Managing Through COVID-19 Crisis: HR Leadership & Business Advice

Published October 12, 2020 Views: 10

09/10/20

In today’s session of Friday’s With Ed, topics covered included budget insight and analysis, business and crisis planning, HR tips, employee management, leadership and management.

Transcript

  • Managing Through COVID-19 Crisis: HR Leadership & Business Advice

    Hi, everyone. Ed here. Just check in for our weekly Friday session. I’m doing this from home today, working from home. I’ve snuck into my wife’s office space. Hoping that she won’t disturb us for the next 45 minutes. It gives me an opportunity to chat to you. So thanks very much for joining. I enjoyed last week’s session. We started to go a bit more into what might be termed HR leadership type advice. I might try and do a bit more of that today, just to give you a bit of a sense as to how I try to lead. Again, it’s not gospel. I’m not necessarily an expert in leadership. I’m just telling you guys what I’m doing here.

    And with that, just to remind ourselves as part of the way I try to lead, is I try to start everything I do, any communications I do, with being clear as to why I’m doing them. And just to be clear why we do this session every Friday. Two reasons. One, I feel like it’s a little bit of my contribution to you guys. If I can help in any way to demystify, explain things that are affecting small businesses during the crisis. Second of all, there is a way in which it helps me as well. It helps me in my communications with my team here, in the sense that they get to see me visibly trying to do all we can to help the small business. And that’s what we do for a living here at Employsure. We’ve never been more relevant than we are currently during the crisis. And I want to show our team how we can go and help you, guys. So, that’s important. It also helps me, on a personal level, to stay on top of things, check that I’m staying abreast of all things that affect business owners because I wanna be. That’s what I do. That’s my responsibilities as well. And it gives me the chance to make sure I’m on top of things. It keeps me aligned and in perspective, I think, in sharing the challenges with you, guys, hearing a bit from you as we try and answer some questions in order to help you along, but in doing so, it helps me. So thank you for that.

    So I’ve got a bit of a structure I wanna work through today. First of all, we’re gonna talk about sick leave and annual leave in the crisis. It’s a bit of a brewing challenge for small business there. And I just wanna talk to you about that. Second of all, a quick run through the budget as it may impact you and may impact Employsure as well, and just wanna talk briefly about that. Then finally, we’ll go on to the HR leadership stuff, talking a little bit more about values. We talked last week about being true to your values, always self-assessing, checking that you are being true to your values when challenges arise in your business. I’m gonna delve a bit further into that today, to look at our responsibilities as leaders and the values that we set.

    So, first things first. Sick leave and annual leave in the crisis. So a couple of things drew this to my attention. So, my HR director internally, Jacob [SP] Michael, came to me a couple of weeks ago and asked me what we should do about growing holiday balances in the business. So, a lot of our staff have been working from home. In the context of that, across all the people, what we’ve seen is a reduction in the amount of annual leave that people are taking. I’ll come back to the reasons why. That might be in a moment. But people are taking annual leave less frequently, which means, of course, a leave liability is building up for the business over time. And you guys may well be experiencing a similar thing.

    That’s a challenge that I had actually confirmed to me by my wife, whose office I’m stealing at the moment. She works in a law firm, and she told me that they’re experiencing the same thing, and asked what we were doing about it. And then finally, I read an interesting article that followed on from some research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who said that less and less people are taking sick leave as well. Less of a problem in terms of accruals and liabilities for the business going forward, but just quite an interesting trend all the same, and really, I think, serves to confirm why I think people are taking less annual leave at the moment.

    So my theory on it is this, is that there’ll be a number of reasons. There’s no silver bullet as to why people are taking less leave, but a combination of these things. One, there’s less for people to do, in theory, on their leave. People are traveling less at the moment. You know, if you’re in Victoria and you’re locked down, there’s very little inclination to start taking annual leave if you can’t go anywhere. And we’re all in some varying degree of that, with the inability to travel into state, largely in place. So, obviously, some of those borders are softening up. But there’s less reason or less places to go, I suppose.

    When you are working from home, as a number of people still are, who would otherwise be in office-based environments, there’s also a sentiment that… And this is a reality, I think, of working from home and why I’m not completely embracing it for our business as a long term future. The reality is that people have this higher level of flexibility, which makes them less inclined to feel that they need the leave. That’s a very partial, polite way of saying that some people… I’m not making any accusations internally in our business, maybe bludging a little bit more. And I say that having just been down… I live near Bondi, in Sydney. Doesn’t every [inaudible 00:06:21.200]. I think we’re all aware near Bondi and Sydney. But there’s this lovely swimming pool there that you can go to. It’s called the Icebergs, which is quite famous. And I just went there for a swim this morning and had my morning coffee, and just overheard two conversations of people sitting in the sun, joking about working from home.

    And, you know, let’s face it. Let’s not beat around the bush. Particularly as the weather gets better around the country, there are gonna be circumstances where people don’t feel that they need to go on holiday because they don’t need the mental break, because they haven’t been going into the office and so forth. So, there’s another reason for it. And the third reason, which is probably less cynical, is that, if less people are in jobs, then less people will take annual leave. And that’s really, I think, filtering into what’s going on with sick leave at the moment. There are less people in jobs, and therefore, less inclination to…less people to take sick leave. Sick leave’s about 20% down across the country at the moment, interestingly.

    Bear with me a second. Yeah, so sick leave, similarly, I think that, the reality is there is a certain amount of people pulling sickies that goes on in workplaces. Yeah, we know, for example, at Employsure, that Monday and Fridays are our highest sick leave absence days. Now, I’m no medic, but frankly, it’s pretty unlikely that that’s because people are more prone to illness on those days. I think that there is a propensity for people to take sick leave on those days, extending weekends, and so on. But those numbers have dropped through the floor as well, indicating that, again, people working from home have got less inclination to pull a sickie, so to speak.

    So what do you do about it? Sick leave, not much. It should be a good thing for the business, and perhaps, might be contributing to your overall productivity. Annual leave is a good one. So, there are not many circumstances there. You’ll need to check your award or have us check it for you to see circumstances in which you can mandate people going on leave. Quite often, awards allow you to close offices at Christmas time for up to a certain period. And we do that at Employsure, subject to our operational needs. And amongst other things, it does help manage a leave balance. But it also ensures that you got staff that might otherwise not be inclined to take leave, that actually get some form of rest. And remember, you’ve got a positive obligation to manage the safety of your staff, and you shouldn’t be overworking them.

    And to that end, you’re assuming your award doesn’t permit you to force leave in any way. What we recommend doing is this, is that you should be looking at the leave balances of your staff, looking at the amount of…or the most recent time they went on leave. And to the extent that someone isn’t taking much leave, sitting down with them one to one or the staff as a group, and encouraging them to take leave to ensure that they are properly rested. Explaining to them that you have positive obligations to manage their safety and that you would, therefore, encourage them to take leave. And you can encourage them. As I say, check the award and maybe some circumstances which you can mandate it. But typically speaking, you can’t. That’s about as good as you can do, really, if you don’t have the right to mandate it. And therefore, trying to manage down your leave balance. You’ll need to consider this pretty soon. If you’re looking at Christmas shutdowns, you’re only permitted to do that under your award. There’ll probably be some notice requirements, so make sure that you follow those if you do that.

    So, there’s a little bit on leave. I suspect a lot of you are having a similar experience to us on that, in that you will be having larger leave balances being accrued. I saw two or three questions come last week, saying, “Can we use JobKeeper to pay people’s annual leave when they leave us?” The answer to which was, no, not if they haven’t taken their annual leave because it’s not wages. It’s a liability that you have accrued. But, of course, if those people do take leave, you can use JobKeeper to pay their wages, which are the paid leave.

    So, I can see a good question coming through from Naomi Pugsley on leave. But I’ll reserve that to the end, Naomi. I’ll come back to it. Second thing then. Onto budget. The big one probably for employers or in my field, at least, is this idea of JobMaker, where, if you employ someone up to the age of 29 and they have been on JobSeeker or a couple of other versions of benefit in any of the 3 months prior to them joining you, you’ll get 200 bucks a week to contribute to their income. And if they’re 30 to 35, you’ll get 100 bucks per week. So, quite a big incentive, in fairness, to incentivize you to employ people who might have been on JobSeeker.

    There’s a few twists and turns in there, though, some of which the government’s been criticized for already. But I just wanna dig into them a bit because the government sets up these benefits, but they’re not there ultimately to pick up the pieces if you’ve slipped on the banana skins that sort of surround them. And you might remember, for example, under JobKeeper, there was little support for those that didn’t have permanent residency, for example. So there was a sort of an incentive on the part of the employer to get rid of the people that you weren’t getting JobKeeper for first. And the risk couldn’t float from that, is you could get [inaudible 00:12:31] up for discrimination because you were picking on foreign staff, essentially, because you weren’t gonna get a subsidy from the government. Now, the fact that the subsidy sets you up for that fall doesn’t mean that you get to use it as a defense, unfortunately. You can end up being caught out, in that case, if you were dismissing staff because of their nationality, because they weren’t getting JobKeeper. You could be caught out in a discrimination trap.

    There’s another discrimination trap here with the budget, with this JobMaker thing, in that, ultimately, those provisions are encouraging a form of age discrimination. You’ve got a positive incentive to employ people who are under 35, and that means that you are at risk of overlooking those that are over that age. And you could easily be criticized and sued for that. If you picked on who is…you only pick them on the basis of their age, and consequently, because you’re gonna get some support and subsidy for that, you really do run the risk of someone who, say, 40, say, “Well, I should have got the job. He didn’t carry out a fair and objective process. It was direct or indirect discrimination against me on the grounds of my age, or for reasons related to my age, therefore, I’m suing you.”

    Now, you are not gonna be able to turn around in those situations and use this as a defense. You still have to make sure that in your hiring processes, you’ve got some objectively justifiable reasons for hiring those people, aside from the fact that you’re gonna get some subsidy for them. The way the subsidy, in fact, works at law, therefore, is this, is that, essentially, you gotta close your eyes to the ideas of subsidy, choose the best person for the job on an objectively justifiable basis, and then you open your eyes and see how old they are and whether they run JobSeeker or similar, and consequently, that you get some money for them. If you let the cart go before the horse on that, you run the risk of getting in trouble. So bear that in mind when you’re looking at it.

    The other two things are probably outside my domain, but I just wanna give you an insight as to why I’m looking at it as a business owner with them. So there’s a couple of tax type breaks. One is this idea of buying assets that you’re immediately able to write off. Now, that wouldn’t work for us at Employsure because we pay tax on a cash basis, rather than on the basis of our P&L statements. So, have a check with your accountant to see how it is that you pay tax and whether that really works for you. Really don’t like the idea of some of these, where you’re, sort of, you know, encouraged to go out and run out and buy a new unit or something. The next thing you know, it doesn’t actually make any difference anyway, you know, that you’re not really being given real money there. You’re being given an accelerated position on your tax, which, ultimately, you’re gonna pay back anyway. So it will help some people on the cash flow basis, but check with your accountant as to how you actually pay tax. Don’t get lulled into thinking you’ve suddenly got some free money.

    And the same really goes for this, getting tax back. If you’re an unprofitable business now, but were previously profitable, and there’s a way of reclaiming some of the tax that you’ve paid, have a chat to your accountant how that works because it helps cash flow again. But I can’t see how. I don’t think it’s free money. I think, ultimately, you’re getting some tax back. But if you were making a loss this year, you wouldn’t pay tax anyway, and that loss would be carried forward into future tax years. So, it might just be that it helps you out with a bit of cash flow. So, chat your accountant about that.

    So, onto something that I do know a bit more about, which is, I suppose, culture and setting up those cultures in your businesses. And we talked a bit about this last night. In managing your… Not last night. Last week. Managing yourself through the crisis. We talked about the Mojo bag and so on. But don’t forget that our responsibility in the business is, I’ve quoted before from that book “Legacy,” is that we’re storytellers. Leaders in businesses are storytellers. And one of the stories that you gotta tell people is, what is it that they stand for? What are their values? And I’ve just… I’m gonna show you a fairly crappy manuscript diagram in a second. But I just want to explain a bit about that.

    Value is a really…one of those, sort of, terms. In all truth, about 10 years ago, before I started Employsure, I’m not sure what I really understood what they meant in a corporate context. So I see them as your core principles, if you like, that sit within inside each of us individually, including each of your employees. And what you’re trying to do is establish a set of values at a corporate level, which marries together everything that you stand for as an individual and everything that your employees should stand for if they’re the right people in your organization. So, I don’t think an organization, a company teaches values. I don’t think that it introduces values into someone. I think that that’s a bit too patronizing, frankly. I think the people that work for you have come to you with a set of values. The best that you can hope for is that their values align with the company’s. And if they don’t, that you’d make sure you get off the bus pretty quickly. But you can only do that if you know exactly what the values are, and you communicate those values to your people.

    So values, that’s your starting point. And in a perfect world, a leader, a managing director, GM, whoever it is of the business, is really only responsible for setting the values. And ideally, they don’t then have to go and police the way those values are put into action. Unfortunately, that’s not really true in most cultures. Really strong cultures, brilliant cultures have a leadership which set the values, and then they allow the people in the hierarchy below them to operate the values. They don’t act as a sort of police force going around checking on people and so on to follow the values. Values day to day operate through behaviors. Ultimately, behaviors. We at Employsure say, “Are our values in action?” So you’ll have a series of behaviors that people are meant to comply with day to day, and in order to follow your values.

    Now, sitting below those behaviors even, I’ll say, is a three-tier thing, as I’ll show you in a second, are what, at Employsure, we call commitments, but in some organizations, you might call rules. So, in something like a military organization, you get a lot of rules that people have to follow, and they’re policed, and they’re enforced from the top down. Ideally in a culture, in a corporate culture, you don’t have that. You don’t have this very top-down, parent-child, military-type command and control set up. Instead, what you want is your people making a series of commitments to each other, really, in order that they deliver to the behaviors, which, in turn, deliver to the values.

    So I’ll just show you this diagram before I then explain a bit more about what I’m talking about in practice. So, can you see that? Now really is a very basic thing. I’m sure a number of you have got children that could have done better than that. So, what you’ll see is an upside-down triangle. At the top of it, it says values, in the middle of it, it says behaviors, which are values in action, and at the bottom of it, it says commitments. As I say, where it says commitments there at the bottom, if you’ve got a poor culture or a top-down culture, it would say rules. So the reason you’ve got it in an upside-down triangle is, you should have, in a great culture, you have a big set of values, slightly smaller set of behaviors, and then finally, these commitments to each other. They shouldn’t be that many of them. It’s people know how to… In the context, some examples to put some meat on the bones of it.

    So I’ve talked before about the All Blacks, the New Zealand rugby team being an organization that I respect. So they’re very clear on their values. They have a very core set of values, which includes this concept that they say, “We won’t let dickheads play for us,” they said. No dickheads is their rule. Excuse the language. It’s theirs, not mine. But they basically say this. They say, “We won’t have dickheads playing for us.” They don’t mean that in a subjective sense of, sort of, bullying, or a flippant sense. We might use it, you know, when you’re talking about someone and say, “I don’t like them. They’re a dickhead.” They don’t mean it like that. What they mean is that they won’t let people play for them who don’t follow their values overall. Other values that they have include things like humility. So people that are not humble, they won’t let play for them.

    And you might have heard this before. And it’s a very risky thing. I’ve seen a number of people watching this drop off rapidly in a second. But compare that to, say, the Australian cricket team when it was going through its troubles a couple of years ago, where there was a high risk that they did end up with dickheads in their team. In fact, it looks… I don’t know if any of you have seen that program, TV program, “The Test,” which is excellent, which is all about the regeneration of the team. But the team was essentially being run by dickheads. Even the captain was being overrun by dickheads, who were stopping the team from adhering to their set of values. And what had happened ultimately is that the leadership had compromised the values for the talent of the team. They said, “Oh, some of these guys are so good and so talented that we’re gonna keep them in the team, notwithstanding the fact that they are dickheads and don’t follow our values.”

    In the All Blacks, they would have said, “Sorry, I don’t care how good you are, you’re not allowed to play for the team.” And you can cite a number of examples in New Zealand, of some of the best rugby players, by talent, that there have ever been, who have never become All Blacks because they’re just not considered to be people that follow values. And in that way, what the All Blacks have built is a really strong culture that has lasted a long, long time. And of course, rule setting up businesses, we do hope last long times. And you’ll not find a business that doesn’t suffer in the long term by compromising that dickhead rule. Taking people that are talented, but won’t follow your values, you will end up with problems if you do that.

    Now, one of the problems there. And I struggle with this internally, with Employsure, is that I’ve got no interest as a managing director in chasing people around and enforcing the values as a sort of, like I’ve said before, police force, if you like, or trying to have a top-down command and control, slightly old fashioned military-style organization, parent-child, all of those things. My preference would be that we have such a strong culture that it polices itself. And what you have is a group of people who basically say, “Look, I get what the values are. Ed’s told us what those values are. He’s told us why they exist. We get all of that. Those values are values within myself.” And these are the ways in which we’re gonna behave, and ultimately, these are commitments that we’re gonna make to each other and we’re gonna behave in that way.

    And those commitments might be quite granular. They might be things like, “We always turn up five minutes early. We are always dressed in a certain way.” So in sporting teams, what happens is the players often sit down and create what they might call a charter, which says things like that. “We turn up five minutes early for meetings. We always wear clean kit to training. We always clean our boots before games.” And they’ll be that granular about it. And what those commitments are doing is delivering into the behaviors, which ultimately make the values work. So that’s the way really good cultures work, is that the team manages itself. It polices itself. They don’t have the directors of the team policing it. And in that way, they hound out the people that don’t fit with the culture, the dickheads, if you like. And they self-police, force those people out.

    And it’s a great thing if you can get that culture working because then what you don’t have is situations where you, as managing directors and so forth, have got to be the police, start doing the disciplinary issues and so on, which result in employment relations claims. You’d much rather a culture…I say hound out, that sounds a bit bullying, but a culture that self-polices and explains to people, if people don’t wanna play by the rules, then they can’t be on the team.

    So, I listened to a thing…I’d urge you guys to listen to if you get a chance, the other day, about Netflix, a business that we all know. And they are solely known for their pretty revolutionary culture and HR practices. And one of the things that they say is that, “We are a company with no rules.” And that sounds right out there, doesn’t it? It sounds as, though, you know, they’ve got this sort of chaotic company where there’s no rules at all. They don’t mean it like that. And the podcast I listened to was on, I think, called “Freakonomics Radio,” which is really good if you get a chance. What they mean is this, is, “We don’t have a top-down culture. We don’t have the leadership telling us how to behave. What we have is a leadership that sets the values, and then we collaborate with each other on the behaviors and make commitments to each other, and we self-police. We’re like the All Blacks.”

    And that’s an organization that I think we’d all, I think, aspire to. You know, let’s be realistic, some businesses are still very effectively run by being top-down organizations. So it’s horses for causes. But certainly, I’d like to run Employsure as a business that is heavy on values but allows the people themselves to self-police. It doesn’t always happen. You know, I find myself sometimes having to manage, unfortunately, with sticks rather than carrots, but we’re all human, and so are the people that work in the businesses. But my perfect culture would be much more like the All Blacks or much more like Netflix, and allowing people to understand the values, clearly understand the expectations on them, but ultimately, to behave and commit to each other to behave in certain ways so they self-police.

    So, there’s a bit on HR. As I say, leadership. I just want to finish with a final concept about, I suppose, self-management and leadership. And it’s just something I read yesterday, which I loved, and I thought you guys might be interested in. So, J.K. Rowling, the author… I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never ever read one of her books. So I delve wherever I’m at in the minority there, but I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter. So my kids are just starting to get into it. I saw this interview by her, where she said something really, really fascinating. She said…she has this metaphor of how she lives her life. And I think it’s a metaphor that applies to us all as leaders as well. She says, “I spend a lot of my time in the forest, in the trees.” Which, for me, is, you know, when we’re stuck in our businesses doing things, being doers, scrapping around day to day, but we’re not really strategically working on the business as we should be. But she says as an author she spends a lot of her time in the trees.

    When she wants to write, though, when she really wants to do her thing, she goes to this metaphorical lake amongst the trees, and that lake has a shed on it. And what she knows is this, is that when she is needing inspiration, she goes to the lake. She knows there’s something within the lake that if she’s patient enough, that it will give her the ideas, give her the inspiration. She’s not allowed to fish in the lake. She’s not allowed to go under the water in the lake to grab the ideas. She has to attract them, essentially, and be patient and allow them to come to her. And then once she’s got that idea, she has to go into the shed and do the work to turn it into something.

    I thought there’s something there about all of our businesses. All of our businesses, ultimately, came from a lake of some sorts. We all source our opportunity because of our circumstances. You’ve all got businesses that are taking up opportunities that I never saw myself, for example, because we weren’t born out of the same circumstances or experiences. But I was an employment lawyer that saw the opportunity to set up Employsure in a way that you guys might not have done. But then I had to go into the shed to work on Employsure, to create it. And intermittently as a business owner, I have to come back and go back to the lake for more inspiration in order to expand the opportunity, but I’ve still gotta go back into the shed.

    And I think so many of us spend too much time, first of all, back in the trees, dealing with nonsense, often, in business management. And we need to remind ourselves, like J.K. Rowling does, to get out to the lake. But even once you’re out in the lake, you can’t just be an inspiration person. You can’t be a vision person as a business owner. You’ve actually gotta get in the shed and do the grind and get the thing going. So, I just thought a very powerful thing from a pretty…really one of history’s most successful authors. And it might be useful to you, guys.

    So, some questions coming up from you. I’ve got it on my computer here, so I’m gonna duck in and out. So bear with me. I am getting from Tiffany. What do I think about the four-day week that New Zealand’s seeking to implement? I don’t like it, to be honest. I know one of our staff in New Zealand, actually, went to a business school, Perpetual Guardian, I think, over there, that does a four-day week. And I think, you know, these things are just so particulars businesses. And it might work for some businesses depending on the nature of their work. But I think it’s a bit like the idea that your people working from home have become more productive. My honest and perhaps a bit cynical view is, more often than not, that means that they weren’t very productive in the office, in the workplace. I think that a four-day week, really, just discloses that people were either not working five days in reality anyway, and therefore, not productive, rather than they suddenly become more efficient.

    And my wife actually works a four-day week, and I really don’t like it for her. I think that in reality, she works five days anyway, which she just gets paid for four. It just doesn’t make any sense for her, to be honest. But the idea of a four-day week, and they’re paid five just because you’re so much better in the four days, I think it might work in some businesses. It might, well, depending on the nature of your work, is it thinking work rather than doing work? Are you in the lake more than in the shed? But generally speaking, as a broad brush thing, that just in that, sort of, flippantly chucks around as an idea, it’s quite scary, to be honest, to say that that’s something that the whole world can do. And I think it belies a total lack of understanding as to how businesses really work. We don’t all work in offices floating around for five days, spending too much time at the water cooler. That’s just not how business works.

    So, Naomi, good to hear from you, one of our clients. All right, our enterprise agreement… I’m, sort of, going off-screen pretending to be Stew. I should do a Stew accent while I’m off-screen. “Our enterprise agreement states that they need to produce a medical certificate to get sick leave, otherwise it’s unpaid leave. They opt for unpaid leave as they get Jobkeeper, does this unpaid leave still count as continuous service? As normally, it wouldn’t. But does JobKeeper change it?”

    No, JobKeeper doesn’t change that as being continuous service. So perhaps it’s the unpaid leave and your enterprise agreement. By the sound, JobKeeper is just a form of payment if you have satisfied the wage requirement. So just try and play that out. So, the reality, though, is that you can’t, Naomi, just take random leave from the workplace. And if you don’t provide a medical certificate, you’re essentially absent without leave. So it sounds to me like there may be some disciplinary issues there of people are just bludging and not taking leave. So, maybe we can explore that a bit more for you. Because if people are just taking advantage of JobKeeker and just sitting at home, not even saying they’re sick, essentially, because they’re not getting sick certificates, they’re just saying, “Well, I’m not gonna work and I’ll get JobKeeper,” then it may be that you’ve got something that you can do about that.

    Nick, “How can we legally filter new employees to suit the new JobMaker scheme?” Good question. So, as I said, Nick, my methodology would be to close your eyes to their age and close your eyes to whether they have been on JobSeeker, and recruit people, and then ask those questions afterwards. If you haven’t [inaudible 00:34:47] to that information before, there’s just a risk you could get caught up for age discrimination amongst other things.

    David, a long term follower. Thank you very much. “In the end, we were not entitled to JobKeeper the first six months due to turnover. We only registered at the start and did nothing further. However, we’re now under the 30% threshold, unsure what to do next. This will be purely for the business owner and no staff.” So, David, first thing, so it sounds like you’ve got some eligibility challenges. Have a chat to your accountant on the question of eligibility. And then if it’s for the business owner… I’m assuming that, David, you may be set up as self-employed, something like that. And in chatting to your accountant, you should be able to confirm your eligibility and get support in the application as well.

    And Ruth, on JobMaker, “What happens if they’re under 16 and coming on as an apprentice? It looks like they miss out.” That’s my understanding. Bear with me a second. I’m just gonna check that position. So by the way, this stuff about the wage support is now in play. You can now start looking to recover that already, is my understanding. Now, what about the jobs? Yes, so if the age is 16 to 29, so, it looks like it doesn’t matter if they are an apprentice post 16. But anyone younger than that doesn’t look like they receive it, is the answer.

    Anne, great to see you again. I’ve been here all along, Anne. Where have you been? “So, I was wondering about the new hiring credit that came out of the budget. I understand it’s actually the employees who must have received JobSeeker or Youth Allowance or one in the past three months. Can we ask them this question or is it discriminatory?” You can ask them. My recommendation is that you wouldn’t until after the interview. So, try not to put the cart before the horse. See who you wanna recruit based on their talents and skill set, and then ask to see whether you recover money. Look, I maybe… You know, you may look at me and say, “This guy is from a different planet. Why on earth would we do that and miss out on the 200 bucks?” You’ve gotta make a commercial assessment. There is a risk that you could get accused of something like age discrimination. But if you’ve got an apprentice position, and you’re not gonna have anyone over 35 applying for, anyway, then the risk of you getting done for age discrimination is next to nil. So you might well ask it in the interview process. So, it’s just a bit of a muddy thing, I think, to be asking people for the purposes of checking you can get their support. But there will be commercial situations in which you say, “Look, it’s being unrealistic and we’re not actually not gonna get sued for discrimination because of this. So, I’m gonna ask upfront because I want the money.” So, in a perfect world, you wouldn’t ask. You would then make the assessment once you’ve decided that they’re the right person for the job.

    Sammy. Oh, wow, a lot of questions. So that is good. “JobMaker, 100 credit is an interesting idea, but there, again, to be proof of age requirements. Do I have to ask for birth certificates?” Not entirely clear what the actual rules and so forth are gonna be, and how you apply and recover the money yet. So watch the space. But yes, there’ll be some rules around it, which will include verification of age and so forth. By the way, on that, it wouldn’t typically have to get a birth certificate, but you, obviously, when you hire a person, you’ve gotta go through getting that tax file number and so forth, which should be able to do it through the government systems.

    Sarah, “If an employee wishes to have leave paid out, but not take it lasting on JobKeeker, is it appropriate to pay this out on top of their usual wage, which is being covered by JobKeeper?” In essence, yes. So there’s a few twists and turns in that question depending on your ability to pay out leave and when you can do that and when you can’t under relevant awards and so forth. So be careful about all those things. But assuming you’re allowed to pay out the leave, yes, you would pay it out on top of JobKeeper. Now, that’s always not in your interest. So, you might wanna have a conversation with the employee about how you can work out something that’s mutually beneficial there. That maybe they take some leave, maybe you pay out some leave, but you are gonna be paying that on top of JobKeeper because it’s not wages.

    Ruth asking about where the puppy is. He’s not here, unfortunately, Ruth. I did promise this week, but he’s not here. Right. Lyn, “We don’t qualify for JobKeeper 2.0 because the quarter for ’19 included three weeks of our shop being closed.” They didn’t have closure. “It doesn’t seem to fit any criteria, what are your thoughts?” Lyn, I’d love to give you my thoughts and help you through that. I know that I’ll get in trouble if I do because it’s an eligibility question, which should be probably answered by an accountant. So, I’m sorry about that. But that’s the best person to ask with that.

    Keith, “While we’ve been getting JobKeeper, we’ve just been shut out because our sales, which is the basis of the entire program, is only 27% down. It doesn’t take in account our costs, which, if it does, our percent should be down 50%. The system’s wrong. We may now have to put off…” Look, I agree with you, Keith. It’s, sort of, you know what? When you read the newspapers around the world about what was going on with different systems, just none of them are perfect, unfortunately. We, for example, had a situation in New Zealand where there was a subsidy that we thought we qualified for. We received it. Quite a lot of money. Well, a hell of a lot of money actually. And then we had to pay it back because we didn’t qualify for it. And we were significantly down in our sales, like you are, Keith. We maintained our service costs because we weren’t needing to advise so many people, so we didn’t make redundancies and so forth. But the way in which it’s done over there was based on revenue, which, for us, because of accounting policies, didn’t go down, whether it was the amount. So we got stuffed over there, Keith. So it’s a frustration. But unfortunately, you’re not alone in that.

    Liz, “I’m currently in the hiring process and wondering how in the world we find out if someone is subject to JobMaker wage credits without crossing into discrimination. We already selected our preferred candidate, so it isn’t changing our selection criteria. Just trying to budget without crossing the line.” If you’ve already selected the candidate, you’re in a good position, really, Liz. So, you can ask them afterwards, and then you can go forward and see whether you get the credit or not. The risk in discrimination is if you ask them in order to determine whether to hire them.

    Belinda, “Hi. One of my staff in JobKeeper has resigned. I don’t have to pay him JobKeeper beyond the week he last worked.” So you have to pay the full JobKeeper fortnight in order to get the JobKeeper, but you don’t pay him for hours that he didn’t work. So, you need to satisfy the wage condition of paying the requisite JobKeeper amount for that fortnight, but not anything over and above that.

    And Neil says he’s suffering the leave problem as well. “At what point does it become excessive? Can I force people to use their leave?” It depends a bit on your award, Neil. We could have a look at that for you to understand if there’s any specific rules. But then beyond that, it’s really a case of managing people’s safety at work, their health and safety, to ensure that they’re taking appropriate leave. So you can’t formally force that in most circumstances, but if there’s no shutdown clauses in your award, it becomes a question of persuasion, really.

    And Hailey, “Can people bludging become a disciplinary issue?” Sure can, Hailey. “How do I prove if they’re away from the office?” Look, the way of bludging is difficult. Had a good chat with a client yesterday, actually, with someone who is a client after my own heart. They said they had someone who had got a medical certificate. They were clearly bludging. The doctor had signed them off. It’s one of my bugbears in life, is doctors that sign… And this is a message to doctors globally. Don’t sign sick certificates, unless the person’s actually bloody sick. Like, it costs the economy so much money and so much pain to have people signed off work when they’re not really sick. My poor mom is a GP or was a GP a long time ago. And she gets hit in the neck for me all the time about… As though she’s like a spokesperson for all doctors globally for signing people off on sickies. I tell her how irritating it is as an employer.

    Anyway, this client, somehow, amusingly, had got a sick note through, and he called the doctor to challenge them on it. And the doctor obviously didn’t take very kindly to that. But I quite admired the gusto, really. But, yeah, it’s very hard to penetrate a sick certificate, to be honest. If someone’s got a sick certificate, even though you think they’re cynically doing a sickie, pretty tough to challenge. If someone doesn’t have a sick certificate and he’s just taking time off work, then if they don’t follow your processes and procedures, then, yes, there’s an opportunity, as Naomi may have to look at turning into a disciplinary issue. If someone is just bludging when they’re meant to be working at home, for example, yeah, if you can… Certainly, you wouldn’t jump into it being a disciplinary issue. You’d have some conversations with them. But if you’ve got any sense, for example, that they’re not responding to emails in a reasonable timeframe, or answering phone calls, they don’t seem to be… You know, I wouldn’t be rushing to get private investigators or anything like that. But if you are having challenges, I’d raise it as a management issue, first of all, and that management issue might turn into a disciplinary issue if they’re repeatedly doing it.

    So, here we go. Some questions and also comments to finish off. I’ll just check this. There are more chunky ones coming through. Dale says, “One of the things that’s evident in the workplace is in the sick leave, bludging problem is under paid by the guarantee of JobKeeper.” Sort of, yeah, it one of the big unwritten things, I think, in JobKeeker, is how much people have suffered as a result, or employers have suffered as a result of, it’s free money, since. It really is being quite detrimental to employers.

    Andrew wants to know who I’m backing in the Bledisloe Cup. I think, from what I said, it sounds like it could be the All Blacks at the expense of Australia. But I know I’m very conscious of where I live, and, you know, my family growing up here, being my wife’s Australian, I’ll be supporting Australia all the way. Sorry for anyone watching in New Zealand.

    And Virginia says, “Read J.K. Rowling’s books for adults, ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling.'” I’ll try and do that. You might be overestimating my intelligence, Virginia. I think I’m probably be better off in the Harry Potter realm than I would in the adult ones. So, anyway, do have a read of that. I’ve not read, as I’d say, her stuff, but I can see she must be a wonderful author because I find that lake analogy really, really powerful.

    So that’s it from me, guys. Thank you very much for your time today. I’m back in the office next week, with Stew, you’ll be pleased to hear. So, I won’t be trying to do his job as well as mine. And I will see you then. Cheers. Thanks for joining.

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