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Business continuity and contingency planning

With the announcement that Omicron is now in the community and the move to red as a nation, it is timely yet again – as employers – to ensure our contingency plan is in place.

The government has been warning us that once in the community Omicron will quickly spread and to expect a high number of cases. As businesses it is vital that we prepare ourselves quickly and for every eventuality.

Thankfully, most of us have had some practice and many of us are fully integrated into working from home or utilising a hybrid working model. However, for some that is simply not possible. It’s time to review yet again, our Business Continuity Plan – a refresh to ensure we are ready for what may lie ahead.

As a business who provides advice to employers, and also as an employer of my own staff, it’s timely to revisit the planning around interruption of business operations.

Should Omicron spread as predicted we will have staff sick who are unable to work, staff isolating, and further supply chain delays, which in turn is pushing the cost of goods upwards.

Plan for business continuity

Planning for business continuity will help you to identify the most important aspects of your business and the critical risks in these areas.

The aim is to help you to recover as quickly as possible. Think about the following aspects; what are your specific risks if something were to go wrong?

Is doesn’t need to be a pandemic or natural disaster.

How would you get back to a business as usual state? And what are your options if you can’t return to business as usual?

To start with your business continuity plan you’ll need to identify your key products or services, those most profitable, least profitable and what are the essentials you need to carry out these activities.

Who are the key people within your business, and this won’t always be limited to employees? What about your vital business connections – for example suppliers, service providers, regular customers, etc?

Plant and equipment – what do you need in order to do what you do – what is essential and how what would you do if you didn’t have access to your usual equipment?

In terms of location, where could you work from if you didn’t have access to your usual work premises?

When planning for the unexpected, think outside the square in terms of where your business could potentially operate from.

For example, if your premises were damaged or unavailable, could your staff work from home or another location and how easily could company information and data be accessed in order to do so?

How would your customers know how to find you or contact you? Do you have appropriate insurance cover in place to protect you against losses?

Business interruption insurance can help cover businesses with their normal operating expenses and this will likely include covering wages for a period of time whilst your business may not be generating an income.

If you couldn’t run your business – who could? Have you identified key roles within the business and their roles in helping your business operate?

There is a general obligation for employers to pay salaried and wage workers who are fit, willing and able to work, but can’t because their place of employment is closed or damaged.

Have you briefed staff and trained them across different roles that they may need to perform if others are away? It may even be a good idea to talk to your bank manager about managing cash-flow.

In terms of managing your staff, it is really important to remember that employers have obligations to their employees under the Employment Relations Act.

Update yourself on sick leave allocations and the use of annual leave or leave without pay to see if these may be options you are able to utilise.

General obligations

There is a general obligation for employers to pay salaried and wage workers who are fit, willing and able to work, but can’t because their place of employment is closed or damaged.

There are other options which include the negotiation of using annual leave for a period of time, unpaid leave or the offering of alternative work.

An important factor when dealing with any interruption in your business and then subsequent decisions around running the business and negotiating with your staff is to keep communication lines open and active. A stressful time for all concerned and a flexible and common-sense approach is needed to get businesses up and running and staff back on board.

Planning and communication are key in times of adversity and we can take practical steps to minimise the impact such an event could have on our own situations.

Related: Covid lockdown effects on employment

Kellie Hamlett
Kellie Hamlett
Director, Recruitment & HR Specialist, Talent ID Recruitment Ltd. She can be contacted on kellie@talentid.co.nz or 027 227 7736

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