Additional Financial Support and Flexibility for Ancillary Construction Activities
HIA recognises that many members in Victoria remain unable to work during the current lockdown and that many are working but dealing with heavy limitations on normal business operations.
Whilst HIA has been extremely disappointed with the level of direct financial support available to businesses in our industry, in recent weeks some changes have been made to existing support schemes that may now assist members. Details of these changes are provided below.
HIA is also aware that the Government’s construction sector guidance information on their website has been amended with a new Q&A which makes reference to ‘ancillary activities’ that are undertaken prior to base stage or after fixing stage. Information on this change is also provided in the alert.
Financial support for business
The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments have announced two jointly-funded support packages available to eligible businesses impacted by the lockdown.
These programs may assist those members with no work currently or with limited work capacity.
Business Costs Assistance Program Round Four
The Business Cost Assistance Program Round Four is available to businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions from 4 September to 30 September 2021.
Recipients of the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two and the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two July Extension will receive an automatic payment to cover ongoing costs such as wages, rent and utilities.
Payments are tiered based on annual payroll:
- $2,800 a week for businesses with an annual payroll below $650,000.
- $5,600 a week for businesses with an annual payroll of $650,000 to $3 million.
- $8,400 for businesses with an annual payroll of $3 million to $10 million.
Businesses will remain eligible while they are unable to operate due to public health restrictions.
Members will remain eligible while they are unable to operate due to public health restrictions.
Small Business COVID Hardship Fund
The Small Business COVID Hardship Fund is available to businesses that have been ineligible for the Victorian Government business support package since May but have had a reduction in turnover of at least 70 per cent.
The payment has been increased to $20,000 up from $14,000. Applications close on 10 September 2021.
Federal Government financial support
Members may also be eligible for the COVID-19 Federal Government Disaster Payment.
Flexibility to carry out ‘ancillary activities’
HIA has become aware that the Government’s Q&As in relation to the construction sector guidance information were updated in recent days with information specifically addressing ancillary activities. The changes are set out below:
“How many sites can a worker providing ancillary support to construction (prior to base stage or after fixing stage), visit per week?”
There are no specific restrictions on the movement of workers who perform ancillary activities in support of the construction industry. However, workplace caps still apply and movement is to be minimised where possible.
“My business is not permitted to open for on-site operations, but it supplies a business that is permitted to open under the Authorised provider and authorised worker list. Can I open on-site to supply permitted businesses?”
Ancillary and support businesses are defined as those that are necessary for the operation of a permitted industry.
These businesses can open on-site where necessary for the operations of an Authorised provider or authorised worker, or for Closed Work Premises where there are safety or environmental obligations. Examples include production, supply, manufacture, repair, maintenance, cleaning, security, wholesale, distribution, transportation or sale of equipment, goods or services essential to the operation of the work of an Authorised provider or authorised worker.
The business cannot operate on-site for any other purpose.
This new information suggests that workers that carry out ancillary activities that support construction work which is authorised work (prior to base or fixing stage) are able to visit multiple construction sites and are no longer restricted to visiting only three sites per week.
Despite this potential change, the worker caps on all building sites still remain in play. This means that small-scale construction sites may have no more than 5 workers on site plus one supervisor and large-scale sites may have up to 25 per cent on site. This would include any such ancillary support workers.
HIA urges caution in having finishing trades attend sites under the premise that they are carrying out ancillary activities instead of building work.
Vigilance on site
As the lockdown continues, it is timely to remind members of the importance of complying with all COVID safety requirements currently in place. With concern about the Delta variant of COVID 19, there is a heightened level of scrutiny of businesses. It is critical that everyone in the residential building industry play their part in doing the right thing and in ensuring your industry colleagues are also doing the right thing.
If you have an enforcement officer, such as a WorkSafe inspector or Victorian Police officer attend your site, you must be able to demonstrate that you are complying with your COVIDSafe requirements. Members should ensure that all workers on site are aware of their COVIDSafe obligations. This may include:
- Ensuring your COVIDSafe plan is up to date and reflects reduced operations on site – such as only having five workers on a site plus a supervisor.
- Ensure Authorised Workers are carrying workers permits when travelling to and from work.
- Maintain contact tracing record keeping requirements through the Victoria Service App where required.
- Wear a facemask indoors and outdoors (unless an exception applies)
- Ensure shared spaces are cleaned, including on building sites.
- Social distance where possible
- Check the exposure sites on the coronavirus website.
We will continue to keep members informed as soon as more information becomes available.
With the increasing community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria, the Government last week announced that its primary focus is now to ensure Victorians are vaccinated as quickly as possible. Members would also be aware that the potential reopening of building sites to larger workforces now appears to be contingent on vaccination rates in our industry being high.
More information on the Victorian Government vaccination centres is available online.
Vaccination appointments may be made by phoning the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 or by visiting the online booking portal.
While the last month has been extremely challenging for our industry, I would like to thank members for their ongoing input on how we can work through these restrictions with Government and we will continue to advocate on your behalf in the coming days and weeks.