Australia’s three-step plan to reopen the economy, explained for SMEs

reopening businesses and economy after covid-19 with three-step plan

Sydney-siders shopping in the city pre-COVID-19

Featured | Small Business

By Loren Webb

The National Cabinet has announced Australian’s three-step plan for reopening the economy and businesses. 

All states and territories can implement these steps at their own pace, as there are no strict rules, however Morrison has said that he would like Australia to have a covid-safe way of living in July. 

These new steps will have a serious impact on small businesses no doubt, however, these clear guidelines do allow employers to adapt and start to develop new business models in order to build revenue again.

For example, cafes and restaurants can have up to 10 patrons in step one, and 20 in step two (with exceptions). This is a very limited capacity for lots of venues, so take-away services must still be a large part of operations. Even by step three, the limit remains at 100 patrons – for many businesses. 

Below is a full business-focussed summary of the government’s three-step plan to assist SMEs with navigating a COVID-safe way of working going forward. 


Step one is all about taking small steps, prioritising the missed connection with family and friends. It allows small groups of people in both homes and the community. Business will start to reopen, and more people will return to work. 

The work situation 

  • You should work from home if it suits both you and your employer
  • Workplaces need to develop a COVID-safe plan which complies with social distancing guidelines (i.e. 1.5 metre distance between employees)
  • Employees should avoid public transport in peak hours 

This may lead to some significant changes in the workplace such as staggering shift times, having A + B team rotations and rethinking layouts and hot-desking. It may also have implications for continuing the working from home option long-term.

Working parents / parent employees

  • Child care centres, primary and secondary schools will reopen, but only as per state and territory plans, which are yet to be announced following this news

Retail (including property) industry 

  • Retail stores will reopen but stores and managers must develop COVID-safe plans as above
  • Auctions/open homes can have gatherings of up to 10, but must record contact details

Entertainment industry 

  • All that must remain closed in step 1: Indoor movie theatres, concert venues, stadiums, galleries, museums, zoos, pubs, registered and licensed clubs, nightclubs, gaming venues, strip clubs and brothels
  • The only exception will be restaurants or cafes that sit within these type of venues, which may seat up to 10 patrons at one time

Gyms and fitness industry 

  • In the Step 1 phase, there can be no indoor physical activity, including all gyms. 
  • Only community centres, outdoor gyms, playgrounds and skate parks are allowed, with up to 10 people
  • Pools will reopen with restrictions (based on social distancing)

Hospitality industry – restaurants & cafes

  • Restaurants and cafes can now reopen under Step 1, however they can only seta up to ten patrons at one time and all patrons must maintain an average density of 4m2 per person
  • Food courts cannot have seated patrons but can be open for takeaway 

Beauty industry

  • Hairdressers and barber shops will reopen but must record all customer contact details
  • Beauty therapy, massage therapy, saunas and tattoo parlours remain closed


The second step of the government’s three-step plan will introduce larger gatherings (only slightly) and will allow more businesses across industries to reopen. Mostly across industries this is an increase from 10 customers to 20 customers. ‘Higher risk’ activities will have higher restrictions to adhere to. 

The work situation

  • No change from step one 

Working parents / parent employees

  • Same as above

Retail (including property) industry 

  • Same as above, however auctions/open homes can have gatherings of up to 20 (still imperative to record contact details)

Entertainment industry

  • These businesses can now reopen with up to 20 patrons: indoor movie theatres, concert venues, stadiums, galleries, museums and zoos
  • Pubs, registered and licensed clubs, RSL clubs, casinos and nightclubs must remain closed 
  • Exception like above – Restaurants or cafes that are in these venues may seat up to 20 patrons at one time (an increase of 10)

Gyms and fitness industry

  • Up to 20 people (increase from 10) are allowed to participate in outdoor sports
  • Up to 20 people allowed to participate in all indoor sports, including gyms (in step one these were still closed) 

Hospitality industry – restaurants and cafes

  • Same as above, however cafes and restaurants can seat up to 20 patrons at one time, an increase of 10 

Beauty industry 

  • Beauty therapy and massage therapy venues, as well as tattoo parlours, can now reopen with up to 20 clients in the premises and business owners must record contact details
  • Saunas and bathhouses must remain closed


The final step of the three-step plan is by no means ‘the end’ of the COVID-19 world we’re experiencing. It’s aim is to allow all businesses to operate but in a COVID-safe way.

It is still not great news for lots of larger scale businesses – think Fitness First gyms that will still be limited to 100 customers – and bars and nightclubs still don’t have any clear answers at this last stage.

However, by this point the working world will look a lot more ‘normal’ than how it looks now.

The work situation

  • Return to workplace with the workplace COVID-safe plan in place
  • Still avoid public transport in peak hour

Working parents / parent employees

  • Same as above – depending on states, all childcare and schools may reopen in the previous steps, or it may have to wait until this step (depending on cases)

Retail (including property) industry 

  • Same as above but now auctions and open homes can have gatherings of up to 100, still recording contact details
  • To reiterate, by now shops are open 

Entertainment industry

  • Venues open in step 2 may now have up to 100 patrons – quite a big jump up from 20 (reminder, this is: indoor movie theatres, concert venues, stadiums, galleries, museums and zoos)
  • Restaurants or cafes in these venues may seat up to 100 patrons at one time
  • Consideration will be given to opening bar areas and gaming rooms (pubs, registered and licensed clubs, RSL clubs, casinos, nightclubs) 

Gyms and fitness industry

  • All venues allowed to operate with gatherings of up to 100 people only, keeping social distancing measures intact (an average density of 4m2 per person)
  • Community sport expansion to be considered

Hospitality industry – restaurants and cafes

  • Cafes, restaurants and food courts can seat up to 100 people but need to maintain an average density of 4m2 per person

Beauty industry 

  • All businesses are allowed to open with up to 100 people and must continue to record contact details

Keep up to date with our stories LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram. We will be covering state and territory coverage on the three-step plan as much as possible, as announcements are made.

Related Articles

We don't want a casual relationship

Our mission is to give you all the information you need to grow your business.

The only way we can reliably do that is via email.

Signup for daily updates about Australian Business and special offers.

You have Successfully Subscribed!