As we enter the vaccination phase of this pandemic a new set of questions and considerations arise for employers. The Think Tank session we held last week raised some puzzling conundrums and generated excellent discussion. Thank you to everyone who contributed. A summary of the discussion points follow in this article.
Here are the most obvious potential scenarios and some considerations:
- Stay at Alert Level 4 for another 1, 2,3,4 weeks – whole country
- Drop to Alert Level 3 – whole country
- Some regions coming out of Level 4 before others.
In Te Tauihu (Top of the South) there hasn’t been a new case since last Thursday and none of the cases in this region are community transmitted. If there is a region by region reduction in Alert Level, then Nelson/Marlborough are well placed to be one of the first to drop levels.
So what does Alert Level 3 look like? The Alert Levels were written to describe an escalation of Levels rather than a de-escalation, and there will be an announcement tomorrow on new definitions and what the restrictions will be at each level. Currently the restrictions at Alert Level 3 are described as:
- travel in areas with clusters or community transmission limited
- affected educational facilities closed
- mass gatherings cancelled
- public venues closed (eg libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks)
- alternative ways of working required and some non-essential businesses should close
- non face-to-face primary care consultations
- non acute (elective) services and procedures in hospitals deferred and healthcare staff reprioritised.
Remaining at Level 4, and Level 3 for some businesses, will see no change in how the business is operating. However, a longer period without revenue may affect your business decisions. For businesses that can return to work there are a number of considerations to work through to be prepared. Here is some to take action on:
- With each scenario what do you anticipate your customer requirements and staffing needs will be?
- What safety processes and procedures will you need to put in place to protect your employees from any continued COVID-19 risk? How will this affect your work flow?
- Do your safety measures affect your staffing requirements?
- Do you need to negotiate other changes to your Employment Agreements and get prior written agreement from your employees. For example
- different work locations,
- when work hours are carried out (you may need to work in shifts outside of their normal hours of work to enable social distancing), and
- reduced hours and pay.
- What PPE is required? Where will you source the PPE from? When will it be available?
- What will you do if employees refuse to return to work because:
- The risk is too great (they are vulnerable or a family member is);
- They say the risk is too great but aren’t deemed vulnerable;
- There is no school and they have no alternative childcare arrangements.
- What will you do if an employee does not agree to reduced hours or wages?
It may help if you consider these questions, discuss them with your team, and communicated your plan and expectations before there is a return to work. If you haven’t yet started on your next phase planning, my suggestion is you start at the top of the list and work your way down. It is not a comprehensive list of considerations, but a sound place to start.