Planning For Disasters
Whilst the world responds to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is vital businesses take proactive steps to develop a disaster plan. We have prepared some insights into how your business can maintain business continuity, ensure the health and well-being of your teams and sustain employee productivity during these uncertain times.
Have a disaster plan
Employee health and well-being
- Your mindset and communication as a leader can play a large part in how well your people cope with uncertainty. Maintain a calm and reassuring manner when communicating with employees and customers. There is still good money to be made in bad times.
- Much has been said in the media about how to protect the physical health of employees, but also consider the mental health of your staff. The virus itself may induce or exacerbate anxiety for some, as will any discussion of the impact the virus may have on your business and the status of your worker’s employment.
Business continuity and accessibility
- Consider the possibility that some or even all of your workforce will need to work from home. Be mindful that this may be a decision made for you by the Australian Government, or it may be a decision forced upon you due to closure of schools, public transport, events and the like.
- Are your people able to work from home? Have you checked in advance that both your business and your individual employees have the technology to do this and have you checked recently that it works? What would be the impact of your IT resources should all your staff try to work at home simultaneously? Have you compiled up to date contact details for all your employees, including contact phone numbers?
- It is called ‘disaster planning’ for a reason – you are preparing for some worst-case scenarios. If you were forced to send all your workers home tomorrow, consider the practicalities like who would answer the business phone, collect the mail and deal with suppliers, stakeholders, etc.
- Understand your legal obligations in relation to staff taking personal leave and being absent from the office. The Government’s message to businesses is clear, in that employers are strongly encouraged to do what is necessary to support workers and maintain employment. Consider what the ‘right’ thing to do is, not only from a commercial perspective but also from a moral, legal and reputational perspective. Do not expect government agencies like Fair Work Australia or the Human Rights Commission to go easy on you if you breach Australian workplace laws.
- If your staff cannot work remotely, but you need them to stay at home, seek expert employment law advice before taking action like standing them down, reducing their hours, reducing their pay or terminating employment.
Productivity and efficiency
- If you can make proper arrangements for your business to continue, consider how you can ensure that your staff maintain a reasonable level of productivity. You may be required to manage them in a different manner and check in with them more often. Likewise, they may need to check in with you more often.
- If you are working with client data and commercial data, ensure you consider the need to keep it secure if your disaster plan involves your people using personal computers. You may have made efforts to protect data in your own physical location on your own electronic devices, like phone and laptops. If your people are working on a personal computer, then you are still obliged to ensure that customer data is protected. Be mindful that customer and supplier data is stored on a staff’s personal computer or stored in a personal email account is likely to constitute a reportable data breach. Consider the possibility that those personal devices and accounts may be compromised in the future.
How we can work with you over the period
Coronavirus related financial challenges
At PKF we have implemented plans and processes to ensure that we can continue to help clients over this difficult period. We are able to meet with you by phone or by video conference to discuss matters like your cash flow, budgeting, government payments, forecasting and general financial management. To discuss your situation, please contact your PKF Partner or adviser.
Business as usual
There are also financial matters that are relevant each and every year. For example, as we approach EOFY, we can talk with you in relation to tax planning for this year and future years. With the financial pressure on businesses expected to increase over the coming months, this is not the time to be paying more tax than necessary. We recommend that you contact us to discuss your tax planning so that we can take appropriate action prior to EOFY.
It is more important than ever to take proactive steps to ensure your business is prepared amid these uncertain times. If your business has been affected by the Coronavirus and you are seeking assistance, please do not hesitate to contact your PKF adviser.