With COVID-19 causing so much uncertainty and impacting global economies, businesses around the world are now forced to transition into survival mode in order to stay afloat during the crisis.
Much of this transition involves cutting costs wherever possible as well as reassessing what is strictly necessary, what can be put on hold or what can be let go of for the business to “ride the wave”.
With salaries adding up as one of the biggest costs for a business, it is all too easy to assume that the only way forward is by letting go of staff through redundancies.
Yet, when you’ve invested time and money training and building strong teams, having to start again from scratch once the crisis is averted can end up costing more time and money in the long run, and actually putting your business in danger of going under. So what do you do?
Well, what if we told you there were other ways to cut costs (both in the short and long term) whilst still saving jobs and keeping your amazing talent? No magic tricks, just different options for you to consider.
In such an uncertain economic environment, here is a little clarity on six redundancy alternatives you can choose for your team:
1. Put temporary pay cuts in place for the leadership team
Leading by example as well as with empathy is of the utmost importance at this point in time in order to instil a sense of camaraderie and long term teamwork.
By introducing temporary pay cuts for the leadership team, you are announcing to your staff and stakeholders that riding this wave is a team sport, one where all parties are sacrificing a little for the greater good.
Please note that this idea is much easier to write about than it is to roll out. Expect some pushback on the reduced income from your executive team. The best way to navigate this conversation is to stress the importance of an ‘all for one, one for all’ mindset. In order to preserve colleagues’ jobs, everyone has to pitch in.
2. Allow employees to take their paid leave
No one knows the true timeframe of the impact COVID-19 will have on the economy and on businesses. With this in mind, if employees have annual /holiday leave or long service leave, you should encourage your teams to take them before you opt straight to redundancy.
However, this is dependent on the terms of the modern award or enterprise agreement that applies to the business. In regards to long service leave, this also depends on the terms of the applicable state or territory legislation.
3. Switch the business to a 3 or 4 day week
If your business is experiencing a reduction in business and the workload is decreasing, introducing a shorter working week can help ease the pressure.
While hopefully temporary, this will provide your employees with structure to their days and weeks, allowing them to complete required work and also help support them financially in these unprecedented times.
4. Switch to job sharing
Job sharing is the process whereby two employees share the equivalent of one full-time role. This reduces the cost of one full-time employee, whilst allowing two employees to work reduced hours. This allows your teams to retain some work and income.
This flexible working arrangement can be quite daunting and hard to adjust to at first (especially when working from home), but there are a few things you can put in place as an employer to ease the transition.
5. Switch to part-time
If you are experiencing a period of reduced business, switching full time roles to a part time capacity can help ease financial pressure caused by COVID-19.
Similar to job sharing, it allows for employees to maintain their role and part of their income while everyone navigates through uncharted waters.
The benefit of going part-time over job sharing is that everyone retains their own position, which means less confusion, as well as gives you the ability to transition their position back to full-time more easily when possible.
If you decide to go down this path, ensure that these new arrangements are formally recorded.
6. Stand downs
Commonly, it’s not possible for employers to force employees to take periods of unpaid leave.
However, under section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009, an employer may stand down employees without pay in certain circumstances, including where there is a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be held responsible and where an employee cannot be usefully employed, such as what is currently happening with COVID-19.
Please note that this is specific to employers that are affected by the shut down requirements, specifically if they’ve been instructed not to operate for a period of time by the government.
When this occurs they are able to stand down employees that cannot be usefully employed because their usual functions have ceased. For example, an airline that has been forced to cancel all activity (flights) can stand down staff that cannot be usefully employed such as pilots, air hostesses, etc.
Worth mentioning that the conditions to stand downs may change in the near future to become more inclusive, so stay tuned for updates from your local government.
If the employee agrees to take leave without pay, agreement needs to be formally recorded.
Going through a downturn and making tough decisions to keep your company afloat is necessary in times such as these. Yet, if you’re willing to think outside the box when it comes to cutting costs, your organisation will be better placed to get back on track when the economy eventually recovers from the impact of COVID-19.
The information provided in this knowledge-based article is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation, we recommend you contact our HR experts: Jarrod (ANZ) or Benoit (Europe & Africa), our for further advice.