What Are Your Staffing Options As COVID-19 Starts To Bite?

We’re in challenging times but owning a business and employing staff has now become far more complex. Not only do you need to make important business decisions, but you are also required to meet your employment obligations.

So in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, what do you need to know? Here are 5 staffing options to help you get started. But remember, it’s complex and we’re here to help you remain compliant while taking care of your business and your people.

Option 1 – Asking Staff To Work From Home

One of your key responsibilities as an employer is to keep your workforce safe and well. The Government is recommending wherever possible that all businesses ask staff to work from home. It means you need to find ways to:

  • Ensure your data remains secure
  • Protect your staff’s health and safety which includes ergonomic workstations
  • Remotely manage and motivate your people

Your Working From Home policy should cover all of these things and be very clear on your expectations. If you don’t have a Working From Home policy, or it’s been a while since you last updated it, let us know. We can help.

You may also need guidance on how to manage a remote workforce. We can help you with that as well. 

Option 2 – Keeping Your Staff But Standing Them Down

Due to the restrictions in place, the government has closed entire industries or significantly changed the way they operate (e.g. cafes and restaurants). For others, it’s impossible for staff to work from home.

Standing down your staff may be an option. You will need to check each staff member’s employment contract, enterprise agreement or award as they could contain stand down provisions. If not, then Section 524 of the Fair Work Act will apply. 

There are very strict controls about when and how to apply a stand down. But essentially, it means staff are not required to work nor will they be paid. However, they will continue to accrue leave and compulsory superannuation contributions during the stand-down period.

We’re here to help you navigate the stand-down provisions that apply to your staff. There may also be government subsidiaries that could assist with your salary obligations due to forced closures. Get in touch to see how we can assist you.

Option 3 – Offering Reduced Hours

As the economy tightens, many business owners are weighing up whether they should cease operations or continue at reduced capacity. If you decide to remain operating, you could speak to staff about:

  • Working reduced hours or fewer days
  • Job sharing
  • Taking paid and unpaid leave for a specified period

All of these options need to be considered in light of their employment contracts, awards and enterprise agreements. Again, there are often strict requirements about how these things must be managed. We’re here to help you communicate with your staff, help calm their fears and find practical solutions to keep you compliant and operational for as long as possible.

Option 4 – Redundancies

Some staff won’t want to reduce their work hours but before you can begin the redundancy process, you need to ensure you have discussed their continuing employment options in detail and document what was offered.

In times of economic downturn, you can commence the redundancy process but care needs to be taken to ensure you meet any obligations specified in their award, enterprise agreement or employment contract. You will also need to comply with all redundancy payment requirements. We strongly recommend you speak to us before you begin any redundancy actions.

Option 5 – Flexible Work Arrangements For Homeschooling And Other Family Responsibilities

As an employer, you are required to provide flexible work arrangements and this is true now more than ever before. Use it as an opportunity to be a “hero employer” because flexible work arrangements could provide an opportunity for both of you to help each other out. 

By offering your staff reduced hours or reduced workweeks to take care of their children (and any homeschooling responsibilities), you are giving them what they need as well as reducing your wages bill. 

It could be a marvellous opportunity to build gratitude and loyalty by helping staff through a challenging time. It also means they may be more willing to respond to your flexibility by helping you with your challenges.

Depending on the award or agreement, there may be things you need to consider before you can offer the flexible work arrangements your staff require. We’re here to guide you through the entire process for each of your staff.

You’re Not Alone!

We’re all going through times of immense uncertainty and change. But there is one thing you can rely on and that’s the team from End2End Business Solutions. We can guide and advise you on your staffing obligations and options, including what’s required and what’s possible.

For practical, HR assistance on an ad hoc or regular basis, call us on (02) 8977 4002.