Summary of COVID-19 support for
businesses and their employees
Unprecedented times have called for unprecedented measures to support Australian businesses impacted by COVID-19. With the changes coming thick and fast, we’ve compiled a summary of the latest updates to help you navigate them.
The JobKeeper Payment
If your turnover has been impacted by the coronavirus, and you employ staff, you may be eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment. There are a number of criteria you need to satisfy but essentially, the Payment is available to eligible employers including companies, partnerships, trusts, sole traders, not-for-profits and charities. The Australian Government will provide $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee for up to 6-months to businesses registered for the JobKeeper Payment.
You may find this Australian Government Fact Sheet useful and of course, you are welcome to speak to us.
Support to retain apprentices and trainees
Australian small businesses employ around 117,000 apprentices and trainees. The Government is keen to keep them employed and training so it has introduced a subsidy for trainees or apprentices who were in-training with a small business as at 1 March 2020. To apply, an eligibility assessment is required by an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider.
Flexibility for modern awards
Temporary changes have been made by the Fair Work Commission to enable more flexibility within modern awards. To date, 102 awards have been varied. Contact us for more information.
Free childcare to keep people in work
In a bid to ensure childcare centres stay open, the Australian Government has announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package. The package makes childcare free during the coronavirus pandemic and will be reviewed in three months’ time.
Businesses having to close, reduce hours or stand down employees
Not all employees will be eligible for JobKeeper Payments, and some businesses may need to close, reduce their opening hours or stand down employees. To support impacted employees, the Federal Government has added a COVID-19 supplement to JobSeeker payments, widened the eligibility criteria for the payment and increased the payment amount.
Financial support available to businesses
The Federal Government has continued to build on its economic stimulus plan, announcing the second stage of economic stimuli in a bid to keep businesses open and see households through this crisis.
Keeping on top of new information
With so many changes afoot and no slowdown in the amount of new information coming through the door, keeping on top of things can be a big ask. The HR Dept is here to help. Our capable team are here to provide expert support in a myriad of ways, from helping you understand changes to awards, through to business continuity, remote working support, managing absences, understanding pay, restructuring your workforce and more. Please let us know how we can help you.
How to discuss reduced hours or
job loss with employees
It’s no secret that many businesses and their employees have taken a huge financial hit thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. We urge you to be sensitive to the financial well-being of employees when reducing hours or standing down staff. After all, financial well-being is an important aspect of an employees’ overall well-being.
How do you handle these tough decisions right now?
Start by being open with your employees. Discuss their options with them, being mindful of the stress these discussions may cause. During discussions, signpost and highlight the support available to them such as emergency relief from community organisations, additional Centrelink support through JobSeeker payments, and early access to superannuation payments.
Additional support may also be available through their banks. Encourage them to approach their creditors to discuss their hardship provisions. If they are unable to manage or are overwhelmed, encourage them to access the free and impartial debt counselling support available to them.
Remember, if you are too uncomfortable or troubled by having this type of conversation with your employees, ask us for help. We can guide you through the process or have the conversation on your behalf.
Video conferencing support for
We’ve entered new territory, where working from home is the new norm for many. This transition may be difficult for some staff but once the novelty of working from home wears off, employees may need advice and guidance to help them stay motivated and productive.
It’s also the era of digital conferencing which could be unfamiliar territory for staff. Provide them with additional support by:
- Helping employees learn the basics of their video conferencing technology.
- Reminding them to dress appropriately – especially from the waist up!
- Asking staff to have a neutral backdrop to avoid embarrassing or humorous frames with family members or loads of washing in the background.
- Encouraging video-based meetings to be purposeful, concise and considered.
- Encouraging employees to maintain professional etiquette by removing distractions, keeping eye contact with the camera and to only unmute their microphone when speaking.
- Beware of chat facilities! Remind employees that the chat facilities will be recorded to avoid the chat area from becoming a private whinge fest.
When working from home, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and leisure, causing employees to work too much or not enough. So:
- Start the day with a call to help employees maintain a daily routine.
- Encourage employees to create sign-off rituals at the end of the day to help them switch off.
- Remind them to report sick days as per company policy.
- Keep an open dialogue on how they’re managing.
- Promptly discuss any behaviour that is not healthy or productive.
Most of all, let them know you are there to support them and work through any challenges together. If you need help to manage your team remotely, talk to us.
Crisis leadership and keeping your team motivated
In times of crisis, employees need strong leadership. But leadership has become a whole new ball game.
The secret to successful crisis leadership is to support your managers and team leaders and upskill them as you go. Pinpoint employees who show leadership capabilities and upskill them as well.
To keep your remote-working employees motivated during the lockdown ensure you:
- Keep communication lines open. Make it a priority to keep staff in the loop when it comes to what’s happening in the business and any changes that may be coming. An employee’s need to feel engaged and part of a team doesn’t change when they work from home. If anything, it becomes more important.
- Adjust your expectations. Be clear about what you need to do and how you’ll do it – taking into account each employee’s personal challenges.
- Keep an eye out for subtle changes in behaviour. Your team are under an immense amount of pressure, their reactions may not be positive.
- Upping your praise. Define what success looks like and be willing to praise any efforts made.
Everyone needs support from their leaders so if you are feeling challenged with this new era in leadership, get in touch. We’re here to help.
Boosting morale through community spirit
Australian’s have great community spirit. The principle of Australian ‘mateship’ often brings people together during a crisis or emergency in new ways to help those in need.
Volunteering is one way to do this. It presents many opportunities for business communities by:
- Boosting morale
- Offering physical and mental health benefits
- Providing employees with an opportunity to work on transferable skills such as problem-solving and teamwork
In the midst of our Coronavirus shutdowns, you can still volunteer to help others. In fact, in some ways, it’s even more important to do so. To sign up for volunteering during the pandemic, contact Volunteering Australia, or visit the Go Volunteer website to find current volunteering opportunities.