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Changes to close contact isolation rules will alleviate acute staff shortages

Business and industry groups have welcomed the further easing of close contact isolation rules in NSW and Victoria and said it will ease the crippling workforce shortages that are hampering business and risking our post-pandemic recovery.

Changes to close contact isolation rules will alleviate acute staff shortages
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“Dropping close contact isolation rules for all workers who receive a negative test result will be critical to alleviating the acute staff absenteeism across the economy,” ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“With more than one in five employers recording staff absences, this change will enable more employees to stay at work, ensuring businesses can keep their doors open and keep the economy moving.

“While the gradual easing of COVID-19 isolation requirements has acted as a partial release of the pressure valve, acute staff absenteeism has continued to place a significant burden on businesses, threatening to derail our economic recovery.

“Over the Easter weekend we saw that businesses were forced to close their doors or significantly reduce their operating capacity due to staff shortages, while their healthy workers remained in isolation at home, unable to work.

“Ensuring that as many workers as possible can safely return to the workplace will be critical to relieving the labour and supply chain pressures that tens of thousands of businesses are confronting right now.

“The pressure is now on other state and territory governments to bring their isolation requirements in line with NSW and Victoria. Business cannot afford for close contact isolation requirements to be imposed any longer than is absolutely necessary.

Head of the Australian Industry Group in NSW, Helen Waldron said the greater ability of close contacts to continue to attend their workplaces will help ease the labour and skills shortages that many are currently facing.

“For businesses, this will help them meet their orders and take on new work. These sorts of improvements add to employment and activity in other industries so the benefits can be quite widespread,” she said. 
These changes will be of greatest benefit for occupations and industries for which working from home is not possible – such as in construction, logistics, manufacturing and hospitality and retail industries and of course all the front-line services.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra said it’s pleasing to see our two largest states working together and leading what should be the national approach for living with COVID.

“Close contact isolation rules are well past their use by date given we’re one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. It doesn’t make sense to force healthy people to stay at home when they show no symptoms of Covid and test negative. The removal of these isolation requirements in NSW and Victoria are an important step on the path towards living with Covid and are an example for the other jurisdictions to follow,” Mr Zahra said.

“Staff shortages due to Covid isolations have been an enormous frustration for small businesses in particular, with 48 per cent of ARA Members saying the situation had gotten worse in the past month. Some have had to alter their trading hours, or close some locations altogether, because they haven’t been able [to] get people to fill shifts at the last minute.

“Pleasingly, with the announcements from NSW and Victoria today, we’ll be able to get more people back working subject to regular testing requirements. This is an enormous relief for businesses who haven’t been able to trade at their full potential.

“Masks have been the other frustration for retailers, particularly in Victoria where they’ve been mandatory for retail staff. It’s pleasing to see these requirements lifted, along with vaccine checks in hospitality venues, which will further assist Victoria’s economic recovery.

“We’re one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, and into the third year of this pandemic. The days of overzealous Covid rules are over.”

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