and trace all those affected.

With high testing numbers and compliance across the state, Victoria has been able to tamp down community transmission quickly.

While Melbourne faced one of the longest lockdowns globally, many employers in Sydney had begun allowing employees into the office on a flexible basis.

The state repealed the work-from-home order in mid-December, days before most businesses shut down for Christmas.

Employers are now free to force employees into the office but given the pockets of community transmission, many are choosing not to.

Read more: HR expert warns misconceptions remain around return to work during COVID-19

Major employers in both Sydney and Melbourne are keeping a close eye on the government’s guidance and the daily COVID-19 figures.

Commonwealth Bank has given employees the option to remain at home in January and has seen around 20% returning to the office.

“The safety of our people and customers remains paramount,” a CommBank spokesperson told HRD.

“While we are anticipating our people will be able to return to our workplaces from mid-January, we are closely monitoring the situation and will adhere to guidance from the NSW and Victorian Governments.

“We will advise employees of any changes to government advice accordingly.”

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