COVID-19 is here to stay so you need a plan to reduce its impact on your business.
Construction was lucky enough to get through the first wave unscathed, however the second wave has not been so kind to our Victorian colleagues who have borne the brunt of the harshest lockdown restrictions Australia has faced so far.
A cap on staff numbers on building sites has brought the industry to a screeching halt, leaving many contractors without an income.
Now is the time to sit down and make a COVID Management Plan, so that if/when the next wave hits you are prepared and your business has a better chance of surviving the practical and economic stress of a lockdown.
Here are some practical steps you can take to safeguard your staff and your business:
1. Isolate Teams
Split your staff into teams and isolate them from all your other teams. This way, if a staff member is infected you’ve only lost one team, not you whole workforce.
- Keep each team on the same site as much as possible
- Avoid moving teams between sites
- Avoid transferring staff between teams
- Insist staff wear a mask at all times, maintain social distance of 1.5m and practice good hygiene*
2. Isolate Management
Now’s the time for your management team to work from home and/or out of their car. Keep them isolated from each other, so you don’t lose your whole management team at once. Ways to do this:
- Skype site meetings
- Conference call management meetings
- Encourage staff to work from home
- If you must visit site maintain social distance of 1.5m minimum, conduct meetings outdoors, avoid touching tools and equipment and practice good hygiene
Avoid sharing tools and machinery with other teams.
If you do need to share a piece of equipment, disinfect it before handing it over to the new team. And, when dropping off the equipment maintain social distance.
Reduce deliveries to a minimum. When receiving a delivery maintain social distance of 1.5m and disinfect the delivery before handling it.
Cancel all subbies where possible, and when that is not possible insist they maintain social distance and practice good hygiene.
6. Work Pipeline
If possible, try to have a number of different types of sites on the go at one time. The government is making the rules up as they go, so you may get lucky and keep a small income stream open while the rest of our sites shut down.
7. Government Handouts
Keep a very close eye on the government stimulus packages and Job Keeper announcements. As soon as they are announced get onto your accountant to claim them ASAP (you can submit the claims yourself, but the small fee the accountant will charge is worth it for the guarantee you will get the money). This money will give you an income and help you keep those valuable staff you have worked so hard to train.
8. Work Functions
Avoid all large work functions. Cancel the Friday beer and barbecue and cancel any nonessential meetings.
Here is a link to the Department of Health guidelines: https://www.homeaffairs. gov.au/news-media/current-alerts/ novel-coronavirus
Now that you’ve reduced the risk of COVID-19 shutting down your business due to illness, you need to plan for when it shuts down due to lockdown measures. The second wave Melbourne lockdown saw most construction sites grind to a halt because of the restrictions placed on workplaces. There was a five-person limit and residential work was not permitted when the resident occupied the premises. This saw residential sites grind to a halt overnight and with it thousands of people without work. A similar effect was felt in the commercial sector.
Here are some serious questions you should know the answer to before that day arrives:
- How much sick pay and holiday pay does everyone have?
- If all the sick pay runs out, can you afford to pay staff out of your own pocket?
If so, for how long?
- To answer that question you need to know:
- Your weekly outgoings? o Your weekly wages?
- How long you can keep paying expenses without an income?
There is absolutely no point being generous and helping staff if you run your business into the ground in the process.
The decision to pay staff, and for how long, will be a heat wrenching one. They rely on you to pay rent, but if your business doesn’t get through the lockdown you won’t be able to help them in the long-term. It’s better to make the hard decisions early and stick to them.
Here is a link to FairWork’s Coronavirus publication: www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws
The federal government has strongly encouraged big business to pay all outstanding invoices to keep the economy going, so DO call in all your debts ASAP. The healthier your bank account the easier it will be for you to get through this crisis.
It is best to be open with your staff about the situation. Do speak to them all (via phone if possible) to explain the situation and the measures you are taking to safeguard their jobs.
Write up a Pandemic Policy, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for my Pandemic Policy template.
I hope you do make a COVID Management Plan, but I hope you never have to use it!