There is no doubt that Omicron has produced a hectic start to 2022 but it’s more important than ever to make time to step outside the chaos and take a look at what you want to achieve in your business this year.
Deborah Peppard - HR Director
I’m sure you’re all as surprised, and not in a good way, that here we are for a third year navigating the Covid-19 waters….but here we are…
The Omicron variant has certainly smacked us over the head, and the transmissibility of this variant has forced us to review some of our activities in the continued effort to keep the virus contained where possible and to keep our employees safe.
Covid Safe Plans
All Covid Safe Plans should be updated asap to reflect any state and federal government changes and to reflect the increased transmissibility of this variant.
As an employer you have an obligation to the safety of your employees, so please consider what actions you can take to do so, and include them in your plan… For example, you may decide that you will introduce RAT testing regularly for all employees (if this is the case, it is the employers’ responsibility to source and pay for them), or you may decide to stagger lunch breaks and tea breaks to minimise numbers of people in break rooms for example. Your plans should be updated accordingly and changes communicated to your team.
Victorian Press Release - new rules for some sectors
Today the Victorian government has introduced mandatory booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine for some industries, and also relaxed some of the close contact isolation requirements for those in the food distribution / supply chain sector. Industries subject to the new booster mandate include aged care, disability, healthcare, emergency services, correctional facility and quarantine accommodation sectors, and there are specific booster deadlines to meet. Please read the press release accompanying this email.
While this document is only relevant for Victorian clients, N.S.W & QLD have similar rules. Clients in other states should take note of the food distribution changes in the event that this is picked up as a national standard.
Press release - read here
Positive Covid Employee
Employees who test positive for Covid-19 via a PCR or RAT test MUST advise their employer immediately if they have attended the workplace and worked in an indoor space. While a deep clean of the premises is no longer required, any close contact of the employer in the workplace must get tested and isolate.
The specific Victorian guidelines are as follows, and is a good standard for businesses in other states to follow:
A person who is a confirmed case of COVID-19 must notify the operator of any work premises at which they ordinarily work that they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and of their infectious period, if they attended an indoor space at the work premises during their infectious period. The operator of a workplace must take reasonable steps to notify employees and contractors that they have been exposed to a positive case, and to advise them of their testing and quarantine obligations. A workplace will be required to maintain a system to enable them to, where relevant, notify contacts and obtain assurance of a negative test result from an individual prior to their return to the premises.
An Indoor space means an area, room or premises substantially enclosed by a roof and walls that are floor-to-ceiling or at least 2.1 meters high, regardless of whether the roof or walls or any part of them are permanent or temporary, or open or closed.
It is important to know that even if your employee has previously tested positive to COVID19, they are still required to follow close contact / household contact isolation rules if their initial infection was more than 4 weeks ago.
Contact assessment and management guidance - download here
Businesses not being able to operate
In the event that you are unable to operate as usual due to supply chain issues or multiple employees infected with Covid-19 and/or needing to isolate, you are able to stand your employees down without pay. However, there is a requirement to consult with your employees in writing on this process.
Given that you may need to close down temporarily at short notice due to the nature of the virus, we recommend that all of our clients undertake a ‘preemptive’ consultation process for ‘potential future issues’, so that this requirement has been met in advance.
Please talk to us if you need assistance with this process so you can be in front of it in the event that you have to close part or all of your business and stand employees down OR re-deploy them to other positions or locations temporarily. We can assist with a quick and easy way to manage this to ensure you’re ahead of the game and meeting your employer obligations under Fairwork Legislation.
Work From Home Recommendation
In Victoria, the current government recommendation is that people should work from home if they can. We recommend to all of our clients nationally (excluding W.A) that they encourage a work from home environment where they can, until the current Omicron variant has peaked in each state. This is not expected to occur until at least the end of January / early February.
Businesses requesting employees work from the office may face some reluctance from their employees. It is important that employers work with their employees and listen to their concerns, remembering we are only now entering a period where children under 12 are able to receive their 1st vaccination.
It is being widely reported throughout Australia, UK and the USA that Omicron is far more transmissible than previous strains of COVID19. The below table recently released by the CDC in America shows the efficiency (or lack thereof) of masks currently being used in Australia. We strongly recommend that if a business is able to do so, they purchase masks for their teams at a rating of N95 / P2 where possible.
Many of our clients have expressed concern to us about the relaxing of close contact rules and other restrictions now not being enforced by the relevant State or Federal Government. Please be assured that you have every right to implement additional controls and measures that work for your business.
We recommend discussing with your senior leaders or a ‘committee’ of employees on what additional measures you will take as a business to combat the spread of the virus at your workplace and to keep your employees safe. You may wish to consider staggered shifts, staggered meal breaks and so on, as well as enforcing the 1.5metre distance, enforcing the capacity of each indoor space (kitchen, meal areas, meeting rooms etc.) and of course, enforcing the wearing of masks indoors even if your state government is not requiring this.
Our team has been working with a variety of clients implementing additional safety measures and are here to help you if you are not sure where to start.
The team at HR Staff n Stuff are making every effort to stay abreast of the rapidly changing Covid-19 regulations and recommendations in all states, and we will continue to provide you with information as soon as we can.
** Please note, information is accurate as at 10 January 2022 and is subject to regular updates as the Covid situation changes.
We don’t think we are over stating facts when we say that it’s been one hell of a year and for many, the upcoming summer break is a well needed salve allowing us all to refill our cup and prepare for 2022. Christmas, Boxing Day, Proclamation Day and New Year’s Day drop on a weekend so we’ve taken the confusion out of it all for you and have a lovely chart that summarises all of the gazetted public holidays so you know how to apply rates if you are open so you don’t stress out and eat all the plum pudding. You’re welcome!
The silly season is well under way, however, we thought it might be helpful to provide you with some ideas on how to communicate some last minute reminders as to expectations around appropriate behaviour when it comes to celebrating the end of another big year.
We don’t want to put a dampener on your festivities, but you know how it goes, we are your HR team and we don’t want to be party poopers but we need to make sure all bases are covered so your team are safe and your business avoids unnecessary drama!
As a small business that works with a vast array of other small and medium sized businesses, we know just how tough the last two years have been. It’s with this in mind that we want to shout out that shopping local this Christmas is more important then ever.
Whether you prefer metro or head regional, supporting the owner operated shops or strolling through any of the awesome farmers, designer and creator markets, swinging past the local strip shops or ordering online from Australian businesses, shopping local will have a huge impact to that business owner, their family and their local community.
HR Staff n’ Stuff has the privilege of working with an incredible range of local businesses across Australia from creative cookie makers, sublime chocolatiers and marvellous Mexican restaurants to those doing amazing work in the manufacturing and/or shop fitting space, event creators and interior designers to name but a few industries. And best of all, we love matching up our clients so if you are looking for some great corporate or family gift ideas, or you need an incredible partner for a project in the new year, let us know and we will hook you up!
Christmas carols and mince tarts have appeared at the supermarket and ads are appearing on tv highlighting the deliciousness of hams and the joy of giving. Yep, that’s right, Christmas is coming at us like a freight train and will be here in less than seven weeks. Oh my…..
With all the uncertainty about lockdowns and density quotas you may not have sorted out your end of year function and if that’s the case, we have some thoughts for you to consider….
You can not turn on the tv, radio, open the internet or read the paper (does anyone still read the paper?) without seeing, hearing or reading about mandatory vaccinations. It’s an emotive topic for some, practical and reasonable for others but the essence of it is that vaccinations are a key element to our country reopening.
As HR consultants to a wide range of industries, we are fielding a range of questions about mandatory vaccinations so we are going to cover off the top 5 questions we are being asked in the hope that it helps resolve questions you may be struggling with in your business.
With the announcement by the various state governments regarding mandatory vaccinations for specific industries / authorised workers, employers need to manage the process including communication with employees who are choosing not to be vaccinated by the declared deadlines.
As an employer, you have the following options in managing the public health orders in relation to mandated vaccination in your business:
Deborah Peppard - HR Director
Can you make vaccinations mandatory in your business?
Can you require employees to prove their vaccination status?
To the first question, probably, but it depends…
To the second, yes you can…
Let me tell you more….
Roy Morgan recently released data that shows the significant level of annual leave Australians have banked due to the Covid-19. The inability to travel freely means many are keeping a higher stash of leave than ever before. This information was looked at by The Age and our very own Deborah Peppard was quoted in the article. But in true HR Staff n’ Stuff style, we have more to say on the subject as we believe access to, and the use of annual leave is something business owners should be looking at now in preparation for states and international borders reopening.
Deborah Peppard - HR Director
The past couple of years have been tumultuous when it comes to casual employment – the definition of casual has been the subject of a legal case and a subsequent appeal followed by new legislation that came into effect in March 2021. September brings with it a key deadline regarding casual conversion so let’s take a look at what you need to know and what you need to do…
It is a requirement that your business has a Covid Safe plan but did you know you are required to update it every three months or when there is a major change in government directions? Now that you do know, we also want to suggest you incorporate plans that cover what needs to happen in case any of your team is deemed a close contact.
If your business is engaged in any of the following industries or specific services within Victoria, employees are required to be regularly tested for COVID-19 if they are considered an essential worker i.e. they are working onsite).
It’s clear that the Delta strain is causing havoc around Australia and lockdowns and restrictions are updated daily. With the latest tightening in Victoria and reviews ongoing in New South Wales, we thought it would be helpful to have a quick summary of all that is happening as it pertains to employment around Australia:
Did you know that it is never too late to start?
Start what you ask?
Well, anything is the answer.
Just because you didn’t go to university, doesn’t mean you can’t go and get yourself a degree when you are 68. You’re 43 and don’t know anything about computer coding? Still not too late to learn. Have an idea for a business but think that at 52 you’ve missed the boat? Nope, not true. As long as you have breath in your lungs, it’s never too late!
If you choose to own or run a business that has employees, you have a legal and moral obligation to pay them. Seems simple right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case and so in Victoria, it is now a criminal offence to underpay or dishonestly withhold employee entitlements.
This past week has shown us just how precarious the Covid situation really is in Australia. While vaccination rates are low, the reality of ongoing lockdowns and restrictions will be felt by all, with new lockdowns, increased restrictions, state border lockouts, quarantining and self-isolation throwing all sorts of personal and business plans into disarray. Which brings us to the question of employees travelling…
The Fair Work Commission has determined there will be a 2.5% increase to the national minimum wage as well as applying to all award wages with a staggered roll out to be implemented. This increase delivers $18.80 a week extra to Australia’s lowest paid workers on a 38-hour week. The increase is less than the 3.5% the ACTU was lobbying for but more than the 1.1% championed by the Australian Chamber of Commerce (ACCC).
Of late, we have been looking at strategic planning and now we want you to think about Hedgehogs – specifically your business Hedgehog and how it aligns with your BHAG.
Wait, what? Hedgehogs?
It's easy to think that HR Staff n’ Stuff is going off the rails with talk of cute woodland creatures supporting Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Blame Jim Collins as he took us down this path but it is definitely an outing worth taking...
An important question that HR Staff n’ Stuff is being asked at the moment is about whether or not employees can or should access personal leave in order to receive their Covid vaccinations. Let’s take a look at your options…
COVID-19 is back in the news in Melbourne with a fifth case announced today that is linked to those in the City of Whittlesea outbreak. Restrictions are back in play to keep us all safe by minimising spread of the virus - details as they currently stand are as follows:
Very few businesses succeed without good old fashioned hard work but that is only part of the success equation. Hard work alone is no longer the only piece of the puzzle. Strategic planning is an important element that is key to businesses success, and all companies great and small should engage in regular and proactive planning to ensure their business is going where it should, and that they have the resources in place to get them where they want to go.
Hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, the latest Federal Budget will be handed down next week on 11 May and it’s sure to come with things that will delight and things that will upset depending on what you, your family or your business needs. As an HR consultancy, we aren’t really in the business of speculating about what the government might do but one area that is of importance to all and will require business leaders to manage, are the proposed changes to Superannuation Guarantees….
Many of us know the feeling. You may be sitting in a meeting with your team, a client, an agency, a potential business partner and you wonder when they are going to call you out for being a fraud. A pretender. A no nothing who has no business being in that room. That is Imposter Syndrome, and you may be stunned to learn that it is far more prevalent that you can ever guess.
Kristi Sinclair - HR Professional
Spending time on Facebook and Instagram we are exposed to and often consumed with other people’s personal lives. Reality TV takes this voyeurism to a whole new level - just ask a Kardashian or a MAFS contestant – taking a peek at someone else’s life can be intriguing. It’s even more fun when we talk about it with friends and pass our judgements on what was screened. Move that interest in what others are up to into real life and factor in how much time we spend our colleagues, and it’s only natural that we are curious about their private lives. As our connections grow, so does the level of information we share with one another leading to stronger bonds and positive work cultures. But sometimes these conversations are nothing more than gossip sessions that can be hurtful to the people involved and are most definitely damaging to your business.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!