COVID-19 – Implications for Employers series – Part Three – Business Continuity
Over the coming days The Sector will be bringing you an informative series, designed to explore the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for employers. Covering issues such as employee safety, workplace obligations, leave entitlements and managing business continuity, the series is a must-read, tailored to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, based on generalised advice from law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
In part three of the series, we explore business continuity, including flexible working arrangements, working from home, supporting employee wellbeing and managing hours of work.
Where possible, and particularly for those considered to be vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, employers should offer the option of remote working. For those employed in ECEC who have roles which involve direct care and supervision of children, this may be a challenge.
Despite this challenge, employers should have in place policies, processes and procedures concerning working flexibly. For those who do not have these established, or for those who have not reviewed them in light of the current circumstances, Corrs Chambers Westgarth recommend the following:
- Review existing working flexibly policies – does your policy set out what is required of employees working from home? You should be looking now at how you will ensure the health and safety of people working remotely and updating your policies if necessary.
- Communicate flexible working policies and expectations around working remotely – are employees aware of various on-going obligations around confidentiality and safe work practices when working at home? In particular, it will be important to remind employees of the current processes and requirements for working safely.
- Review and test your support mechanisms for employees working remotely over extended periods. The possibility that large numbers of employees will be required or permitted to work remotely will challenge the systems of many employers. For many, it may be a new way of working. Effective execution extends beyond your IT capabilities, which are of course critical.
As well as monitoring the wellbeing of employees “in what threatens to be a highly anxious environment for many”, leaders and managers will need to consider how they might manage performance during the pandemic, regardless of whether employees are on site or working remotely.
When people are anxious or insecure about the state of the world, this may impact their performance at work. Likewise, for those employees who are new to remote working, or who are juggling competing priorities, additional expectations and support may be required.
Managing hours of work
For those who are remote working for the first time, one challenge may be managing overtime, and creating a division between work and home.
Employees should be aware that while there may be occasions when they are requested to work additional hours, as is reasonable and necessary in a salaried position, employers compliance obligations remain during periods of crisis.
Employers should communicate their expectations in relation to overtime to all employees, including those working remotely.
Further information in relation to the points above is available on the Fair Work website, here.