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COVID-19 updated rules and what it means for Landcare in Victoria

Updated 21 October 2021


With COVID-19 rules changing and parts of Victoria coming out of lockdown this week, we want to ensure that the Victorian landcare community is able to operate safely and that members aware of their responsibilities and the rules in place.

It is very important that landcare groups conform to all the rules relevant to COVID safety.

Landcare Victoria Inc. cannot provide member groups with authoritative advice about whether particular activities can be carried out, as that judgement must be made locally. We have summarised the most recent rules for your guidance below.


COVID safe plan

All Victorian businesses (which includes landcare groups and networks) with on-site operations must complete and document a COVIDSafe Plan. This must be completed and businesses with multiple worksites must complete a plan for each worksite. Plans must be reviewed regularly, especially when restrictions change, and must be shared with and complied by employees.


Events and other activities

If you are running an event or any activities in a group setting please ensure you follow the Victorian Chief Health Officers directions. Business and industry restrictions still differ in metropolitan Melbourne to regional Victoria including density and capacity limits. The directions are frequently amended, so it is important to check these directions regularly.

View business and industry restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and Mildura Rural City Council

View business and industry restrictions in regional Victoria

Please note that the use of QR codes does not replace the need to maintain records of attendance.

Volunteers

Employers (including volunteer committee of management) have a duty to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace for their staff and volunteers. Whether on committees or planting trees, volunteers are entitled to the same health and safety protections as paid workers and any policies must apply to all in the organisation.

If you are considering asking volunteers to participate in work with your group, it’s important to undertake a risk assessment, consult your volunteers and put measures to control or reduce risks to reduce harm. Learn more about work safety for volunteers and about managing people through COVID-19 from Justice Connect.

WorkSafe Victoria also provide general advice about the health and safety obligations of community service volunteer boards and committees.


Working on public land

When working on public land, you must ensure that you follow the directives of the land managers in relation to COVID safety. Ensure you check with your local council on their permitted worker and health and safety guidance, and if you are volunteering for Parks Victoria you can learn more here. Check with regional DELWP staff in relation to State forest, coastal reserves and other Crown land.

Insurance

Our insurance like many public liability insurance policies, specifically excludes cover for claims related to outbreaks of infectious diseases, pandemics or other similar types of harm. This means it is possible that you will not be covered for the cost of a claim brought against you in connection with COVID-19. This ‘pandemic insurance gap’ suggests that it is very important that the landcare community complies with national and state public health directions about COVID-19 and takes all reasonable steps to protect volunteers, and the people that volunteers interact with.

Managing risk appropriately should mean there is a relatively low risk of your organisation being found to be liable (e.g., in negligence) for any injury, loss or damage suffered by a volunteer as a consequence of COVID-19. It is also a very important part of Landcare’s ethic of care!


Vaccinations

Landcare Victoria Inc. cannot and does not intend to mandate any particular policy regarding COVID vaccination for landcare groups. Each group must make their own decision in the context of their operations, membership and staffing arrangements, and each group need to make their own decisions in a work health and safety context.

Select workers (including contractors, volunteers and students on placement) will be required to show evidence of their vaccination to their employer by a certain date in order to continue working outside their home. This includes agriculture and forestry workers, the category most likely relevant to landcare activities.

The State government has mandated vaccination for all employees and requires that visitors to public sector workplaces (including Catchment Management Authorities) be vaccinated. This means that public sector workers will not be able to attend landcare activities unless landcare staff and volunteers present are also vaccinated. Unvaccinated landcare volunteers and staff will not have access to public sector workplaces.

For a full list of industries and workers that are subject to State government vaccination requirements, learn more here.

If your landcare group adopts a policy of mandatory vaccination and an employee declines to be vaccinated, this could lead to the unfortunate outcome of the employment relationship being terminated if the employee is unable to fulfil their role. Your committee should take particular care to ensure that your decisions are reasonable and valid in the context of employment legislation.

You can refer to the Fair Work Australia guidance here or contact Workplace Legal on (03) 9972 4950 to access free and confidential advice and assistance on Landcare human resources and employment-related matters.

Not for Profit Law has also produced a useful guide to managing staff and volunteers here

 

 

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