Business, People and Covid-19
My last months article on business continuity and contingency planning, I broadly covered aspects around having a plan in place for times of crisis.
The time of crisis is here and it’s hit hard and quite quickly. Sectors which have already been struggling have little resilience left to keep trading, and the coming months ahead are going to be tough.
Thankfully, the Government has come forward with a support package for businesses quickly. It provides a breather but whether it will be enough, time will tell. Businesses are having to respond quickly as the situation we are all faced with, changes on a day to day basis. Many businesses I have talked to and are working with are reducing hours, and looking at alternative working options before redundancies.
The first step, and I’m sure most employers will have done this already, is having an honest and open conversation in good faith with staff around the Covid-19 situation and what it means for the business. Unlike any other event, it’s a time for people to work together, share concerns and fears and look at how we can work together to keep businesses fluid.
It’s also important, that even though we are moving through unprecedented times, that good process is still followed. Employment agreements and workplace policies set out the basis of the employment relationship the process for changing the terms.
As employers we do have the right to make changes within our business and structure it as we see appropriate but genuine business reasons must prevail.
As always, employers need to document all decisions and reasons about any change that might result in an employee’s job being significantly changed, hours being reduced, or an employee being made redundant. Present situation being that most employers will be citing financial downturns, which are easy tracked and documented.
There still needs to be a consultation process. It may be that because of the developing situation that this can’t be as long as it would usually be, but there is a still a duty of being fair and reasonable. This process would include giving affected employees information about the suggested change and an opportunity to provide feedback on it.
Currently along with the amount of panic buying, a lot of employers are also panicking about their financial forecasts and rightly so. Some have already been struggling for months and this situation will make their businesses untenable. However, where possible I would urge businesses, to take up the Government support package on offer. Where you can, reduce hours rather than make employees redundant and look at alternative ways of working. I know this isn’t possible for some businesses. But when Covid-19 disappears, we need to get businesses and the economy moving again. Staff are assets and good people are hard to come by. With less foreigners in the country, the skill shortages are going to be even more apparent and when it comes time to move forward, we are going to, more than ever, need the right people in our businesses.