Agricultural business FAQs for coronavirus
These Frequently Asked Questions have been developed to assist Victoria’s agricultural sector to ensure its important supply chains can continue to effectively produce and deliver food and other essential goods during the pandemic. They address a range of issues and have been developed in collaboration with the agriculture sector.
The situation continues to change rapidly and we urge you to regularly check the Department of Health and Human Services website for the latest update: coronavirus.vic.gov.au.
The information is correct as of 11 May 2020.
What support is available for businesses and workers in the agriculture and food production sectors
As part of the Victorian Government's $500 million working for Victoria initiative, the $50 million Agriculture Workforce Plan supports Victorians, including those who have lost their jobs as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Plan helps people find paid work, while also helping to ensure the state’s vital agriculture sector has the workforce it needs to continue operating. If you are business in the agriculture and food production sectors looking for workers, see:
- Regional Development Victoria: Support to safeguard agriculture sector and workers
The Victorian Government has announced a $1.7 billion economic and jobs package to help Victorian businesses and workers survive the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19). You can find out more information and register your interest with Business Victoria.
For advice and support for Victorian businesses, please call Business Victoria’s dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 13 22 15.
Please also see Australian Government support for businesses and workers.
How should I update my agricultural business plan for managing coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) represents a risk to the health of workers at a workplace. It is recommended all businesses that are continuing to operate during this period implement a plan for managing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19), including where business is interrupted due to there being a confirmed case or close contacts.
How agriculture businesses manage the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) will depend on their individual situation.
Support for individual businesses to develop a business continuity plan is available at Business Victoria.
Further information on coronavirus (COVID-19) planning is available at Work Safe Victoria.
Can an employer require employees to undergo temperature checks and/or wear a face mask?
Safe Work Australia provides guidance on employers’ rights to require workers to be temperature checked and/or wear personal protective equipment such as face masks.
For more information, please visit Safe Work Australia: COVID-19 information for workers.
What happens if my employee has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
If a person thinks they might have coronavirus (COVID-19) they should call the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.
Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will contact employers if necessary when an employee is confirmed to have coronavirus (COVID-19) to assist with identifying close contacts and to advise any actions required to prevent further transmission.
If requested, businesses must work with DHHS to assist in rapidly tracing close contacts.
Employers should also contact Work Safe Victoria for specific advice. This includes undertaking a new hazard and risk assessment and putting new control measures in place. It’s important to consult with workers at all stages of the process.
Confirmed cases should not cease isolation until they have been advised by the Public Health Officer from the Department of Health and Human Services that they can leave.
An employer that requires confirmation that an employee is no-longer infectious can contact the DHHS on 1300 651 160.
What happens if my employee has been identified as having close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A close contact is someone who has been face-to-face for at least 15 minutes or been in the same enclosed space for at least two hours, with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) when that person was potentially infectious.
Being a close contact means there is a significant risk of becoming infected with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Victorian Department of Health and Human Services will contact close contacts and will ask them to quarantine at home until 14 days after they were last exposed to the infectious person.
Can an employer direct a worker to stay away from the workplace if they believe that person has been exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Employers can require workers to stay away from the workplace if they are unwell and unfit for work.
Any considerations regarding a worker’s requirement to quarantine or isolate should be based on health advice from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Where can I find educational posters to display?
Employers are encouraged to display posters reminding staff of hygiene and physical distancing requirements.
You can download education posters from DHHS: Promotional material – coronavirus (COVID-19).
Am I permitted to leave home to check animals under my responsibility or to purchase food or other necessary supplies for my animals?
You may leave your home for reasons including the maintenance, care or rescue of animals. Additionally, an agricultural producer conducting activities to ensure animal welfare is considered work, and is also allowed under the Stay at home Directions.
Animal owners have an obligation to ensure that their animals are properly cared for at all times.
Owners must ensure animals are provided with proper and sufficient food, water, shelter, and veterinary treatment when necessary. It is an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 to fail to provide these things, or to abandon an animal.
If you own or care for an animal that needs veterinary attention for any reason, you should make phone contact with your veterinarian for advice on what to do.
There aren’t any current restrictions in place for animals – but you should limit travel where you can.
If you do need to leave home to attend to your animals you should comply with the public gathering requirements, implement sensible biosecurity arrangements and practice good hygiene, including hand hygiene before and after handling animals and their equipment, bedding or food.
If you’ve been directed to self-isolate, you must not leave your home.
It is not appropriate for a farmer or anyone responsible for animals to be driving between locations or leaving the house to undertake farm work or care for animals if he or she is confirmed as positive for coronavirus, or is awaiting test results.
Animal owners should have a contingency plan in place to manage the care of their animals if they are required to self-isolate. This could be arranging for a family member or friend, who is not required to isolate, to look after your animals in the event you are unable to.
We advise anyone with coronavirus to contact their veterinarian to discuss options, including a call-out, in the event that pets or livestock need medical attention.
For further details, please visit DHHS: Directions issued by the Chief Health Officer.
Am I able to leave home to take my animal to a veterinary practitioner?
As Victoria gradually eases restrictions, you may leave your home to shop for necessary goods and services.
Animal owners have an obligation to ensure that their pets or livestock are properly cared for at all times. Owners must ensure animals are provided with proper and sufficient food, water, shelter and, when necessary, veterinary treatment.
It is recommended that you check in with your veterinary clinic ahead of your appointment as clinics are operating with new rules to ensure they meet physical distancing requirements.
If you own or care for an animal that needs veterinary attention and you are unwell, or in quarantine or isolation, you should make phone contact with your veterinarian for advice on what to do.
If you do need to leave home to attend to your animals, you should comply with the public gathering requirements, implement sensible biosecurity arrangements and practice good hygiene, including hand hygiene before and after handling animals and their equipment, bedding or food.
If my employee has tested negative after having close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), is my employee able to go back to work?
No. If a person without symptoms is tested and the result is negative, it does not mean they have not been exposed, as they might still be incubating the virus.
In other words, a negative test in an asymptomatic person does not rule out coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. This is why those who have been exposed (i.e. close contacts) who do not have symptoms, are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Can a person enter a farmer’s property to assist on day-to-day farm management activities (e.g. controlling pests and weeds and feeding livestock)?
As Victoria takes the first step to ease restrictions, paid and unpaid work can continue to be done. Appropriate physical distancing and hygiene measures should be implemented.
For more information, please visit DHHS: Coronavirus FAQs – Can I leave my house to do volunteering work?