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COVID-19: Important information for SDA members

Across Australia the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 (or coronavirus) is impacting everyone in our community.

The SDA understands this is a distressing time, especially for retail staff in supermarkets. Supermarket workers are frontline workers ensuring Australians have food on the table and essential items. The SDA is here to support you.

The situation is ongoing and changes rapidly and the SDA is doing its best to ensure that your health and safety at work is the number one priority.


  • Your health must not be put at risk during this time
  • Your safety must be a priority and your employer should have increased measures in place that keep you safe
  • You must have financial and job security during an increasingly uncertain time

You can contact your local SDA Branch here.


The SDA is committed to the safety of our members and keeping workplaces safe throughout the pandemic. That has always been our first priority for members. This includes priority access to vaccines for SDA members who want them as essential frontline workers. To date throughout the pandemic the SDA and our members have been served well by following the available health advice from competent health authorities.

Covid is an important public health issue. Health authorities are focused on protecting community health and safety which in turn protects our members.

This is a complex issue and the SDA remains committed to our members safety.

Whether Covid vaccination is a requirement in a workplace is a serious decision that should not be left to individual employers and should only be made following public health advice based on risk and medical evidence and where required implemented through the use of appropriate and limited Public Health Orders.

1.      We support priority access to vaccination for retail, fast food, distribution and hair and beauty workers.

2.      All workers should have an entitlement to paid vaccination leave.

3.      We support and encourage members to seek medical advice in relation to vaccination.

4.      We do not support individual employers making decisions about mandatory vaccination of their employees.

5.      If a Public Health Order is made requiring vaccination for workplaces, by a government or Chief Medical Officer, it should only be made:

  • a) Following public health advice based on risk and medical advice;
  • b) After proper government consultation with unions & employers on the need for and the implementation of a vaccine mandate;
  • (c) With sufficient time and supply of vaccine to enable workers to obtain medical advice and vaccination;
  • (d) Workers required to have mandatory vaccination must have a choice of the vaccine they receive;
  • (e) Exemptions need to be granted on accepted medical grounds;
  • (f) Financial assistance is available for any worker, regardless of age, who is unable to work due to an inability to be vaccinated because either c or d above could not be met or due to e.

It is not the role of retail and fast food workers to enforce customer compliance with check in requirements and/or the vaccination status of customers. These are matters for the Police and public health authorities.

Read information from Safe Work Australia here
Read information from the Fair Work Ombudsman here

For more information on COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace click here.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with your local SDA Branch.

Wearing a mask may be a requirement in the State or Territory in which you are working.

Regardless of where you are in the country, you can still choose to wear a mask at work and this should be provided by your employer.

For more information on Masks in the workplace please click here.

Health & Safety

Your employer must be doing everything they can to provide you with a safe workplace and there should be new policies that protect you during this time.

Ten Point Plan for Health and Safety Measures:

The SDA is engaging daily with major companies on arrangements being put in place to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

On top of measures already introduced the SDA is calling for retailers to:

  • Promote ‘cash free’ and accept card payments.
  • Install plexiglass screens at cash registers to protect workers who cannot keep at least 1.5 metres from customers.
  • Ensure social distancing measures are in place and enforced including display of signage, floor markings, register use and the regulation of customer numbers.
  • Ensure hand sanitiser approved by the Health Department is readily available to all staff. (Current standards require at least 60% alcohol content)
  • Provide workers with gloves and personal face shields where requested.
  • Provide bags free of charge for each purchase to avoid handling of customer bags. No use of customers’ used bags unless the customer bags it themselves.
  • Continue to increase security to assist in enforcing social distancing, customer volumes, purchase limits, access limits and in dealing with unreasonable customers. Police resources may also need to be deployed to protect workers.
  • Ensure regular cleaning and sanitization of the workplace, including workstations, personal protective equipment and individual vests in self-serve checkout areas.
  • Take a zero-tolerance approach to customer violence and abuse.
  • Publicly promote the SDA’s No One Deserve A Serve campaign to improve customer behaviour.

SDA is also calling for ALL Fast Food Operators to put health & safety measures in place to protect you.

The adapted 10 point safety plan specific to the Fast Food industry is outlined below:

  • Promote ‘cash free’ and accept card payments only.
  • Ensure physical distancing measures are enforced, which includes controlling customer numbers and flows, signage and floor markings in customer spaces, all production areas, service areas and employee spaces.
  • Install plexiglass screens at registers to protect workers who cannot keep at least 1.5 metres from customers.
  • Ensure appropriate safety measures are in place for staff when delivering orders to customers in the car park.
  • Only one employee allowed in or at the drive thru window at any time.
  • Sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content is readily available to all staff and customers.
  • Ensure regular cleaning and sanitization of high touch areas, workstations, self–serve screens and personal protective equipment.
  • Provide each worker with their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including headsets, aprons, gloves and masks where requested, and Hi Vis vests.
  • Increase security to assist with physical distancing measures, and abusive and aggressive customers.
  • Take a zero tolerance approach to customer violence and abuse and publicly promote the SDA’s No One Deserves A Serve campaign to improve customer behaviour.

Read about the SDA’s 10-Point Health and Safety Plan for the safe re-opening of shopping centres for workers, customers and the economy here.

COVID Safe Workplaces in Hair and Beauty

As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed and shopping strips and centres continue to get busier, our hair and beauty workers are presented with dangers that could compromise their health and safety if not addressed appropriately.

The SDA have been working with Safe Work Australia (SWA) across industries to ensure appropriate steps are taken to help reduce the risks workers face.

Safe Work Australia’s steps for minimising the spread of infection in the Hair and Beauty Industry have now been released.

For more information specific to Hair and Beauty workers you can visit our webpage:

For the full information including physical distancing, cleaning and other measures : Safe Work Australia Hair and Beauty industry guidelines

Vaccination Leave

We are calling on all employers to provide additional paid vaccination leave for their workers, so no one has to choose between getting paid and getting vaccinated.

We have already seen several employers announce additional paid vaccination leave, including Officeworks, Bunnings, Kmart, Target Woolworths, Big W, H&M, Dan Murphy’s and BWS.

Other employers should follow the example set by these companies and provide additional paid vaccination leave for their workers. No one should have to lose pay or use their entitlements in order to receive their vaccinations.

Essential service payment for frontline workers

The SDA has called for a $5 per hour increase for workers as an essential service payment during any lockdown.

If only essential services are allowed to operate then frontline workers including those at supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations and convenience stores should receive higher wages.

If you are working now during shutdowns, you are considered essential, whether you’re a retail, pharmacy, fast food or warehouse worker.

Many workers are already working around the clock under extremely difficult circumstances, it’s only fair for their wages to reflect their efforts to keep Australia running during this time.

Sign our petition calling for an essential service payment here.

Paid leave

The SDA is calling for special paid leave for all workers if they have to self isolate – whether you’re a full-time, part-time, casual or contract worker. Show your support for this by signing our petition below.

We’re calling on employers and the Morrison Government to provide this.

Casual workers are at risk of having to go without pay if they are required to self-isolate leaving them vulnerable to having to choose between going to work sick or paying the bills. That’s why the SDA is also pushing for paid leave for casuals as permanent staff will continue to be paid and have access to personal leave.

Retail industry rescue package

The retail industry urgently needs a retail industry rescue package from the Federal Government to help workers and businesses. Click here to read more. Key measures include:

  • Wage subsidy for all retail workers to protect their income and their jobs
  • A means tested underwriting of a line of credit for retailers, to ensure they can continue to trade without being insolvent; and
  • A government guarantee of rental payments to landlords or the Federal Government facilitating with landlords to reduce the rent with all savings by employers to pay employee wages

Read more about the JobKeeper wage subsidy here

No abuse or violence from customers

We continue to call on the community to show all retail workers the respect they deserve during this time, there is no excuse for abuse and violence. If you experience an abuse or violence from a customer, report it. Share our message to shoppers to respect retail workers here.

Paid leave

The SDA is calling for two weeks special paid leave for ALL workers who are required to self isolate because of COVID-19 regardless of whether they are permanent, part-time, casual or a contract worker.

Retail Rescue Package – Wage Subsidies

In great news for workers, the Federal Government has listened to our calls and announced a wage subsidy scheme for businesses and workers affected by COVID-19.

This means all full-time, part-time and casual workers (casuals need to have been employed by more than 12 months) of eligible employers will receive this JobKeeper payment of $1500 a fortnight backdated to March 30.

This amount will be paid directly to employers, who will then have an obligation to pass this full payment onto workers.

For an employer to be eligible they must have seen a reduction in turnover of 30% due to the COVID-19 crisis (50% for employers who have $1 billion turnover or more). Not all employers will be eligible.

The SDA will be engaging with the Government on the details of this package to ensure fair access this payment.

We are also working with employers on if they are eligible and how this will be implemented, and we will update members once we have more information. If you have recently been stood down, you don’t need to do anything at this stage.

You can’t receive both the JobSeeker payment, through Centrelink, and the JobKeeper payment from your employer. If you are in receipt of the JobSeeker payment, you’ll need to work this through with Centrelink if your employer agrees they will pay you the JobKeeper payment.

Read more here:

Latest Health Advice

Please keep up to date with latest health advice from the Federal Government here. Your state or territory government has additional advice. It is crucial that you look after your physical and mental health during this time and follow important advice to protect yourself and others.

Business Closures

The Prime Minister and National Cabinet as well as State and Territory governments may have implemented social distancing rules and required the closure of businesses. Check your State and Government websites to find out more  Read more news from the Federal Government here.


Government Payments

The Australian Government announced social security payments for both new and existing clients of Centrelink whose hours have reduced or are unemployed. Read more here. Following calls from the SDA, unions and businesses, the Australian Government has also announced ‘JobKeeper’ payments for businesses to pay for wages. For support for business read more here.

The entire retail industry continues to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and this includes stores and companies shutting down.

We understand this is an incredibly difficult time for you and the SDA is here to support you if this happens.

For information on what you should do if your company shuts down please click here.

Regardless of low stock levels, changes to trading hours or long customer waiting times, there is no excuse for abuse and violence from customers.

Your employer must have a process in place so all employees know what to do when incidents occur.

Please continue to report all incidents at your workplace so there is an official record of the abuse or violence.

If you experience abuse or violence from a customer and are unsure what to do, ask your manager or supervisor for help dealing with the situation.

SDA members have for several years been campaigning to eliminate abuse and violence through our No One Deserves A Serve.

Please share our video message – There’s No Excuse For Abuse – with your family and friends.

Your employer should have new policies and procedures in place for the health and safety of employees during this period.

You should also keep updated with advice from the Federal Government Department of Health here.

There are some important things you can do:

  1. Wash your hands regularly
  2. Use hand sanitiser between customers (this should be provided by your employer)
  3. Clean or wipe down your work station / check out regularly
  4. Keep a safe distance from customers where possible
  5. If you feel unsafe or have concerns, discuss these with your manager

Be proactive about looking after your health. If you are sick, do not attend work.

If you believe you may have contracted coronavirus, seek professional medical advice (initially by telephone) and inform management.

The National Coronavirus Hotline is 1800 020 080.

The Australian Government has issued a 14-day self isolation period for anyone entering Australia starting Sunday 15 March 2020.

If you are currently overseas, you will need to do this. Seek advice via the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080. You should inform your employer as soon as possible and confirm the process in place at your store.

The SDA is calling for special paid leave for all workers if they have to self isolate – whether you’re a full-time, part-time, casual or contract worker. Show your support for this by signing our petition below.

We’re calling on employers and the Morrison Government to provide this.

Casual workers are at risk of having to go without pay if they are required to self-isolate leaving them vulnerable to having to choose between going to work sick or paying the bills. That’s why the SDA is also pushing for paid leave for casuals as permanent staff will continue to be paid and have access to personal leave.

Check with the SDA to see what applies to you in your workplace.

The additional leave will also be accessible should you be required to look after an immediate family member or a member of your household who has been directed by a medical professional or a relevant government health authority to self-isolate, be quarantined due to COVID-19 or meets the criteria to self isolate.

This would include having to look after your children should schools and or day care centres be closed due to measures taken the government to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Major supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths have announced changes to trading hours during the current crisis.

For more information on trading hours in your State or Territory, Please contact your local SDA branch.

You can find their contact details here.

I am struggling during this time, where can I get professional mental health support?

If you are struggling with your mental health or need professional support at this time, we have a list of useful resources.

Ph: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue
Ph: 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline
Ph: 1800 55 1800

The National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service
Ph: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

Now more than ever, it's crucial to stand together. Join over 200,000 retail, fast food and warehouse workers.