Omicron arrives in the Far North, by Sarah Russell
Each business owner needs to assess the risks in their own business and develop a strategy to deal with staff absences, delays in the supply chain, and change in consumer demand.
Businesses need to do what they can to ensure their staff and customers remain as safe as possible and minimize the risk of Omicron spreading through the workplace.
Use of face masks is now commonplace, certainly for everyone who is customer-facing. Additional considerations you’ll have are those situations where social distancing cannot be achieved e.g- staff breaktimes, seating arrangements etc.
But if/when a member of staff does catch Omicron, how can the impact on your business be limited?
- You might consider splitting staff into teams (back to ‘bubbles’!?);
- Those who can work from home, do so…. though with the probable impact on productivity;
- Increased use of technology for meetings – a tool we recently used for our team meeting of 20 staff – all sat at desks either in one of our two offices or working from home and were still able to all converse naturally;
Anything to avoid all staff being together in one place and therefore risking everyone getting sick at the same time!
And the cash impact of having a staff member off sick for a period? Minimum sick leave entitlement was increased by the government in July last year, from 5 days to 10 days paid leave. This is, however, supported by an allowance available for a staff member’s absence owing to Omicron, the ‘Covid 19 Leave Support Scheme’.
Where a member of staff must self-isolate either with Omicron or under some other official advice (for a minimum of 4 days) and CANNOT WORK FROM HOME, employers may claim, on employees’ behalf, $600 per week for full-time employees or $359 for part-time. This is then put towards paying your staff’s sick leave entitlement, or annual leave should they have already used up their sick leave.
There is also financial support available where a staff-member has been officially advised to get tested and therefore must self-isolate, until a negative result comes back, and again CANNOT WORK FROM HOME. This is called the ‘Covid 19 Short-Term Absence Payment’ - one-off payment of $359 is available for employers to apply for on their employees’ behalf, again to be put towards payment of sick or annual leave.
Again, minimizing the impact on cashflow must be a key-focus for businesses. As it is taking longer to get supplies, you may consider holding higher stock levels to ensure you can satisfy your customers.
But, of course, there is a cash cost in holding more stock. This may necessitate a conversation with your bank manager to obtain more working capital, and they may require a cashflow forecast to support this funding request. Alternatively, you may need to ask customers for advances or deposits for larger value sales.
If you have any queries, there is a lot of COVID information on the government website www.covid19.govt.nz/isolation-and-care/financial-support or ask your friendly PKF business adviser!