Managing Through COVID-19 Crisis: Practical Tips on HR and Employee Management

Published November 02, 2020 Views: 4


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


  • Managing Through COVID-19 Crisis: Practical Tips on HR and Employee Management

    Ed: Hi everyone, Ed here. I’m coming to you for our usual Friday slot. It’d be interesting search to see who’s around. Victorians bludging off on another public holiday pretending that there is an AFL final that they should all be getting ready for it. So now I understand the tradition down there, but a slightly odd one that you get a day off for a game of sport, but maybe I’m just jealous. So without alienating any more of you, I will get on with what we’re actually here for. A quick reminder of why we do this. So just to provide you a resource by which you can get any information that you might need managing your business on Workplace Relations issues. And second to that, selfishly, it provides me with a reminder as to what our purpose is here that we’re all about helping to build better business. And we do that by helping small businesses, particularly with their workplace relations, and health and safety issues. And I find that this reminds me that in the midst of everything that’s going on in the world right now, that what we’re doing is hopefully a valuable thing and something that we are helping people with.

    So talking about valuable things and purpose. I was fortunate enough this morning to be invited to a charitable event called CEO Dare to Cure, which is basically a range of different MDs, CEOs, directors of businesses taking up challenges, dares in order to support the Children’s Cancer charity and to hopefully do some good things for them. And it was a fascinating event, it was brilliantly run. First of all, I just give a shout out to Cameron Bayfield the CEO there who really did put on a fantastic event in trying circumstances. When he was setting it all up, obviously, he had no idea whether it was actually going to be permitted to go ahead, but it was quite nice to be out and about this morning here in Sydney at that event. And it was all for a very good cause and the stories of which really drove home when you’re there, very saddening stories about young children with cancer and it was very impressive to see so many people rallying around that cause and doing good things for them. Amongst which were dares like CEOs being put in a bed of snakes and walking across hot coals and doing fitness challenges and all sorts was going on. It was pretty fun seeing that.
    It gave me a chance to see a few faces that I hadn’t seen for a while. I saw our first ever IT provider, for example, a chap called Scott Crawford, a good guy. He used to help us with our IT when we first started up. Michael Murphy, who we did a dare together, he’s got a very impressive insurance business. And I had a good chance to catch up with others, like Nicholas from Strategic Wealth Management who currently…he runs an accounting…it’s a wealth management business, and currently refers a number of clients to us. I had all these great run-ins with people there, but none more so then, Kelly, who was running the event with her Flying Ruby event. I felt famous for a moment, which was great. Kelly came over and said that…she said, “You’re the Jobkeeper guy,” which is not a label I really want to go to my grave with, to be honest. I hope at some stage in my life, I do something more than being the Jobkeeper guy. But Kelly would be watching these streams. I suspect she’s still packing up the event. I won’t be watching it today. But I’ve been watching these streams and found them somewhat helpful. And that gave me a bit of a spring in my step.

    And great to see Kelly in a couple of regards. One as an events business, she’s been doing it tough. You know, there’s probably no businesses that have been doing it tougher than events businesses have been just shut down in just about every possible way in what they do. So great see her up and running in New South Wales here with a really fantastically put on event. I was blown away by it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it in terms of the professionalism and organization of it all and Flying Ruby events were are at the heart of that. And second of all, just to have a chat with someone who’s going through that and now coming out the other side. And it was inspiring just to hear her resilience and will, which I’ll talk about towards the end of the session today. A good reminder to me about the relatively fortunate situation that we’ve had at Employsure in that we’ve been busy trying to help people. But also a reminder to me of the importance of having a purpose in what you do.

    So it gave me a chance to pause, I feel a little bit reinvigorated. That might be…it was a very early morning, so it might be the extra coffee that I’ve had. But we’ll see how we go through the rest of this session. But I’m gonna get back now to my day job, the purpose of this, which is like I say to provide you with a resource with regards to workplace relations in your business. And I’m gonna start with a bit of an update as to things that are going on in crisis management that might be relevant to you. Then gonna talk a bit about workplace reform, here in Australia. And then I’m gonna finish with some HR or maybe leadership tips, things that I’ve been reminded of today actually.

    You can probably see talking about being reinvigorated, you can probably see outside my door there’s quite a bit more movement today than there has been in recent months. And we’re doing this thing in the workplace where we bring back different teams each day. So some of our teams have been in the office now for a while, others are still working from home. We’re still socially distanced in the office here in Sydney. Our Melbourne office right now is closed. I’ll talk about that in a moment. But we’ve got one of our advice teams, the guys…a number of you that are watching that are clients might be calling and speaking to day-to-day. It’s been a great buzz this morning, just having my door open here and listening to the advice that they’re giving out to small business on a whole range of things, but really great to have them back in the office.

    So what about the update, then, talking of closed Melbourne offices? So this sounds like it’s gonna be another update from Daniel Andrews this weekend, possibly accelerating the move out a lockdown. He’s taken quite a lot of flak this week from business about how cautious he’s being. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of that’s pretty well deserved. You know, if you’re in a place where one person a day is getting sick from this, the idea that there should be any form of lockdown going on seems frankly ridiculous, to be honest. I just I think we’ve all become so mired in data in this crisis, that sometimes it just…people are petrified of things because of numbers. I suspect there’s one person a day getting some totally scary disease in Victoria or New South Wales, whatever it might be. But we don’t shut the economy for whatever that is, because we don’t hear about it. We’ve got all this data and information, yet so panicked by it. I’m actually trying to sort of discipline myself to stop looking at…there’s website called, which I look at far too much. But I’m trying to stop looking at it at the moment because I’m not a data scientist and I’ve got no context to look at these things.

    So I hope that Daniel Andrews has got good data scientists around him though and he is getting some context to say that if you’re getting one infection a day, you can probably start opening up the economy and allowing people to earn their livelihoods and protect their jobs, albeit that he seems a bit uptight about that when he’s challenged on it by the federal government. So let’s watch the space. For what it’s worth, the beginning of November, I think it’s the second that Monday, we are planning on opening our office in Melbourne. You might have a similar date if you’re in Victoria to do that. We believe that we are entitled to bring parts of our workforce back into the business on that date, on the basis that it’s reasonable to do so. And that’s a step that we’re gonna be taking unless the position changes. So if you’re an office business and wondering if and when you can open, that’s whenwe’ll be doing it and you may be looking at the same.

    So New South Wales, couple of tweaks to the way we’re operating here. If you’re in the hospitality industry, you probably know that group bookings have gone up to 30 from 10. If you’re a gym business, you don’t need to have a COVID safe office at present unless there’s over 30 people. So quite niche changes. I see them all as progress though. My hope is that quite soon we’ll start to be looking towards reduced concepts of social distancing in places like offices. We have on at least one floor in our office, we’ve put up, and up in Brisbane as well, we’ve put up plastic screens between each desk so we can actually bring more people into the office. A frustration I have to say. I remember back to when people first started looking at coming back into the office back in what? Probably was May or something like that. And I remember thinking I hope small businesses are not gonna be ending up having spent huge sums of money on plastic screens and things like that that have probably got fairly dubious epidemiological benefits. I’m one of those businesses. I think we’ve spent about $50,000 on plastic screens. It’s just a hideous thought to me that there are businesses around the country having to spent money on these things that really aren’t doing much.

    The idea that having a plastic screen between two people that sit next to each other for nine hours on a day just seems…the likelihood of that having some scientific benefit seems pretty slim to none to me, but you’re having to pay out money on it. But there we go. Worrying is not thinking. Bitching and moaning isn’t helpful, and he didn’t tune in to hear that. So that’s the progress in New South Wales. New Zealand, Jacinda just got re-elected. We did a bit of media overnight in New Zealand, where we’ve got business just talking about the Workplace Relations changes that seem imminent over there. So, Jacinda, as a part of her election promises, said that they were gonna double sick pay from five days to 10 days, i.e. to match Australia. And what we were saying overnight is be very careful because Australia has incredibly generous sick pay.

    I’ve heard through questions on here and through speaking to clients that sick leave and absence is the bane of a lot of employers. It’s been troublesome during JobKeeper, people pulling sickies, and getting JobKeeper money that people feel frustrated that they can’t challenge. Doctors signing off on sick certificates without apparently much thought to the consequence, just signing someone off who might be sick and all that sort of stuff.

    The reality is in Australia, we have a very, very high degree of sickness and absence compared to other OECD countries, particularly the UK. We have about double the amount of sick leave in Australia that they have in the UK. Quelle surprise, we have about double the amount of sick leave entitlement here as we do in the UK. So the way in which this tends to work in my view is that the higher the entitlement, the more people are gonna be inclined to use it. So in saying in New Zealand that they’re gonna double sick pay, my worry is that where businesses should be looking to engage their staff and increase productivity at the moment, they’re going to maybe get happier staff through having higher sick leave. But it doesn’t increase engagement or productivity, it just is likely to lead to more people pulling sickies, frankly.

    And to that as well, there’s talk over there of adding a public holiday. I would say this…and I made the opening point about Victoria, public holidays to business owners, as you guys all know, are very, very disruptive, regardless if you own a business in things like the hospitality sector and having to pay penalty rates and things is very disruptive. I know a number of hospitality businesses that just closed down on public holidays, despite the fact they might have demand because they just can’t make money out of it. But even for businesses that are not in that sector, it is very difficult to manage your way through in Australia, lots of different public holidays at different times. This is kind of…these last few weeks have been a bit of a minefield of that. And it disrupts your ability to get momentum up and to do business and bring in revenue and employ people, ultimately, which is what we’re all trying to do.

    And finally, just talking about increasing wages, notwithstanding very high minimum wages in New Zealand. So some quite, you know, no great surprises in that she’s a left-leaning Prime Minister. But I raised them here because I think they’re relevant to Australia as well, because it just gives you a bit of a sense as to what can happen, that even in the face of a crisis where people are losing their jobs all over the place, Jacinda is still going ahead with quite socialist views as to how she thinks employment will increase by adding to the benefits and the cost to employers. I don’t see that person as an employer. I think if it costs more to employ people, you’re not likely to employ more of them. But it seems that notwithstanding that, that’s what’s going on in New Zealand.

    So second thing reform. So lots more talk still in…I suspect it’s gonna get to the stage where I’m probably the only person interested in this. And until the talk turns into action, you might not be too fussed. But talk about reform in the IR space in Australia. There was a drum being banged by us amongst other people saying let’s get a Small Business Award in place to help small businesses to employ people to simplify wage rates and so on. That’s been said to be something that they’re not going to consider, which is a shame. They have said that they’re gonna look at simplifying the hospitality award. Good news, the hospitality sector employs so many people, bad news in that, that’s just one of 110 really confusing awards. Not everyone works in hospitality, not every employer is a hospitality business. So it would be useful to have some more consistency and simplicity across industries but it seems they’re just gonna target that one.

    Then finally a bit oddly, they say they’re gonna invest more in the regulators to help compliance with wages, which seems a bit odd. They’ve got this obsession with this idea that somehow technology is gonna solve the confusion of the award system. I had a really good chat today with a chap called Ross Heron, who runs a really cool business called Payroll HQ. And he runs the payroll for all sizes of companies. And I said to him, I said, “Am I missing the point here, but I don’t think there’s any technology out there that helps you answer how much you’re meant to pay someone.” Everything relies on the human input of understanding all the variables that exist under an award, you know, how old are you? What job do you do? What time of day do you do it? Do you work on public holidays? Do you work on weekends? All of these other inputs, technology doesn’t solve. Technology has never been a solution to those questions. All it does is…the fairly rude phrase is with technology is that if you put shit in, you get shit out. Because ultimately, technology just computes things that are subject to your own human error and to what your inputs are. So I think the government seems somewhat naive, to be honest, in how the modern awards system works, and how technology can help improve compliance. I think actually you’re only gonna get better compliance by simplifying the award system.

    So there’s a bit of an update on things and a bit of an update on reform. And before we go to any questions, I’m just gonna talk a little bit about…I suppose it’s just seeing that event this morning that has drawn me to it, including having a chat with Kelly from Flying Ruby. I think that we’re all at this interesting stage both personally and any of you that have got management teams if you like in your business where people might be flagging now, they might be knackered, frankly, from the last few months. You only need to sort of think about what it was like in March to realize just how long this year has been. We’re only six and a bit months on from that, but it feels like an age. And we’ll all have gone through this high-intensity period, which in a physical sense is being like sprinting rather than running or jogging. And normally, in businesses, yes, there might be some high degree of energy expended on certain things. But most of the time, we get to a realization that you can’t sprint for long distances. You can only find a more measured pace in order to run longer distances as business owners and avoid that sort of burnout.

    And that’s a very real thing, burnout amongst business owners. And I’ve said on here before, I believe that I don’t think burnout is solved by a quick trip to Bali or you know, a couple of longer nights sleep or lie in on a weekend. It’s not really a purely physical exhaustion, it’s largely mental, I think, for business owners. And I think probably the thing that’s really not yet known from this crisis is just how much impact, mental impact that this has had on everyone but also on business owners in particular because of the weight of the burden that they’ve been carrying for their survival, the continued employment of their staff, their ability just to keep going day-to-day. All of those things really do exhaust people and drag them down. And Kelly was chatting to me today about how difficult it had been essentially having her business shut by the crisis. And now she’s coming back out of that. She managed to find the positive in it talking about how as a business owner, she struggled to give the right amount of time to her family as her kid was growing up but had found some great time to do that. So it’s lovely to hear that.

    But it made me think in… I had this conversation actually with a friend who was was talking to me about their business and saying how they sort of felt like just giving in basically. It made me stop and think about what is that pool of energy? How do we actually get up for the fight each day? How do we avoid as I’ve said on here before having that mojo drained out of us so we’ve just got nothing left to give? And the answer is continually trying to find your purpose. You’ll probably have some sort of business purpose. We have at Employsure this purpose that we’re all about helping to build better business, we’re helping small businesses day-to-day. And that certainly gives me a purpose. But you’ve also got your individual purposes, and you’ve got to work on what they are. Because it’s when you forget about that purpose, I think, that why, that journey, that mission that you’re on that you end up feeling flat, exhausted, drained.

    In talking to my friend last night, it struck me that…I’m gonna use a metaphor here that…if in some degree, we’re all prisoners of some sort and you’re in a prison. The prisoner that actually survives the sentence is the one that has the picture on their wall that knows what they’re doing the time for. Whether that’s their family or whatever it is, but they’ve got that bigger picture as to what they’re gonna get through the mud for in order to get to the other side. And we all need that, as business owners, what is that big picture? What is that thing that we’re working towards? Because as soon as you take that picture off the wall, and you tear it up, or you lose it, then it just becomes a sentence. And that that’s pretty hard to deal with I think.

    So it’s really important for all of us and whatever that is that we make sure that we’re connected to our why our purpose at all times to get through what can be pretty dark periods. And just when you’re flagging, you need to draw on that energy resource to keep driving through, rather than as I suspect a number of businesses are at the moment, just quitting because it’s all become too hard. So there’s a little bit from me. I’m gonna turn to Stewie, who is being very patient over there listening to me waffle on with hopefully with some questions.

    Stewie: Ed, a couple of comments to open up this week from Nick, “Hi, Ed. I hope you’ve thawed out from the ice bath a bit earlier.

    Ed: I did yeah. I didn’t say which dare I did. I did the ice bath. I’d intended to only do the ice bath but mainly because the other dares all seemed too scary, having snakes around you and walking across hot coals. I felt like an ice bath was something I could stomach. So I did that. But then Kelly…I don’t know why I’ve been giving her so much bloody praise during this because she actually came and put a snake around my neck which was hideous. I’ve never done that before and don’t plan to do it again. But yeah, so I had some sort of python around my neck today which was not much fun.

    Stewie: Comment from Julie from Auto Rent. Hi, Ed, I’m still watching you from Queenstown in New Zealand even though our business is wholly Tasmanian based. Dependability to technology I guess.

    Ed: I know Julie, I know from early days of Employsure so yeah. Runs a car rental business. Is, let’s say, stuck in Queenstown. It’s not a bad place to be stuck, Julie. But is over there at the moment with her husband so thank you, Julie, for continuing to watch. And I hope that…it’d be interesting times in New Zealand, Julie. I think coming up you know, you’ve now got the Labor government over there that’s…and I know your employment, your business is in Tasmania but what’s gonna happen in New Zealand will be fascinating. Until now Employment Relations hasn’t been high on the agenda mainly because in a coalition government the Labor government can stick their neck out too far. We heard Jacinda murmur during the crisis about moving New Zealand to a four-day week and things like that. I have no idea how that works on a scale basis. I understand individual busines is doing it but it will be fascinating to see what happens next.

    Stewie: And Ed, just one more comment from Joe around saving, only 15 minutes late today with AEDT, not an hour like last week. I should be on time next week.

    Ed: Good. Well done. It’s very important to be on time.

    Stewie: And because it is the Festival of Footy coming up this first question is quite topical. Paul, has an AFL related question, Ed, a bit of a left-field question. But do you think North Melbourne, I’m presuming the football club, are lucky that they did not potentially have a WorkCover case on their hands for negligence, which caused stress and anxiety that led to Rhyce Shaw, Rhyce Shaw, I believe, the coach, his mental health issues. So the question is, do you think that this could potentially be an issue for some employers agreeing for employees to work from home as a result of the COVID pandemic?

    Ed: So I think trying to step back from that and it’s good to see the real-world examples. I’ll come to a really interesting real-world example in a moment I meant to talk about and didn’t. But if you have people that have a causal connection between their health and your work, whether it’s done at home, or whether it’s done in a more traditional workplace, you can still be liable for that, undoubtedly, whether it’s mental health or physical health. We talked on here before about the risk of someone having a WorkCover claim for catching COVID-19. Now, if you actually look at that, in practice, drawing that causal connection is quite hard. And that’s why you end up with WorkCover investigators and people go through the claim and understand it, to try and see whether the situation has been caused by work. And often, that’s very unclear. It’s a very hard test to prove. So I don’t actually know the North Melbourne case specifically, it’s another aspect of AFL I know very little about. I’ll go and read up on that afterwards. But if the question is that someone has mental health issues, and they seem to be caused by work, whether that’s the stress of the environment or things like bullying and harassment to work, certainly liability can flow from that. But it is very hard to prove.

    The other thing I’d add is that one thing that lawyers learn very early on in their training is that there’s this concept called the eggshell skull rule, which basically in law means this that if someone’s very fragile, and they consequently suffer an injury at work, mental injury at work, let’s say, just because they’re fragile, it doesn’t mean it’s not your fault. So if someone is fragile, you have a burden as an employer to treat them with sort of extra sensitivity. So it’s important, I think, in understanding that being, first and foremost, a human as a manager, and understanding your people well enough to know when to push harder when to pull back. Because if you do have people that have pre-existing challenges, making them worse can still become a WorkCover claim.

    Stewie: Just had this come in, Ed, from Kelly from Flying Ruby events.

    Ed: Oh, she’s watching.

    Stewie: Yeah. Thanks for the shout out. I’m watching during the bump-out.

    Ed: Yeah, thanks. Do some work Kelly. You’ve got everyone else doing your bump-out for you. That seems a bit…that’s not exactly part of the team Kelly, come on. Not thanks for that snake this morning, it was not welcomed in any way. But it was yeah, it was nice to meet you, Kelly. And also we worked out as well that I actually used to play rugby against Kelly’s husband Marcus. So he was a hell of a lot better than I was. It was good to see him as well.

    I’m just gonna jump in there and talk about this case that came out I think is really interesting in the week. A few of you might have read it. It was in the newspaper in Sydney about a cancer center here. And the cancer center was suing or is suing an employee for defrauding them of money because they were pulling sickies basically. Not only are they suing them but the police have become involved for defrauding them. It’s fascinating. In all my years of doing this, I’ve often wondered and thought that that is something that should happen. I’m amazed as to why the police…when you look at the amount of time that this person they said to have defrauded the cancer center out of about 10 or 20 grand I think, which is a lot of money. But it’s not like you know, they’ve been pretending to be sick for two years when, in fact, they haven’t. There was a period that they said they were sick, there’s some suggestion clearly that they weren’t actually sick and they were taking sick pay and the police have got involved.

    It’s quite an interesting fight back for employers. I’ve long been banging on feeling like I’m a bit of an echo chamber of no one listening other than myself about how frustrating it is for an employer to work in an environment where people can so freely take sick leave and you’re expected to pay them for it. That is a fraud to my mind someone saying, “I’m sick today. I’m not coming into work, give me some money,” when they’re not. And it seems actually the employer, in this case, has fought back and somehow that police have become interested in and as I understand that this person has been charged and has also been sued in civil courts for defrauding. So quite interesting stuff. Watch the space on that.

    Stewie: Ed, this next one from Naomi a long time viewer of the live streams.

    Ed: There we go. I’m getting good at this. Either I know you all really well or there’s only three of you.

    Stewie: We’re experiencing the sick/personal leave issue right now. An employee not returning to work as they have said they are caring for a family member. I’ve asked for a medical certificate and leave from. The doctor provided a medical certificate stating “Patient name has attended our clinic today and stated that they’ve been looking after their terminally ill grandfather since the 12th of October 2020 and will continue looking after him.” Essentially the medical clinic has given them an open-ended medical certificate. They are currently getting Jobkeeper payments as they have no leave available.

    Ed: Infuriating, I’d say Naomi. The problem with that…you could ask the employee to clarify how long that will go on for. Or to at least put a date on which is gonna be reviewed. Or you could put a date on that to say, “Look, I understand you’ve been given this open-ended certificate, but we are gonna review it on this date to see how long that might be going on for.” There’s nothing to stop you from having that kind of HR, what would typically be called a welfare meeting, where you’d call them in to talk with them about their ability to return to work and when. And then say for the sake of argument, as much as the saddening situation behind this with the terminally ill relative. But if that was going to go on indefinitely, then there’s the possibility of going down what’s called a capacity or capability dismissal there. You might be saying to someone that essentially you just don’t have the ability to do this role anymore because you are needing to commit yourself to this other part of your life. But that’s not the stage you’re at at the moment but you could set up on a periodic basis, let’s say monthly a welfare meeting to ask and see how they’re going and when they think they might return to work. Document it so that if you ever do get a situation where you’re saying that this employment relationship can’t continue in this vein, then you’ve got the history of what you have done to try and make things work.

    Stewie: Ed, this is from Vanessa, she says spot on Ed. Honestly, no one has thought about business owners only caring for the employees, including the employers who have to worry about them whilst wondering how they will survive. I heard how many mental health-related WorkCover claims during COVID-19 have been accepted in Victoria. That’s a joke when most employees hadn’t even been working.

    Ed: Yeah, it is. I suppose the other… Looking at it another way, I don’t doubt that a lot of people have been…I can only imagine themess that sits beneath the skin of this crisis of people with all sorts of mental health problems being stuck in places that were not designed for them to work from or being stuck without work suddenly having any potential fractures in relationships exposed because you’re spending much more time with people than you were before. There’s just a whole mess of problems there. What does seem difficult is that where they’ve been attributed to workplaces, and there isn’t that casual [inaudible 00:32:39] The insurance should be taking a critical look at that to say is this an unfortunate consequence of the crisis? Or is there some cause of liability that the employer is responsible for? Business owners as you say haven’t been top of the agenda of people that really struggled through this. We’ve all got our problems. But what we do know about small business owners is they tend to take on other people’s problems as well.

    And actually, I’ve got some of our marketing team here. I’m gonna announce this to them now. They love it when I do this. But I was talking to one of our team, a lady called Gwen down in Tassie, that some of you might have dealt with this week about this exact issue. And what we resolved to do was to…she’s currently looking for a third-party provider that can help us as a business with counseling for business owners, with relation to their mental health. And she’s gonna go and speak to a handful of providers. And what I’m proposing that we do is we’re going to spend some money on engaging those counselors or counseling service, once we find them. Then go out to our client base and offer it to our small business client base. Partly, it’s a goodwill gesture. If there’s a selfish aspect to this, it’s that I listen to our advisors day-to-day. And a lot of what we do ends up being counseling, we’re not just speaking about Employment Relations, which is great that we can help people with that. But there’s a flip side to it, which is a lot of people take on the burden of that here as well. And I wanna make sure we’re looking after our advisors because they deal in some pretty upsetting and difficult scenarios, day-to-day. And if people are needing a different form of professional help, we wanna divert them to the right place.

    Stewie: Great answer.

    Ed: Yeah. You guys love just having extra work to do, just running around and solve that. Reminiscing on good old days, Stewie, when we just…you know, the government would make up a new job something and we would say, “Yep, no problem. We’ll try that tomorrow.”

    Stewie: Absolutely. We’re that nimble.

    Ed: Yeah.

    Stewie: Diane asks, looking for your thoughts on culture. What markers do you use to determine if an employee isn’t the right cultural fit in your business, and how can you trust that culture will be sustainable if you’re not there to personally enforce it?

    Ed: Okay, really good question, actually. So, two aspects of this. I’d say trying to apply your cultural framework before you accept people into the business is a key one. So what do you do during the interview process to work out someone might be a right fit. And we do that principally by, you know, we know what our values are as a business. We have them written down, we try to make sure everyone understands what they are. But we interview based on those. So we at Employsure, our values are commitment, adaptability, honesty, and that we treat our clients as king. And we interview based on the interpretation of those. And if we don’t feel people share our values, however good they might be, we won’t select them. That’s not a perfect science, of course. You can make errors on that but we do… There are then little litmus tests I use pretty rigorously and they might be unfair on occasion. But I reckon I exclude more wrong people than I do the right people by using these kinds of litmus tests. So for example, I will never interview someone if they turn up even a minute late for the appointed interview, I just won’t bother going out to meet them if they’re late.

    What else won’t I do? I won’t interview someone if they bounce around a lot in jobs. If people have worked for, you know, less than a year in multiple jobs. It just doesn’t look to me like they have the kind of commitment that I value. So those sorts of things I have in place to try and stop people coming in that are the wrong fit. Try to keep people that are the right fit. There’s a great quote, I think about culture, you know, cultures, I’m going to bastardize, paraphrase it, but it’s culture is what happens when you’re not there, or what people do when you’re not there, something along those lines. So by its very nature, if I’m having to enforce it, it’s not our culture. And really, you know, we’re lucky enough to have grown to have a lot of people. I see culture as really emanating not from me, but from all the people layer upon layer of people that have come over time from our first employees who are people who live and behave and work in the ways that they work. They’re here still after that long time because they live and work and behave in ways that marry up to what I wanna see in the business. And collectively, we’ve build the business together on that basis. And they become the examples person after person of how people should behave in the business, rather than me telling people what to do all the time.

    Because if I was telling people all the time the culture, it is still a culture but the culture would be much more directional, much more command and control. And classically, it would be much more like a military organization. That’s very much…if I’m not here to tell you what to do, you’ll probably won’t do it. And so you become very direct in that way. We try not to work in that way here. We wanna trust people ultimately. But in order to trust, you’ve got to have this strong set of values everyone knows and understands. And remember, the final point I’d make is that values are kind of very risky in the sense that they can become slogans that don’t mean anything unless you help translate them to people. So we have below our values connected to each of those values, a sequence of behaviors which we call our values in action.

    So what does commitment actually mean? Commitment for us means amongst other things that you deliver on promises, you don’t just say you’re gonna do things and not do them. And if you don’t do them, we’ll call you out on it and we’ll keep you accountable to it. We won’t just shrug our shoulders and say, “Ah, never mind.” And it means right down to a micro-level that we see turning up on time to things is important. And I’ve got to live that because if I don’t no one else will see it. But as long as I repeatedly do it, then it should get deep enough into the culture that I don’t then need to be there to police that. I hope that gives a bit of an answer to that.

    Stewie: Yeah, that’s true. This one from Alison, she’s a client. We’ve been shut down since March, we run a gymnastics club. We have some trainee staff who only started with us in January, and we won’t be able to take them back straight away when we can eventually open. So can we offer them to come back and do volunteer work if they want to? We’ll take them back again as soon as business picks up but if they wanna stay in touch and come and help out with some classes, is that okay?

    Ed: It’s a bit risky, Alison, to be honest. Ultimately, that’s gonna be okay until it’s not. So, you know, if it’s purely voluntary, you don’t have to do it. You just want to stay in touch. There’s always a risk that the person doesn’t see it that way, sees it as you trying to take advantage of the situation, believes that if they don’t do it, then they won’t get the hours at a future date. So I think it’s a bit risky. But all of that is predicated on not knowing exactly what your relationship is with these people. If you’ve got strong relationships with them, and they’re understanding your business predicament, and they’re willing to do it on a truly voluntary basis and they don’t feel like there’s some sort of coercion or requirement that they do it in order to get the hours at a future date, then you could give it a go. But it’s not technically going to be a lawful thing to do.

    Stewie: Ed, this one, from Mark in his own words, a curious question. Can the Prime Minister sack someone who doesn’t work for him? That is, especially for buying Cartier watches? I wouldn’t have thought that’s a breach of workplace law.

    Ed: Well, put it this way, if you earn as much as Christine Holgate does then you don’t have many legal protections in the eyes of the law. So as long as she gets paid her notice period, then you can…some that’s over the unfair dismissal cap can be sacked pretty easily. There’s always a risk that they sue for discrimination of some sort. But in her case, and having this sort of external party, I don’t know what this specific, you know, charter as to how the Prime Minister…what authority he has over a public body or publicly owned body like Australia Post. I’m not sure about that. So maybe he does have the authority to sack her ultimately. Maybe he doesn’t. But it’s quite an interesting question. From a private business perspective, if you think about the number of times that you might get a complaint about your staff member. And quite often, the complainant might say something along the lines, “I want to get rid of them, they were rude to me,” or whatever it is. You might have to work out what to do as a business.

    On the one hand, you risk your reputation in running the business by having someone that’s getting complained about. On the other hand, you have workplace obligations to that person. And you’ve also got cultural obligations that if you don’t show loyalty to that person, does it end up eating away at your business? So the short answer is you build from the ground up and that you start off with what the law says. If someone rang me today, and fortunately, they don’t, but they say they rang up and said, “I think so and so staff member is terrible and they’re rude to me.” What I wouldn’t do is walk out and fire that person, I would say, “Thank you for the complaint. Thanks for making me aware of it.” We’ll go away and investigate it and we’d look at it. And we’d probably then, you know, subject to privacy issues, give some communication back to the complainant. Say, “Look, we have engaged in this process and you can be assured that certain actions have been taken.” If that turned out to be what needed to be done. But you don’t tend to be able to as an employer work on the, and you shouldn’t, work on the command of a third-party external to the business.

    Stewie: Thanks, Ed. This one from Darren. He says, “Ed, we’re looking at redundancies, we have less than 15 employees in the business. So I thought that we would be protected from unfair dismissal. However, an associate of mine mentioned that we may need to think about associated entities. Do you have any advice on that?”

    Ed: I do have a bit of advice generally. So you’re not protected from unfair dismissal. What you might be protected from, depending on your award is redundancy payments. So that doesn’t mean that you can just walk out and dismiss someone. I was stunned last week, actually. I was doing a bit of work for a friend who was made redundant within a five-second meeting with no consultation, no warning. I don’t think there was malice intended. I think the business in that case just didn’t understand and they thought that as a business with less than 15 staff, they didn’t have the obligations to go through processes and so forth. You still do. You can still be sued for unfair dismissal. But you might not have an obligation to pay redundancy pay. So they’re two quite different things. If you’re gonna make someone redundant as a business with less than 15 staff, you still have to if they have unfair dismissal rights, by virtue of their service and so on, you still have to go through the right processes. So be very, very careful on that. It just might mean that you don’t have to pay them redundancy pay but you do have to go through the process.

    Stewie: Thanks, Ed. This one from Jane. Ed, will the lockdowns and restrictions affect the way I notify my staff about Christmas shutdowns. Some of my awards require formal notification but I’m not sure how to approach it this year.

    Ed: I can’t see how if the award requires formal notification, you probably would have put in writing anyway and so forth. So you should be able to do that still. So check the award, make sure you comply with that. But I presume maybe you’re thinking about things like notices to staff and so on. But you should be able to do that by email and then making sure you ring around to check they’ve been received and read.

    Stewie: Time for one more formal question.

    Ed: Sure.

    Stewie: From Tammy from New Zealand. If they increase sick pay, will they also toughen the rules around the employee proving their illness?

    Ed: I doubt it, Tammy, being frank. Toughening the rules doesn’t do anything. I always think…over here, for example, Tammy, there’s…great to have so many people watching from New Zealand, by the way. I will never forget it. When I was first setting up this business I was driving to see a client up in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, I swear I was. I wasn’t just buggering off to [inaudible 00:46:14] what my wife calls a fake business trip to go and have some quiet time away from my kids. That wasn’t what I was doing I swear. What I was doing is going to see this client and over the motorway on a billboard had a sign advertising that you could get sick leave certificates from a pharmacy. The very clear implied message being that you weren’t particularly sick, but you could just get signed off at the pharmacy. And they were selling them for…I can’t remember what the fee was now, about 50 bucks I think. And that to me marches coach and horses through the spirit and intent of the legislation around someone being sick. But it’s to me the medical profession has got a big thing to answer for, for what they’ve done with that in not critically pushing back on people who are just looking for time off. And I know that it’s the same in New Zealand at the moment. And I don’t think that that’s good. I can’t see a way other than the medical profession getting a grip of it, of changing that.

    Stewie: Ed, just a couple of really nice comments to finish up here from Karen. She says, “Ed, great to be listening. You’re in competition with the U.S. government today. No competition as far as I see it. They should vote one for Ed, who’s with me? Thanks for the great job you do.”

    Ed: I think they’ve got the presidential debate right now.

    Stewie: I think they do, yeah.

    Ed: I think that’s probably the only place you’ll hear more nutty things right now. More ranting on here than anywhere else, actually we advertised today. Come here for more one eyed rants than you’ll hear anywhere else.

    Stewie: And a lance of insight as well.

    Ed: Well, occasionally. In the debate or here?

    Stewie: Here. And from the Design Dental Group, we’ve received great advice from Employsure, in recent weeks. Thank you.

    Ed: Great, great to have you onboard, guys.

    Stewie: And Nicole says, and I concur, great idea, Ed, around the counseling.

    Ed: Good. That’s good to hear, Nicole. I’ll see whether the team shares when everyone’s running around trying to make that work in the next few days. But yeah, hopefully. I think it’s…I openly speak about that myself. I’ve definitely had times where it’s hard just to remind yourself just to get up and keep going. Not least because it’s bloody hard to run races when you don’t know where the finish line is. I don’t know if any of you have ever done that when you…whether it’s a sporting club, or whatever it is, but not know how long you’ve got left makes it really hard to do things. And the only way that I can propose doing that is to know that there isn’t a finish line. You’re working to a bigger purpose that you’ll probably never actually achieve. And you’ve got to somehow pace yourself to be able to consistently run at that purpose. Good. Thank you very much, everyone. I shall see you next week.

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