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Business Planning and Managing COVID-19 in 2022



HAPPY NEW YEAR...LET'S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS

Happy new year from the team at Streamline HR. We hope you enjoyed the holiday season and were able to take a much-needed break and recharge your batteries.

In our first newsletter for 2022, we thought it was timely to focus on business planning and how you can plan and prepare for the new year ahead, so that your business continues to be agile, adaptable, and successful. We also take a look at the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 and some of the important factors you need to consider when navigating your business and employees though this very challenging time.

 

WHAT IS BUSINESS PLANNING ALL ABOUT?

As a business, the start of the year is a great time to reflect and work on establishing key goals and a clear plan for the year ahead. Knowing what you are working towards not only keeps you on track as a business, but it also provides direction and guidance to your most valuable asset, your people!

Business planning doesn’t need to be hard. The key to good planning is keeping it simple!





Start with reflecting

Start off by reflecting on the year that has been and taking a deep dive into how the business performed, what worked well and what didn’t. Did you achieve what you set out to and what factors most impacted or contributed to the performance of the business.

Set your goals

When setting goals, look to your vision, mission and values to give you guidance. What is your purpose? You could use trusted tools such as a SWOT analysis, balanced scorecard, or a 1 page plan. Whichever approach you take, make sure your goals are linked to why you’re in business, are relevant, and achievable.

Set your plan

Think about how you can bring your plan to life and make it a reality and what you need to achieve your goals. What are the quick wins and longer term strategies? What skills, people and resources do you need to implement your plan.

Send out the message

Once you have developed your plan, make sure you communicate it to your team. Better still, take them along for the journey and get them involved in the process, so they are truly invested in the future of the business.

 

COVID-19, THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Over the last month, the impact of Omicron on businesses, has been significant. Many businesses have experienced staff shortages due to isolation and quarantine requirements, as well as shortages of products, supplies and issues with distribution and logistics. Some of the factors you need to be aware of and consider when managing your employees during this period are outlined below.


1. End of border restrictions

Queensland's hard border is no more, meaning everyone, regardless of vaccination status,

can now enter the state. As mentioned last month, only fully vaccinated people can attend:


  • Queensland Government-owned galleries, museums, libraries

  • outdoor entertainment activities and festivals

  • indoor entertainment venues, convention and entertainment centres, showgrounds

  • hospitality venues

2. Checking in

Regardless of whether your business is classed as essential or not, or what tier or industry you fall under, all staff, customers and visitors much continue to check in via the Check in QLD app or something similar.

3. Managing staff absences and verifying illness

With the surge in COVID-19 cases, it is important for employees to give employers and senior managers reasonable notice of illness and to estimate how long they will be absent.

Employers and employees should also be aware there may be difficulties in verifying illness, a situation not helped by well-publicised issues around supply of Rapid Antigen Tests and PCR testing wait times. Whereas a medical certificate used to do the trick, in these days of isolation a certificate is not required, as long as employees comply with all relevant testing and isolation requirements.

4. Masks, the inside story

As a reminder from Sunday 2 January 2022, the Queensland government mandated that everyone must wear a mask indoors everywhere in Queensland, including all indoor workplaces such as offices, unless unsafe to do so. There are some occasions where you are not required to wear a mask. Some of the major exemptions including:

  • when performing work where clear visibility of the mouth is required or essential, e.g. a speech therapist in a hospital or healthcare setting

  • where a mask needs to be removed to clearly communicate

  • a person with a particular medical condition or disability

  • sitting at a workplace or standing at a workstation where you can maintain physical distance from others

  • a person who works alone in an office does not need to wear a mask

  • workers who move around the workplace or who have frequent contact with people (such as at a reception or sales desk) must wear a face mask

  • if wearing a mask creates a risk to a person’s health and safety or where it is not safe to wear a mask

  • in an emergency or when required by law

  • a person who removes their face mask under an exemption must resume wearing a face mask as soon as practical


5. Managing COVID-19 cases at work


If one of your employees is diagnosed with COVID- 19, they must immediately isolate for at least 7 days from the date they took a test, that returned a positive result. Their isolation can end when any of the following take place:

  • you have not had fever and acute respiratory symptoms for the last 48 hours (or the only your only remaining symptom is a very mild dry cough which is persistent but not getting worse)

  • 7 days have passed since you took the COVID-19 test that returned a positive result and

  • you have not received a further direction to isolate under the Public Health Act 2005

If employees are still experiencing symptoms on day 7 of isolation, they must follow the Queensland Government guidelines and isolate for longer. Employees are not required to have another COVID test to end their isolation, so as a business you can not mandate that they get tested and/or demonstrate a negative result to return to work.

Where there is no requirement under a public health order, work health and safety law, registered agreement or employment contract, there may be some circumstances where an employer may still be able to direct an employee to get tested. However, requirements or directions of this nature, need to be lawful and reasonable


6. Close contacts and critically essential workers

Much like diagnosed cases of COVID-19, close contacts are required to undergo 7 days of quarantine. However recently, new guidelines were released in relation to critical industries and critically essential workers.

Specifically, a close contact who is a critically essential worker can leave quarantine to go to their workplace, provided the critically essential worker and their employer meet the requirements for critically essential workers.


A critical industry is:

  • health, including aged care, disability care and pharmacies

  • emergency services, including police, the Queensland State Emergency Service, maritime rescue, the Coast Guard, the Rural Fire Service, and national defence and security

  • power and utilities, water and waste management

  • stores in remote locations or communities

  • essential retail, including supermarket workers such as night fill staff and service stations

  • freight and logistics, including freight transported by air, rail, road or sea

  • public transport

  • education, including primary, secondary and kindergarten school teachers

  • agriculture and fisheries production

  • resources

  • major manufacturing, distribution and critical supply chains, including food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and petrol

  • telecommunications, data, broadcasting and media services

A critically essential role:

  • requires a person with particular skills; and

  • must be performed in person at the workplace; and

  • must continue to be performed to:

- prevent an immediate risk of death or serious injury to a person; or

- prevent serious harm (social, economic or physical) in the community

If you are a business and employer operating in a critical industry, you can create a list of critically essential roles. If your employee is a close contact required to perform a critically essential role, they can leave quarantine (under certain conditions) as long as they:

  • have no COVID-19 symptoms

  • are fully vaccinated

To do this, businesses will need to follow the critically essential worker guidelines, as outlined on the QLD Government website.


7. The run down on leave

If one of your employees can’t work because they have to quarantine or self-isolate, they may be able to use paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave. If sick leave isn’t available, as an employer, there are other options you need to consider such as annual leave and flexible working arrangements, if the employee is well enough to work during that period.

On top of this, if an employee is on annual leave and they become unwell, under certain circumstances, they may be able to convert their annual leave to either sick or carer's leave if they become unwell or need to care for a member of their immediate family or household during their annual leave. For comprehensive guidance on what leave options are available, please refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman


8. Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

On top of the leave options above, employees may be able to access the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment. Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is a lump sum payment to help employees during the time they can’t work and earn income because they have to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19, or because they are caring for someone who has to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.

To find out if they are eligible, employees can go to the Services Australia website for more information.


To ensure that you are supporting your business and employees throughout the pandemic, the best approach is to stay abreast of the government mandates and requirements, plan and communicate with your team. If you need any assistance with any of the topics discussed in the newsletter, please reach out to one of our team at any time.

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