As business owners and leaders, the more we know, the better equipped we are to make great decisions. As Brian Tracy says, “The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis” and we are being tested now that’s for sure, but we can’t panic. We must remain calm and poised and take the most reasonable action for the health and safety of our people and ourselves.
NextGen HR are closely monitoring the ongoing Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Based on guidelines from the World Health Organisation as well as federal and provincial health agencies, our priority is to support our clients and any other small business operators with information that will help to mitigate as much risk to their business and people as possible.
We are committed to supporting you and your teams during this time of uncertainty and are continuing to deliver a high quality and reliable service to all of our clients.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING
Every business should be reviewing their current business continuity plans and preparing strategies to help ensure the continuity of essential services and employee connectivity in preparation for the inevitable workplace quarantines and/or widespread work from home scenarios.
We recommend you and your teams review the following questions:
- Do your employees have secured laptops they are able to take home?
- Will your VPN or remote access solution support the increased load if most or all employees are trying to connect?
- Do you have the tools in place to allow your staff to collaborate with each other and your customers when not in the office. Some examples are;
- Phone and video conferencing solutions – are your staff equipped with telephones at home?
- Chat or team based collaboration tools such as Office 365 Teams
If you need support in ensuring your IT infrastructure is effective and will protect your business, we recommend KMT Group – www.kmtgroup.com.au and (03) 9975 7910
WHAT WE ARE DOING TO ENABLE US TO OPERATE
We have established a team who are mandated with the responsibility to monitor the current situation, provide updates and ensure we have appropriate measures in place to minimise any health risks to our staff and clients – this is our primary concern.
The protocols we have advised our clients on and are recommended for any business include:
- Conduct an audit of staff’s home workstations and set up including internet connection speed, workstation chairs and desks to ensure staff can operate effectively and without injury at home.
- Collaboration and video conferencing tools install for communication allowing all your employees to work from home for extending periods.
- Suspend non-critical client site visits. Client meetings to be managed via collaboration tools such as video conferencing and Office 365 Teams, Zoom or Skype.
- Arrange dedicated client facing staff who will work from home and attend critical client visits. This will reduce the risk of any cross contamination between client sites and your people.
- Quarantine staff who have travelled recently or feeling unwell. Any of your staff who have returned from overseas travel or are feeling unwell should be instructed to work from home for a period of up to 14 days.
- Hygiene guidelines within our workplace. Instruct your staff to ensure they are washing their hands, wiping down workstations, avoiding touching eyes or mouths.
- Communicate with your staff as regularly as possible. NextGen HR provide the most up to date information to all our clients, simply click here to be included in our mailing list
To assist you and your business in ensuring your people are productive whilst working at home, and understand the risks associated with working alone at home, we recommend reaching out to Workpro – www.workpro.com.au / 1300 975 776. Workpro are renowned for providing compliance-based online training for employees and have a number of modules suitable for these challenging times.
If you require assistance in developing policies to deal with and control infectious diseases such as the COVID-19, or checklists to ensure your employees remote working stations are set up to effectively work from home, or any general support regarding pay and conditions, please call Xavier on 0417 314 736 today. Free resources and the latest information from the Department of Health can be found here – www.nextgenhr.com.au/resources
Payment for leave / leave types
If a worker has been told by their employer to remain at home and isolate themselves as a result of fears of exposure, they must be paid as usual.
This even extends to precautionary measures such as:
- Being told to isolate as a result of the outbreak for a period of time to be on the safer side, this technically counts as a suspension from work and means that the worker should continue to get paid normally, without the need for any leave
- If a worker is sick, regardless whether its COVID-19 or not, they are entitled to take paid sick leave, providing they have an accrued entitlement and produce medical certification (if required). Otherwise, they should take the leave as unpaid
Given the Australian Federal Government has legislated that any person coming home to Australia from Overseas must self-isolate (or face fines and legal charges), employers SHOULD:
- Ensure any employee who has travelled, for leisure or work, outside of Australia from Monday 16th March, self-isolate and DO NOT return to work.
- Communicate with their remaining staff that a colleague has been overseas and as a result is self-isolating for the period of time required
- If working from home is not an option, or possible and an employee has voluntarily travelled overseas and returns to Australia after this date, they should take annual leave or unpaid leave should their balance of annual leave not be sufficient.
The Fair Work Act does not have specific rules for these types of situations so employers and employees need to come to their own arrangement. This may include:
- Taking sick leave if the employee is sick – and can provide medical evidence
- Taking annual leave
- Taking any other leave available to them, such as long service leave
- Arranging any other paid or unpaid leave by agreement if the option to work from home is not present.
Employers need to balance their legal obligations, including those relating to anti-discrimination in these unprecedented times.
Can I let someone go if they have COVID-19 or are in self-isolation?
The simple answer is NO. That would be discriminatory and in direct conflict with the Fair Work Act.
What if my business is suffering a major downturn in sales?
There are many options available to small and medium sized businesses in these circumstances. As much as this is unprecedented situation, remaining calm and following all current obligations under the Fair Work Act must be followed.
If major workplace change is to occur, most awards and enterprise agreements will have a workplace consultation requirement. That is, to inform your workforce of all possibilities, including redundancies, pay cuts, changes to work patterns and rosters. To understand your obligations, please contact Xavier today.
Business Statutory Obligations
Information for small and large business with respect to PAYG withholding, BAS/IAS and payment plans can be found by clicking here:
For support, we recommend KSR Partners. KSR Partners Director, Stuart Flanigan can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org at any time to answer any of your business obligation, tax compliance and reporting requirements to the best of his ability, and with the ever-changing landscape we find ourselves in.
It is expected that the Government will provide further updates on mandatory shutdowns, relief packages and decisions. We will continue to keep you and all clients updated as quickly as possible, and of course Xavier is available on 0417 314 736 at any time to discuss any other measures depending on your circumstances.
Please note: the information contained above is general in nature is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this publication is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.