Managing Through COVID-19 Crisis: Final Session of Friday’s With Ed

Published November 23, 2020
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In today’s session of Friday’s With Ed, topics covered included casual overtime changes, guidance for South Australian employers in lockdown and looking ahead to 2021.


  • Managing Through COVID-19 Crisis: Final Session of Friday’s With Ed

    Ed: …here on Friday for our usual session which is our last one. For now, at least. And I will have to stay looking to my left here and very curious look as I might change my mind this week. I might do. We’ll see. But it is the last one for the moment for this reason. Remember the why of this session is to make sure that we’re helping you guys with all things workplace relations and any challenges that you might be facing at the moment. The reality is we’re getting much closer to businesses normal or businesses, you know, still far from normal but from a workplace relations perspective there’s not that much changing at the moment. The utter confusion of JobKeeper seems to have settled down. The issues that flowed from JobKeeper are also starting to settle down. We can see that in our advice lines here in terms of the questions that we are getting. The questions that we’re getting now are much more normal workplace relations questions, if there was ever such a thing, that’d be probably quite abnormal, but they’re less to do with the crisis and I’ll talk a bit more about that later in the session as well.

    Of course if things change and…you know, we can see in Adelaide and South Australia this week just how vulnerable we are to more twists and turns in this crisis and I’ll make sure that I make myself available for future sessions. But to the extent that I’m not being useful, I don’t wanna clog up the airwaves just chatting with Lee here who sits off camera and with Stevie as well. Very much my backing singers. I want to emphasize backing in that he says that there have been 68 of these sessions. I said, “Are you sure? It feels like there’s been more.” And he says, “Well, right,” in a few when he wasn’t involved. So he only counts the ones that he has contributed to. He thinks we’re just wasting our time other than that.

    So no. We’re…yeah, on Session 68. It’s been a good run. It may well yet come back again. I remind you about Employsure small business circle. I go on there myself and answer some questions. I may well chuck a couple of live or recorded messages around changes on there as well as we see them, so keep an eye on that. I think we…in the last count, we’re getting up to about 10,000 members or something, aren’t we? Huge on that. So it’s great to see. Please keep that up. We’ll make sure that we’re providing help through that.

    I’ve just seen…you know, having just said no one’s got any crises going on there…Naomi, who is one of our top fans according to both Facebook and me because I see her up here most weeks and she’s in SA in lockdown, so let us know how it is Naomi. I saw that you’re not even allowed to go out and get any exercise. So I’d be fascinated to hear what the vibe is down there. We’ve got about best part of 10 people who work for Employsure in and around Adelaide and we’re helping them through it at the moment. I’d be interested to hear how you’re going, Naomi, with your…what was proposed to be a short sharp lockdown, we’ll have to see.

    So what are we gonna talk about today? A little bit on IR reform. A main bit on casual workers and the changes that we’re seeing happen today. A little bit on New Zealand sick leave and then finally, a bit of a chunk on HR and leadership stuff. Just talking to you a bit about what we’re doing here at the moment and some of the stuff that I’ve been listening to and reading this week.

    So IR reform. I’d stress that this is a little bit…there was a speech last night by the prime minister who basically said, “Don’t get your hopes up about IR reform.” Yeah. We thought we were riding a wave where everyone was feeling very supportive and collaborative through COVID but probably just missed that one. To be honest, everyone got a bit too ideological and any changes that you see coming up are unlikely to be anything more than what he described as pragmatic, I think so…which normally is politician’s word for not much change.

    So watch your space but that’s the latest on IR reform, a bit of a talk about how they might change the boot test on enterprise bargaining but, honestly speaking, I’m not sure that’s gonna affect many, if any of the small business land that watches this. And the enterprise bargaining is really mainly a big business tool.

    So, you know, watch your space but there’s a bit of a sort of a precursor to the fact that it doesn’t look like the IR reform has got anywhere significant. What is quite significant is that today marks the day that the…the way in which overtime is paid to some casual workers is changing here in Australia. I’d urge you…we’re gonna post up on here to have a look at the fact sheet relating to that to see whether your reward is affected. If your reward is affected, whether your casual workers might be affected and if they might be affected whether you’d need to have to delve into understanding how their overtime, if any might be paid which might result in an increase in their pay. It could in some circumstances result in a decrease in their pay. And then there’s a whole raft of rewards in which nothing’s happening.

    So it is a tricky change because it applies to not an insignificant proportion of rewards but it doesn’t apply to everyone. So I’d urge you to have a look at that fact sheet. Go onto…I think the comments on here…we’ll post it through, if not, on our website. It should be highly visible there so that you can get a sense as to whether you have to address that with your payroll officer whether that’s a bookkeeper that you use or whether you do it internally. You need to make sure that you’re paying your casual staff from today in accordance with the changes.

    Next thing. New Zealand did a bit…remember in the reform over there they’re looking at increasing the sick leave available to employees, amidst a growing sort of grumble and mumble about that over there. It hasn’t happened legislatively yet. It’s…but people are saying, “Look, during the crisis, surely that should be getting paid for by the government. You can’t just start chucking burdens at us.” So I think, you know, that’s the sort of thing that’s happening in industrial relations, workplace relations at the moment, is that we’ve gone…we’re coming out the other side of the crisis in terms of lots of mania and change and new things are getting announced on, you know, one day that we’ve gotta become experts in the next day. If you think about just in the portion of time from March to now how many terms and words in both Australia and New Zealand have appeared that we didn’t even know existed before, JobKeeper, JobSeeker, JobMaker and so on. Those are the things that just were never around before. All of that change happened very instantly. What we’re getting back to is much more of this continuous evolution of workplace relations. So New Zealand talk about enhancing sick leave. The debate becomes a political one. Should that happen at all? If it happens, should the government pay for it for a period? And so forth. So that’s the sort of thing that’s going on in workplace relations land at the moment which makes me think you guys are gonna be more all right on your own without me appearing once a week until things get chaotic again, if they do.

    And I’ll use that as a segue to get onto the HR and leadership stuff. I hope that they don’t get chaotic again. Hope though is not what we should be practicing as leaders and managers of our businesses. We’ve gotta carry on preparing for the worst. So I’m trying to walk that tightrope here in this business at the moment. You’ll have heard me talk on here about how I’m trying to now lead our team here by the concept of setting a finish line for this crisis. And so basically when we break for Christmas on the 24th of December, that’ll be the finish line for us and we’re gonna stop talking in the language of crisis and then we’re gonna hit the New Year talking about how things are again normal for us albeit in a distorted version of what we previously saw as normal. And the reason I’m doing that is I think being in crisis constantly is draining. I don’t think it’s sustainable. I think that the team starts to fatigue by constantly feeling like they’re on the edge of their seat waiting for something dramatic to happen. And I want people to settle into a better rhythm.

    Now I’m obviously taking a bit of a punt on things like the situation in South Australia not taking us significantly backwards. We had a bit of a scare in New Zealand in the last week or so as well. You know, we got a message late one afternoon that we needed to close the office the next day and then well, did we actually need to do it or was that just what was requested if we could? That sort of chaos again doesn’t help anyone really. It’s really quite hard to deal with. You’ve gotta I think somehow elevate through that and start giving a narrative to your business that just takes you out of that highly reactive mode, the firefighting mode into giving people a message that is, “We’ve gotta start adapting to this and seeing this as a new normal.” And with every forward step, there may be some form of backward step but we need to make sure that we’re not just in that crisis mindset.

    So that’s what we’re doing here. And in that vein, what we’ve had over the last two or three days is an on-sight, off-site. So normally, once a year, what we call here our leadership crew which is both our directors and also our executive leadership group which numbers about 20-odd people, we normally go on a junket to one of our other offices. Nowhere hugely glamorous ,but we go to one of our other offices to making sure that we are visiting those different places whether it’s in…we’re here in Sidney, whether we go to Melbourne, Brisbane, Oakland, Sunny Perth. But this year because our current strategy or current plan is that we are in a cash preservation mode, we’re doing our off-site, on-site this year. The catering hasn’t been as lavish as it normally is. No wild nights out or anything like that. So all of the corporate gluttony has been shed this year and we’re sticking to our day job of actually planning for the year ahead.

    And we’ve been going through a session on that and I thought it might be useful just to give you an insight as to how we do that. You’ll all have your own versions of planning. You know, I know sometimes a small business land, having been through that myself as well that sometimes it’s quite hard to plan with forethought with any real look into the future, just because you just don’t know what’s gonna be happening. I’d urge people to try and do some format of planning. Bear in mind that for us, you know, we are planning now in November when our financial year actually starts in April. So we’re about five months out from the start of the financial year but we’re already looking into that year. And the years beyond as well to understand what we describe here as we used before as our why, our how and our what for the year ahead. The why being our mission, the how being our strategy, the what being the plan, the things that we’re going to do in order to deliver our strategy which delivers into our mission for the year.

    So my job in that context…and I see my job in explaining to those 20-odd people is that my job is to set the mission for Employsure, our why for the year ahead. And our mission overall hasn’t changed. The crisis hasn’t changed the fact that we’re all about helping small business. We describe it here as…we want to help build better business starting with better workplaces. And that’s what we’re trying to help our clients with.

    Within that, I look at what the year ahead holds for us as a how, what’s our strategy to achieve that next year. And our end-of-line how is to consistently achieve sustainable client growth. So the word sustainable for us means that we are spending the right amount of money finding clients. We are finding clients that want to use our service and stick around as well and pay the bill obviously. That’s an important part to anybody’s business model. And understanding how we grow in a way that means that we’re not going backwards in terms of profitability and things like that. So all of those things mesh together into the strategy. There’s a sort of also a theme that goes with next year in that, I’m trying to be very clear to the business that I’m not without ambition but I’m also very conscious of the…I suppose, the bruises and bumps that we and every other business has got from this year. I don’t want to therefore be overambitious and make a load of pushes into dire strategic directions I’m not sure that we’re realistically gonna achieve next year. I’m describing next year as a healing year. And what I’m asking the team to do is work out what the balm is what they’re gonna put on the bumps and bruises to make sure that we heal and get back to our sustainable client growth, to make sure that we’re going in the right direction for the long-term future, not just for next year.

    So we’re midway through presentations today which have been very good this morning from various departments saying, “Look, do you explain what the why is and you and the directors here, the local board have explained how you want us to do that?” This is what department by department we are going to do in order to achieve our strategic objectives for the year ahead. And so each department that has spent yesterday going through the objectives that they’ve been provided with to work out the first draft of their plans. Speaking realistically, you’re not gonna work out your plan to…and cement it in stone in one day but having been told for example, “We think that over the course of next year we will hopefully win about 9,000 more small businesses as clients.” How are we gonna do that? We’ll do it sustainably. Not just by going and burning marketing dollars that mean that it costs us far more to find the client and service them than it does than we would…then what we receive from them. So today our marketing team and our sales team have stood up and explained what they are going to do, what is the plan for them to achieve that number, how are they going to improve efficiencies in their world, how are they gonna increase productivity, for example.

    So you’ll have heard me if you’ve…it may just be you, Naomi, listening to me weekly but for anyone other than Naomi listening to me weekly, then you’ll have heard me talk about why, how, whats before and what hopefully you’re hearing is this, is that we use it as a rubric in so many ways in the business. So we use it for example for…when people are trying to run a project, they want to achieve some sort of improvement in their area of the business. We say, “Okay, put together a one page, why, how, what, what’s the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve, what’s the strategy, how are you gonna do it and what’s the plan.” And then beyond that what we also use it for is the business at large as a communication tool to say to the business, “This is our purpose, this is our strategy and these are the things we’re gonna do this year.” So it’s a very clear communication tool to everyone in the business as to where we’re going. And then we use it as a mechanism in things like this planning that we’re going through at the moment.

    So a bit of an insight again as to how we do things here. Not saying it’s perfect. It’s a sort of conglomeration of different things I’ve read and understood over the years. You know, there’s that pretty famous Simon Sinek TED Talk which talked about always start with why. You can get it on YouTube, I think if you have a look for it. And it’s a bit of a take from that and for me to try and simplify thinking in my mind as to how you may help a business understand what it is they’re meant to achieve over the course of any given period of time. I think, you know, I’m pretty simple in my thought processes and the more complex and the more jargony things become, the less I find that I understand and can therefore really lead the business through. To give you an idea, I’m willing to admit on the big world wide web here that when someone just uses the word strategy to me, it always feels like a bit of a sort of amorphous, meaningless word. It’s so overused in businesses. It becomes I think like a sort of defensive word that people just talk about being strategic and when they don’t really know what exactly…what that means or at least I don’t know what it means. So I really try to distill that down to the business and say, “Let’s…okay, let’s not use jargon that we don’t all really understand what it means. Instead of talking about strategy, let’s talk about how we’re gonna do things to try and simplify that so we have a consistency in our language around the business.”

    So a bit of an insight as I say into what we’re doing. Then onto stuff that I’ve been looking at this week that I thought might interest you. I got into a podcast this week that I’m apparently four years too late on. I didn’t realize this. I thought it was new on…but apparently, it’s from 2016 or something called “Girl Boss” which is a set of interviews from the founder of a business, chipped all the fashion business that’s far too fashionable for me called “Nasty Gal” that makes clothes for…I think in America for predominantly sort of Gen Y market. And the founder of that business interviews various other fascinating both entrepreneurs and executives, business people about their careers, female entrepreneurs and business people. And I listened to this one this week which was really fascinating career of a person who was one of the earliest employees of Starbucks. And she was talking about what that was like growing it from…I think when she started, they had three stores. When she left, they had thousands. And she was there for 20 years. And then she went on to become CEO of Lululemon, the athleisure wear business and did a fantastic job there of growing it from a significant size company…I think it was about $100 million in revenue. It’s a big, big bloody company but she turned it into a $3 billion revenue company. So she’s obviously got incredible talent, this lady.

    But one of the things that was really interesting I think from my perspective and maybe from yours in watching this was that she talked about how in relatively early times at Starbucks she was tasked with…she, in one year, had opened 15 new Starbucks stores and her job was to open all these new stores. And she was tasked the following year with doing 50 new stores. And she failed in it. She only did another 15 and she describes how she almost lost her job for that. But then she reflected on what she had done wrong and what she realized is she was trying to use startup tactics to get that job done. And by startup tactics what she meant and what we will all have some understanding of, is kind of just using brute force to get things done and pushing water up the hill, you know, making sure stuff gets done. We’ll all have had and hopefully have in our businesses those kinda characters you really rate and value because they just get on with things and you know they’ll deliver on it. If they say they’ll do it, they’ll do it, and how they do it is sort of second to the fact that they will do it. And she said that actually, you know, it’s so important to scale. And fundamentally Starbucks would never have become the company that they became. And think what you might about their coffee and so on, you know. I’m not suggesting that they necessarily make the best coffee in the world but, you probably rather have bought shares in them when they had three stores and to where they’ve got to today because of the way that they understood how to scale their business, which is something that I presume we’ve all got in common. What the ambition of our scale is may differ depending on your business objectives but ultimately, we want to grow our businesses. And she was explaining that they just reached this point that they couldn’t get any bigger unless they acknowledged their weaknesses and brought in talent to address that. People that knew more than they did about growing the business and learning how to open more stores. In doing that, they managed to open the 50 stores the next year. Then the year after that they did 500 stores and so on which is…it was a really powerful story for me and I’m gonna listen to a few more in the “Girl Boss” podcast stream. But I thought it might be quite an interesting one that we’ll post up in the comments here as well that you guys might find interesting to listen about, just that concept of cracking through that glass ceiling that we all have on top of our businesses. And Employsure’s no different than that by the way. We’ve been very fortunate to grow from being a startup to being 900 people and you might quite fairly say, “Wow, that seems like you did smash through the glass ceiling.” But I can see from where I am and the numbers I am digesting and trying to understand we haven’t quite worked out how to go beyond that. And I think that it’s a really interesting challenge for us now to go from being a really good company at the scale we’re at to a great company at a bigger scale and how do we achieve that. And that’s the sort of thing that we’re trying to sort out in our planning as well.

    So there’s some stuff from me. Take it or leave it. And talking of people that you might take or leave, let’s talk to Stu. I know some of you would take him but, I don’t know in which category I would put myself in there. Certainly I might have to share the limelight with two of you any more after this week which is…again, no comment?

    Stu: Thank you, Ed.

    Ed: I’m sorry.

    Stu: Tune in next week for lunch times with Stu.

    Ed: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, you should. Just maybe, but still there offscreen, I need an editor see. Yeah,
    Stu: Some really lovely comments coming through, Ed. And this one…Naomi clearly heard your shout out to her, so we’re gonna kick off with this comment which is from Naomi, of course. Thank you, Ed and team, for all your valuable guidance. I’m a current client and I let everyone know about how much support you offer. I’m extremely lucky as I can work remotely from home. Our company is in mining, an essential service but I have many friends that own cafes and catering companies and they all need so much more support as they only got six hours warning for lockdown and had to give away stock ordered and tell employees to go home. I’m very proud of how South Australia has handled this and we all know that hitting hard and fast may be the best approach. So short-term pain for long-term gain.

    Ed: Yeah. I love your rationality, Naomi. Worrying is not thinking. You know, sitting there and blaming the referee is not gonna help you win the game. So your perspective is pretty inspirational there but it’s…that six-hour turnaround thing must’ve been really hard. The temptation in business would be to blame the referee there and say, “Do you just not understand how business works?” And I think there’s a lot of that globally not just in Australia where we saw in Oakland the week before where they just turned around at half four one afternoon and said, “Everyone’s gonna work from home tomorrow.” You know, does anyone really understand how like the logistics of having to get your people to work from home, to communicate, all of that and so on…let alone what’s happened in South Australia but you gotta as quickly as possible get out of that sort of moany mentality. And what I…I think I’ve said it on here before but I use as my metaphor of when I think I’m in a good mindset, I think I’m trying to play my job like I’m Roger Federer, as a tennis player. I know I’m not doing very well when I think I’m playing like Nick Kyrgios and I’m just [inaudible 00:26:24] and I’m angry and I’m blaming everyone for everything. I’m not taking the responsibility for my actions and ultimately you have that grace and calmness that you see in Roger Federer, is how we best perform I think as business owners.

    Just on the last point on the Naomi situation, she says that she’s lucky in that she can work from home. She works in mining. I do visions of her like digging up in her back garden or something. I would be like, “I would’ve thought that’s the one industry they definitely can’t do at home, Naomi.” But unless you live on-site but I presume that you’re doing the office end of your particular operation.

    Stu: Ed, this one from Karen seems to echo quite a few comments coming through. She says, “Thanks for all your advice. Have you ever thought about general advice to small business owners? For me it’s like a coaching session each week on my own business. Very motivational.”

    Ed: Thanks, Karen. So I…what I don’t tell you on this is I have a…I suppose, you call him a business coach. He’s a guy I met when I was 19, so a long time ago now, and then I was at the time playing sport for a job. I was playing rugby and he was doing…I called it sport psychology at that stage. It was probably just straight psychology, helping me develop as an athlete but also as a person to try and understand how to manage myself for improved performance. And I rang him up when I…Employsure was just getting to the stage where I thought…I’m willing to admit it now. In hindsight, I was thinking, “Shit.” Excuse my language but, “ow do I deal with this? I’ve never dealt with something of this scale before. We’re growing rapidly. How do I make sure that I stay on top of this and don’t miss the opportunity that we have?” And I called him up and we started working together again. He’s in the UK but we speak by Skype once a week and that happens to be on Thursday nights. And basically what I do is I just take whatever I’ve talked to him about, piece over, and I repackage it and sell it to you guys the next day and pretend it’s my thinking.

    So, because it’s the middle of the night in the UK, he’s got no idea that I’m out here just plagiarizing his good work and making benefit of it. So Stu’s looking very concerned right now.

    Stu: Well, I was thinking I for one just respect your honesty.

    Ed: Yeah, yeah. Look, I’m being a bit [inaudible 00:28:55] there. It’s not quite, so, I worked with him for so long that, you know, a lot of the things that we talk about in terms of how to manage yourself and your day and so on…I hope that there’s some collaboration on them and I’m not just repackaging. But it’s…I think it’s important to have someone like that that…it was Karen, wasn’t it that asked the question?

    Stu: It was. Yep.

    Ed: Karen, I think it’s important to have someone like that. I have a second person like that in my business life who’s a mate who runs a business as well. I just have a walk with him every Friday morning. So I’m just repackaging some of his stuff as well from this morning but…no, he’s quite…he’s almost like the diametric opposite to me. He’s also a client of ours and I’ll talk to him about any challenges I’m facing and vice versa and we try and sort of balance each other a bit. I think it’s really important to have those people in your life as a business owner. Should we as a business do that for small business owners? I’d love to look at it. And we’re gonna start with this campaign pretty imminently of, you know…see some information come out where we’re offering business owners…I suppose the bedrock of that is some level of counseling. Not from us. You know, we’re not experts in counseling. We’re experts in workplace relations but we’re looking at partnering with an organization where we’ll provide a free service to our client base who can then engage and get some counseling through what has been, let’s face it, a bloody difficult year. And people will have all sorts…it’s one thing me saying perform like Roger Federer and not Nick Kyrgios but you’re doing a remarkable job if you’ve got to the end of this year and you’re still playing with the grace and efficiency of Federer. We’ll all have had our Kyrgios moments during this year and the reality is that people need assistance getting through that. So we’re looking at partnering with counseling organization which is kind of the bedrock of it. I don’t think that you can play like Federer if you’re carrying an injury. You know, you’ve gotta make sure that if you’re struggling with mental health for example that you’re getting that addressed, that you owe that to yourself and your people to make sure that you’re doing the right thing in that way and you’re staying fit to do your job. And then once you’ve got that bedrock stuff, I think then you can get into the performance coaching side of it and looking at how you’re running your business and how to tweak and improve that.

    Stu: Can we get into a couple of questions?

    Ed: Yeah, sure, sure.

    Stu: From Martha. She says, “Hi, Ed. An employee has given me a medical certificate that basically gives him an open-ended ticket to work from home. I’m actively trying to bring more people back to work. Can I ask for one that is more specific around timeframes or at least gives me a review period?”

    Ed: You can…typically a certificate would provide some level of timeframe or it would be part of post events that a certain employee might have it for a day and come back the next day with a certificate saying, “I was sick yesterday. Here’s the confirmation of it.” And so for the longer-term ones, you typically have a bracketed window that then gets reviewed. And of course there’s nothing to stop the employee going to see their doctor and having that reviewed to a later date if that’s what they need to do or the doctor signs them off for. So what I would do is ask the employee to provide some more clarity for the purposes of you being able to manage their health and their return to work but also your business needs as to their likely return date and ask them to revisit the doctor for that purpose.

    Stu: And this update has just come through regarding SA. The lockdown to end on Saturday night. Apparently, someone lied to contact traces.

    Ed: Sorry. Say that again. It is to end?

    Stu: It is to end on Saturday night.

    Ed: Wait, so it was a six-day lockdown, wasn’t it?

    Man: Yeah. It was going to finish early next week. They’re now brining it forth.

    Stu: Bring it forth even though someone lied to contact traces.

    Man: That’s what started the lockdown.

    Stu: Right.

    Man: So this is just happening now. South Australia’s lockdown will finish up at midnight on Saturday night.

    Ed: Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? So is it…are they finding they’re not getting any community transit, transmissions and stuff like that?

    Man: Yep. Exactly.

    Ed: Oh, well. That sounds like a bit of a mess. It’s pretty unusual to dramatically shorten the lockdown. It must’ve been a fairly big fib told to someone somewhere to make them realize that actually something was not going on that they didn’t…don’t need to protect again. So watch this space. It sounds a bit ugly but good news. Naomi, get your running kit ready. You can burst out the doors tomorrow night and go for a run or whatever you fancy doing. Your lockdown’s finishing early.

    Stu: It’s fairly amazing news, isn’t it?

    Ed: Yeah.

    Stu: This one from Tim. He says, “Looks like they’re progressing with a vaccine but there is definitely going to be a lag between the end of JobKeeper and the vaccine availability. Do you think they will extend it?”

    Ed: Yeah, great question, Tim. I think, you know, I really admire the way federal government and JobKeeper have done it with a decent level of predictability. You know, they haven’t…you compare that to say the UK which I follow pretty closely and they just have so many potential mechanisms swirling around that creates this…go back to that…again, if anyone other than Naomi has been watching this consistently, you’ll have heard me talk about the three Cs of communication. Clear, concise, consistent. And in the UK, I don’t think they’ve done a very good job of that. What they’ve done is just evolved and changed and throwing new things and blah, blah, blah. So they have a think in the UK where they went from their version of JobKeeper which they call furlough to saying, “If you brought people back to work, you got given a $1,000 as a business just as a sort of incentive to get them off standdown back to work.” So businesses were like, “Well, I was gonna bring them back to work anyway.” I did. They got loads of money. Then JobKeeper got extended so they shut them back out on JobKeeper. And it’s chaos apparently with that. So whereas here I think the good news is at the moment it’s been consistent, it’s been clear and it’s been pretty concise overall, the way that mechanism would work. So will they go beyond March? I don’t know is the answer. There’s not a suggestion at the moment that they will. I’m guessing they’ll continue to look at numbers like those ones that came out yesterday that said the unemployment had gone up from I think 6.9% to 7% which they’re saying was relatively good news. And if the data is supporting the idea that it’s good news going forward, I suspect that they will…they’re less likely to push on with JobKeeper.

    They’ll be looking also to try and understand what’s happening with JobKeeper to see…and remember, this was the first set of data post September of JobKeeper 1.0. So they were looking keenly to see if there was even a mini cliff of unemployment created from that. They seem to say, “No. Didn’t really occur in the way we thought it might partly because of JobKeeper 2.0.” But the bump, if there was gonna be one, isn’t as big as we worry. Therefore, you know, maybe people are gonna be able to support their staff without JobKeeper post March at a higher rate than they were worried about. So my…if I was a betting man, I would bet that they won’t but all sorts of things can happen. I mean, that’s…what? Four or five months from now. A lot of things could happen between now and then.

    Stu: Ed, this is from Dorothy. We purchased some office supplies, a deck, chair, monitor to let one of our employees work from home. She has just resigned. Do we have any claim to those supplies or do they technically belong to her since they’re in her home and in her possession?

    Ed: You certainly have claim to them as your items. Yeah, I’d say even if you didn’t make that clear in writing, I’d urge people…is Dorothy…was this a…

    Stu: It was.

    Ed: Dorothy. Great name, by the way. I love the name Dorothy. But the…even if you didn’t commit that to writing to say, you know, “We’re giving you these things and you will provide them back.” I think that you’ve got a decent case to say, “Please, give that back.” Now, if the employee doesn’t and says, “Well, no, you never made it clear that they were yours. I’m keeping them.” It’s a pretty messy scrap and there’s not really many mechanisms to be honest to get let’s say a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of equipment back, frustratingly. That is a reality.

    But on the practical measure, whilst you’re not lawfully entitled to deduct from wages without a written agreement…so what we would do for our clients typically is where you have a situation like that you would have a written agreement as to the value of the things that are going back to the employee’s home and then in the event that they aren’t returned, that you would look to deduct that from final wages. So for example, if you have an express agreement to that effect, then as long as the number is stipulated, you can look to do that. You could, Dorothy, look to practically…if the employee is being stubborn and not collaborating with you, it wouldn’t be lawful on its face but if you didn’t pay any outstanding wages or wages equivalent to the value of that, what you might at least do is get them to come to the table to negotiate that. And when I say didn’t pay, you might say, “Look, I will eventually pay it but I want to create a spirited negotiation here about getting them to give me my stuff back.”

    But going forward, the more you can get in writing, the better.

    Stu: Ed, this lovely comment from Wayne from Camp Goodenough. Long-term client. Thanks, Ed, Stu, Duke and team at Employsure. Your clear, concise and consistent approach to providing small business with guidance throughout these challenging times has been greatly appreciated. Your presentation and discussion about all things business and COVID related has no doubt saved many businesses and business owners many sleepless nights and stress. We wish you all good health and happiness.

    Ed: Thank you, Wayne. Wayne and Naomi are always watching.

    Stu: Always.

    Ed: And Bernie in Kent, he’s often watching. But Wayne was opening last week for the first time in a long time so I hope that went well, Wayne. I remember him saying that. And I’m very pleased you found it helpful. What [inaudible 00:39:44] just saying thanks to everyone including Duke. I should probably name the other two people sitting off camera because currently they’re getting less credit than my puppy for this. But yeah. Kate and Lee are sitting here off camera and I’m very grateful for their help and support in this as well. So they’ve been a little more influential, if less popular than Duke.

    Stu: And just a couple of comments to wrap it up for number 68. Grace from Network Partners says, “Thank you, Ed and team. I have thoroughly enjoyed your valuable sessions.” Karen…

    Ed: Thanks, Grace.

    Stu: Another Karen. So sad to see you go but we will remain a client. Thank you for all your wisdom.

    Ed: I’m here for you, Karen as a client. I’ll…and I’ll be here for others as well if needs be. I’ll poke my head up on a small business circle. You know, I think those questions that came through today are really interesting ones. They’re pretty what I’d call quite usual workplace relations questions. It gives me quite a lot of hope to hear that from you guys because that tells me that business is starting to look a bit more normal. [inaudible 00:40:59] be a classic one there about deductions from wages, are you allowed to deduct from wages or not, because you’re getting back to work and the equipment that’s gone back to someone’s house isn’t needed anymore and so on. That’s all great news. So not great news, of course, if you don’t have the equipment but hopefully there’s a bit of a messenger or a part way there as to how you might get it. Thank you for all your support. Continue, guys, both clients and non-clients and if you need me, I’ll be back and, if not, like I said, Julius’ small business circle. Thank you.

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