NSW retailers seek clarification on ‘essential services’ after Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi were listed as exposure sites | Australia News

NSW retail sector calls for clearer guidance on what businesses are ‘essential services’ during lockdown after major retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi were listed as places to casual contact for an active coronavirus case.

The public health order that plunged much of the state into lockdown on Saturday states that residents can only leave their homes for specific reasons, including the purchase of essential goods.

But the order does not specify what is an essential good, or what is an essential retailer, creating confusion over whether general retailers should remain open or not, said SDA, the workers’ union retail, fast food and warehousing.

Major retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi in Westfield Bondi Junction were listed as casual contact locations for an active coronavirus case on Monday evening, sparking calls for clarity around the public health order.

Bernie Smith, the NSW secretary of the SDA, said the public health order needed to be more specific.

“There has been some confusion as to which outlets can open as it is not clearly defined in the public health order,” he said.

NSW Health did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Smith said the lack of clarity left the decision whether or not to open up to retailers themselves and, with many businesses and workers in precarious financial situations, many felt they should stay open during the lockdown.

“People in precarious jobs may be tempted to show up for work because they can’t financially afford to stay home,” Smith said. “It’s a choice no worker should have to make.

“There is some confusion over what retailers can open. Some retailers like Myer quickly adapted and closed their doors to the public, but kept members employed by fulfilling online orders and doing click and collect.

“All retailers must prioritize employee safety when determining whether or not to open.”

Smith called on the industry to more broadly implement paid Covid leave for vulnerable workers, in light of public health orders.

“We commend many of the retailers including Woolworths, Coles, Bunnings, Big W, Dan Murphy’s and others who have paid Vulnerable Worker Leave for immunocompromised employees and older workers over the age of 70, which means they can stay home and stay safe. without loss of pay,” Smith said.

“We are also pleased with a range of retailers who have paid Covid leave in place for employees required to self-isolate due to exposure to Covid at work or in the community.

“However, although this has been achieved in a series of unionized workplaces, the fact that it is not yet universally available puts workers and the community at risk.”

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Dominique Lamb, CEO of the National Retail Association, said many retailers faced a tough decision after health orders restricted residents’ movement.

“They are allowed to stay open, the problem is that the directive for consumers is to stay home unless you need to go out for essential supplies, and this restriction on movement means that people generally do not go not in stores and shopping, they only go there to buy essentials and leave very quickly,” Lamb said.

“So whether or not they’re able to trade, it’s kind of, yeah, it’s good that they have a choice, but is it practically worth it? In many cases, that it’s not the case.

Lamb said the guidelines were confusing, especially since each state and territory had taken a different industry approach to lockdowns. She called on the federal government to establish national consistency around the lockdown guidelines.

“We’ve seen this happen for 18 months, every state and territory takes a different approach to who can and can’t trade,” Lamb said. “There is no national consistency here…every time we have an outbreak we get a different set of rules.

“And what we really need right now is to support small family businesses, because it’s difficult, and every time that happens they lose huge opportunities to sell, that’s how they survive.”

Lamb said she thought it was positive that retailers could choose to stay open, especially after a difficult 18 months.

“I think it is in the interest of the retail business to be able to trade during these times, especially when they are able to implement the proper hygiene protocols, among other things,” Lamb said. .

“Unfortunately, when we have lockdowns and restrictions on movement, it’s just not good for business. It just means our industry is likely to see a pretty big drop in sales.”

Michelle J. Kelley