The same organisations that pioneered the commercial tenancies code have today announced a Retail Recovery Protocol for COVID-19, with backing from the country's largest private sector trade union.
The protocol is designed to give confidence to the community that retailers and shopping centres will continue to follow stringent public health guidelines as current restrictions are gradually eased.
It is a document that was jointly developed and agreed upon by the Shopping Centre Council of Australia (SCCA), the National Retail Association (NRA), the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA) and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).
Key principles guiding the consistent, practical and public health-led document include prioritising public health and safety to protect people against infection, compliance with public health guidelines, working with governments and public health authorities, and helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Based on the 'limits on public gatherings' announced by National Cabinet in late March, the Protocol outlines 10 key actions that retailers and shopping centre could take:
- Making alcohol-based hand sanitiser at key locations such as store entrances, buildingentrances, customer service desks and food courts.
- Increasing frequent cleaning and disinfecting of regularly used objects and hard surfaces (e.g. payment registers, ETFPOS machines, hand-rails, bathroom door handles, shelves, shopping trolleys, counters and benches, food-court tables, staff-rooms) and other key hygiene measures (e.g. waste disposal).
- Facilitating and encouraging social distancing guidelines in accordance with Government or public health authority directions, which is currently a distance of 1.5m. Actions could include signage 'reminders', one-way queueing, and ground markings (e.g. stickers or tape) for queueing.
- Ensuring public gathering limits in accordance with Government direction are adhered to, which is currently no more than one person per 4m2 in stores (inclusive of staff), can be maintained. Actions could include regulating access points, monitoring customer counts at relevant entrances, and displaying signage.
- Promoting contactless transactions such as 'tap and go' instead of cash for payments, facilitating distancing at counters and benches, and staff wearing disposable gloves when they are handling objects and money.
- Monitoring and encouraging customer adherence to relevant public health guidelines by security guards and other personnel, which may also include Police visits to shopping centres.
- Continuing to focus on the community's access to essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and health and medical facilities, especially for vulnerable people.
- Daily check-ins with employees on their well-being, ensuring employees and contractors are properly trained and have access to relevant information and personal protective equipment (PPE). These check-ins will include monitoring customer behaviour to ensure retail workers are being treated with respect - abusive and violent behaviour towards retail workers will not be tolerated.
- Fostering open and frequent communication between shopping centre management and retailers, including to alert each party to any Government or public health authority directive, to assist authorities when required, and continue to release information and guidance to employees and customers about good hygiene advice.
- Maintaining relevant essential safety measures such as air-handling systems, exit doors, emergency power supply, smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire-isolated stairs.
The SCCA, NRA, SDA, PGA and ARA have also called on Australians to treat retail workers with respect while they continue to serve and ensure the community can access essential and other retail goods and services.
"As more people return to shopping centres, we want to assure the community our industry is working hand-in-hand to ensure that strict public health guidelines are followed and that we provide a safe, healthy and secure environment," says Shopping Centre Council CEO Angus Nardi.
"Retailers have made an enormous effort to protect staff and shoppers, working tirelessly to create a safe and healthy in environment through the lockdown period and now as most businesses prepare to reopen and serve their customers," adds Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra.
"This protocol provides the clarity and consistency that retailers are looking for at this time around best-practice."
National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb says as more retail stores start to reopen, which will see a surge in customer demand, the community should have confidence their health and safety is a priority for retailers including how they purchase goods and interact with staff.
Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association national secretary Gerard Dwyer highlights the importance of protecting retail workers and customers.
"As retail workers continue to be on the front-line serving the community, it is critical that they have a safe working environment and that public health protocols are in place to protect them and their customers," says Dwyer.
"We will continue to work closely with the shopping centre industry to ensure a united and collaborative approach," adds Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president George Tambassis.
Updated at 10:01am AEST on 1 May 2020.
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