Coronavirus Laws: Is Sex Work Banned?

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All Forms of Sex Work Still Permitted in Victoria

At 11:59pm on on 12 April 2022, Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions were once again updated, removing mask requirements in indoor spaces (with some exceptions still applying). Masks are no longer required to be worn for sex work bookings. All forms of registered and licensed sex work still permitted to operate.

Employer

For the purpose of vaccine mandates, a person who employs or engages a worker. Self employed people, including self-employed sex workers, are also classified as ‘employers’. Private sex workers are self-employed workers.

Sources & Notes

Schedule 2, Division 1, clause 3(1) of the Guidance for the Pandemic COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Workers) Order 2022 (No. 6)

Fully Vaccinated

A person who has received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine or one dose of a one dose COVID-19 vaccine. 

Sources & Notes

Schedule 2, Division 1, clause 1(2) of the Guidance for the Pandemic COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Workers) Order 2022 (No. 6)

Fully Vaccinated (Boosted)

A person who has received a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Sources & Notes

Schedule 2, Division 1, clause 1(3) of the Guidance for the Pandemic COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Workers) Order 2022 (No. 6)

Open Premises

An on-premises type of business subject to vaccine mandates and/or density limits. Brothels, strip clubs and sex on premises venues are on the list of Open Premises and are subject to vaccine mandates and density limits. There are currently no limits for vaccinated patrons in these venues. 

Sources & Notes

See row 14 of Schedule 1 of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6)

Overview of Victoria’s New Pandemic Orders

All forms of sex work and stripping can still occur under new Pandemic Orders which apply equally to all parts of Victoria. All workers and patrons in on-site sex industry businesses and strip clubs must be fully vaccinated. Workers can travel anywhere within Victoria to engage in work. Masks are still required in strip clubs and brothels, with some exceptions applying. Density limits no longer apply apply to on-site sex industry businesses, including brothels, strip clubs and sex on premises venues.

Permitted to Operate in Victoria

  • All registered private sex workers
  • All licensed brothels  and escort agencies
  • All licensed strip clubs 
  • All sex on premises venues 

Our Submission on Coronavirus and Sex Work

After receiving considerable feedback from the sex industry, we made a submission to the Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our 2020 submission identified a need for the Victorian Government to provide clear, timely communication in plain English about what coronavirus restrictions mean for the sex industry. The fact that no written material has been provided in languages other than English is of particular concern, given that around 50% of sex workers in Victoria are migrant sex workers.

View our submission

View all submissions

Each state in Australia has a form of special coronavirus laws to combat the virus. Victoria’s current COVIDSafe settings affect businesses, including sex work businesses. By sex work, the Victorian government means physical, person-to-person sex work.

The new coronavirus restrictions are now called ‘Victoria’s pandemic management framework’ and are issued under Part 8A of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic), by the Minister for Health (currently Martin Foley). The Minister can only issue ‘pandemic orders’ if the Victorian Premier has first declared a pandemic.

Common Questions (updated 16 April, 2022)

No, not for vaccinated patrons. Brothels, strip clubs and sex on premises venues are not required to limit the number of vaccinated patrons inside their venues. 

Sources & notes

Row 14, column 2 in Schedule 1 of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6)

No, masks are no longer required to be worn in indoor spaces, with a few exceptions applying.  Mask requirements do not apply to sex work bookings in Victoria.

Sources & notes

See clause 8(1)(b) of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Movement and Gathering) Order 2021 (No. 5) and clause 8(1) of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Workplace) Order 2022 (No. 7)

No, masks are no longer required to be worn in indoor spaces, with a few exceptions applying. Masks are not required to be worn in strip clubs.

Sources & notes

See clause 8(1)(b) of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Movement and Gathering) Order 2022 (No. 5and clause 8(1) of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Workplace) Order 2022 (No. 7).

Even though strip clubs often serve food and drinks, for the purposes of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Movement and Gathering) Order 2022 (No. 5)strip clubs are classified as ‘entertainment premises, not ‘retail premises’ or ‘food and drink premises’. See clause 11(1)(b)(x) of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6) for the definition of ‘entertainment premises’. See clause 12(1)(c) of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6) for the definition of ‘food and drink premises’.

Yes, if they are conducting on-site sex work. This includes brothel work, private sex workers doing incall booking and strip clubs.

A private sex worker doing an outcall visit to a client’s house/hotel is not required to be vaccinated. This is because vaccine mandate requirements apply to on-premises, or on-site workplaces only.

Sources & Notes

Employers must record the vaccine status of all their workers operating outside the workers place of residence. Employers must not permit unvaccinated workers to work outside the workers home. 

See Part 2, Division 3, Clause 12 of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6)

Exceptional circumstances apply to this requirement, but the roles and responsibilities of sex workers or strippers don’t fall within ‘exceptional circumstances’. See Part 2, Division 2, clause 10 of the Pandemic COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Workers) Order 2022 (No. 6).

Row 14 in Schedule 1 of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6) defines brothels, strip clubs and sex on premises venues to be ‘Open Premises’. Clause 8 of this same Order states that all Open Premises must require people over 18 to be vaccinated before they enter an Open Premises.

No. Booster vaccines does are only required by what the orders call ‘specified workers’. Sex workers, stripper and people working in sex on premises venues are not on the list of ‘specified workers’.

Sources & Notes

See Schedule 1, Row 12 and Schedule 2, Division 2, Clause 15 of the Pandemic COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Workers) Order 2022 (No. 6).

No, not for outcall bookings. This is because the ​​Victorian Government vaccination requirements only applies to on-site premises.

Source & Notes

Part 2, Division 1, Clauses 8(1) and Part 2, Division 1, clause 10(1) of the6Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 5) says that this Order only applies to Open Premises. Row 14 of Schedule 1 defines sex industry open premises to only include on-site sex industry businesses. Outcall services are not part of the definition of Open Premises.

Yes.

Sources & Notes

The Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6) requires customers, patrons and clients of certain types of businesses to be vaccinated in order to be allowed into certain businesses. Row 14 of Schedule 1 says brothels, strip clubs and sex on premises venues are classified as ‘open premises’ and are therefore subject to this Order and its requirements that customers must be vaccinated to enter these types of businesses.

Also see Part 2, Division 1, clause 1(2), Part 2, Division 1, clause 8(1)(a)(i) and Part 2, Division 2, clause 11(1).

No, as they  are doing off-site work. This is because vaccine mandate requirements apply to on-premises, or on-site workplaces only.

Sources & Notes

Vaccine mandates apply to on-site workplaces, such as strip clubs and brothels. Private workers going to outcall bookings are not classified as on-site workplaces. Neither are escort agency sex workers.

See row 14 in Schedule 1 of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6)

The sex industry, strip clubs and sex on premises venues are all classified as ‘entertainment’. 

Sources & Notes

Row 8, schedule 1 of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6)

We don’t know. The current pandemic orders are due to expire on 12 April, 2022. Until that time the existing pandemic orders remain in place in Victoria. After 13 April, 2022, the Minister for Health Martin Foley may choose to extend the pandemic orders in their current form, relax the orders or make them even stricter.

The Minister for Health has the option to change pandemic order levels at any time. In the future, the orders could become more strict or less strict. We have to wait and see.

Sources & Notes

Clause 4(1) of the Guidance for the Pandemic (Open Premises) Order 2022 (No. 6)

If your enquiry is about business or work, contact the Business Victoria hotline on 13 22 15 from 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week.

Fines and Penalties

Pandemic Orders will be enforced through spot checks by Victoria Police and use of pandemic and public health risk powers by Authorised Officers. This ensures compliance with Pandemic Orders made by the Minister for Health and directions given by Authorised Officers.

Industry bodies, Victoria Police, WorkSafe, and Authorised Officers will work together to inform Victorians about the Pandemic Orders, as well as undertake enforcement and compliance activities as needed.

Sources & Notes

See the Victorian Government’s Coronavirus webpage titled ‘Fines, enforcement and reporting

Maximum penalties for breaching ‘Pandemic Orders’ depend on who commits the breach:

Individual – up to $10,904 fine (60 penalty units)

Company (body corporate) – up to $54,522 (300 penalty units)

Public health regulations lay out individual, much lower fines for specific breaches, such as failing to wear a mask. Read more on the Department of Health’s webpage.

Sources & Notes

See section 165BN of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic)

Between 01/07/2021 and 30/06/2022 1 penalty unit is set at $181.74.

https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/justice-system/fines-and-penalties/penalties-and-values

Penalty units are revised and generally increase each year on the 1 July.

What About Contact Tracing and the COVID-Safe App?

Contact tracing occurs when the government contacts people who they suspect have been in contact with someone who has an infectious disease. Contact tracing is not new, and has been used for years in relation to a number of infectious diseases. 

In order to speed up contact tracing during coronavirus, the Federal government has released a smartphone app called COVID-Safe, use of which is voluntary. Millions of Australians have already downloaded the app, but serious privacy concerns remain with how the data will be used and who will have access to it. 

Thorne Harbour Health has a guide to the CovidSafe app

Thorne Harbour Information on CovidSafe app

Centrelink Support

Information about government support payments is available on the Australian Government website.

Seeking Work Outside the Sex Industry

Many sex workers are currently considering their options and applying for work outside the sex industry. Once again, the law creates barriers to sex workers seeking alternative employment. Victoria’s anti-discrimination laws do not protect sex workers from discrimination by prospective employers.

In 2020, Fiona Patten’s Sex Work Review considered many aspects of sex work, including any reforms to anti-discrimination laws.

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2022

Last updated: 17 April 2022