What businesses need to know as masks scrapped in Victorian, Queensland workplaces

Woman-wearing-face-mask masks

Mask rules have been scrapped in Victoria from this Friday, and in Queensland from March 4.

It’s masks off in Victoria and Queensland after both states confirmed they are easing the rules in the coming weeks, a move that could see workers returning to the office unencumbered by the facial covering.

In the sunshine state, masks will no longer be required in workplaces, schools and shops from 6pm on Friday 4 March — that includes hospitality staff (and patrons) who won’t be required to wear them at cafés, pubs or restaurants anymore.

“Smiles are back … Masks will no longer be required in shops, workplaces, schools and hospitality venues from 6pm on Friday 4 March,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tweeted.

Further south, Victorians will not need to wear a mask in most indoor settings from 11:59pm this Friday, while the public health recommendation urging people to work or study from home will also be scrapped.

“We’re going to a situation on Friday where there are essentially no COVID rules, or so few that it’s unrecognisable to what it was a year ago, and indeed what it was two years ago,” Premier Daniel Andrews says.

“It’s great news though to think that we’ll have masks off inside and people being advised to go back to working from the office.”

So will Monday see hoards of fresh-faced staff returning to the office? Head of Employment at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Steve Bell says probably not — yet.

“I think wearing masks has been a major inhibitor stopping many people returning to work,” Bell, who is based in Melbourne, says.

“But for this quarter and next, we should still expect low numbers in the office — the question for employers is: what are they doing to actively encourage people back in?”

Bell says it’s important for workers to feel they’re doing the “right thing” by their health in heading into the office, but also confident that they’ll be able to enjoy a level of collaboration not felt in front of a screen at home.

So business leaders should “do what’s available and reasonable” to make people feel safe at work, he continues, which might include “reflecting on things like density limits, vaccination requirements, or A or B rosters”.

“It’s important not just to provide a safe workplace but provide a clear perception of a safe workplace for the comfort of all workers,” he says.

Masks will still be mandatory on public transport in both Queensland and Victoria, as well as in high-risk settings like hospitals, disability care, prisons, aged care, airports and on planes.

Health Minister Greg Hunt applauded Queensland easing the mask mandate, although conceded it would be “hard” to explain to primary school kids that they still had to wear masks beyond March 4.

It’ll be much the same in Victoria, where primary school students from Year 3 and up will still be required to wear a mask in the classroom next Monday.

“What is important is that we continue to make progress in allowing people to return to their lives and their normal freedoms as quickly and as safely as possible,” Hunt says.

“So today is progress but there is more to be done.”

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley has also confirmed a month-long extension of the booster deadline for education workers, who now must be triple-jabbed by March 25.

Among those calling for employees to return to workplaces was Victorian head of the Australian Industry Group Tim Piper, who last week said “we need people back in offices across the state, and especially returning to the CBD and re-energising businesses”.

“It’s also important that we encourage everybody to return to their workplace and offices, at least in a hybrid arrangement, in the very near future. That’s a vital role that government can play and the leadership we hope to see,” Piper continued.


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2 months ago

Smiles are not back for Victorian school kids unfortunately.

Kids in Grade 3 – 6 still need to wear masks.

NSW, QLD kids do not need to wear masks however.

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