Despite Covid-19 having first emerged in Australia in early 2020, it is now almost two years on and businesses and individuals across the country continue to suffer from its consequences. Whilst the damaging effects of the pandemic have by no means been industry-specific, there appears to be no doubt that the petroleum and retail convenience industry continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19 more than most.
There has recently been a number of concerning reports detailing a sharp increase in workplace shortages faced by service stations and convenience stores across the country resulting from the practical difficulties caused by current government mandated ‘close contact’ rules and regulations. These shortages have only been exemplified in light of many service station and convenience store workers reportedly being on 457 student visas, which in most circumstances allows up to a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight of work.
As a result, many service station and convenience store operations have struggled to remain open for trade, or have either been forced to reduce opening hours and/or work overtime causing severe emotional and financial stress, both for business and families alike.
The Australian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAMPA) in particular has been advocating for change in a pre-emptive attempt to avoid the burden of supply chain problems which have previously been seen in the UK.
These measures have included:
- Removing the 40-hour fortnight cap on student working visas;
- Reducing isolation requirements for close contacts so that a person could work with a negative result and no symptoms;
- Removing barriers for older workers (those 65-years and older) by reducing tax impediments and increasing compensation for workers of this age group.
Acknowledging the value of the industry, the National Cabinet has agreed to ease isolation rules for certain sectors and temporarily relax working hour restrictions for eligible student visa holders, however this is expected to be reviewed in the coming months.
It is worth noting that, whilst many rent abatement clauses contained in leases for service station and convenience stores may have protected tenants due to government mandates and restrictions in the past, these traditional clauses are extremely unlikely to have permitted rent abatements due to a shortage of staff. The impacts of COVID-19 continue to challenge the stability of the petroleum and retail convenience industry through its shifting patterns and businesses will need to learn to adapt to these variations.
Rostron Carlyle Rojas Lawyers are experts in service station, franchising and convenience, and property law matters. If you require any assistance with your business or have any general queries in relation to the legal aspects of the industry, please contact Rostron Carlyle Rojas Lawyers on (02) 9307 8900 or by email at [email protected].
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