The impact of COVID-19 on small businesses in Australia has been nothing short of staggering. Now, however, small businesses are being hit with the winter cold and flu season as well as another wave of Covid-19, just as they are starting to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
In any normal year, the amount of workplace sickness because of cold and flu can be problematic to any small business. This year isn’t like any normal year, a lack of immunity to cold and flu in the population due to minimal exposure during the pandemic has meant that the impact of worker absenteeism within the workplace is being felt by both small and large businesses across Australia.
The Guardian recently reported that sick leave rates across Australia in May 2022, were approximately 50% above the long-term average. Given that May is the last month of Autumn, this figure doesn’t bode well for small businesses that are now battling their way through a fully-fledged winter cold and flu season.
At Insurance Advisernet, we recognise the very real business risks our clients are facing every single day. How can you and your business safely navigate your way through what is likely to be a significant cold and flu season, whilst dealing with increasing cases of COVID-19 and a higher level of staff being off work?
1. Preparing a plan for increasing levels of workplace sickness
Undoubtedly, some types of businesses, especially in the healthcare, retail and education industries where there is regular interaction with other people are facing increasing levels of workplace absenteeism this winter. So, we encourage our clients to review their Business Continuity Plan and discuss their specific situation with their Insurance Adviser. Senior staff should review and update planning to ensure the impact is managed, minimising disruption to the business. Have a preventative plan in place to minimise the spread of cold’s and the flu in the workplace. Including regular cleaning and having employees report symptoms to their managers as soon as they feel unwell.
2. Encourage staff to stay home if they are sick
NSW Health recommends that if employees believe they have the flu, they should report to their manager and take sick leave, if available, to limit contact with others as much as possible. If someone in the workplace has developed a cold or flu, other staff should be vigilant as symptoms generally appear between two to four days after exposure. As far as COVID-19 is concerned, the Australian Government states that if people believe they have COVID-19, they need to take a RAT or PCR test, and isolate until a negative result is received. If the result is positive, employees must isolate at home and should not attend work until their government mandated isolation period is complete. Remember to always refer to government resources to ensure you are following Covid-19 protocols within your business.
3. Educate staff about the signs of flu, colds and COVID-19
Along with working with staff to remain at home if they’re unwell, educating employees about the signs and symptoms of colds, flu and COVID-19 is a vital part of minimising workplace sickness and maintaining overall operations. It’s also important for staff to realise that they can have both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
4. Consider hybrid or Work from Home models
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly recently advised that working from home helps minimise absenteeism due to sickness. If small businesses can support a work-from-home hybrid model they have a greater chance of reducing their business risk during the current cold and flu season.
5. Keep up-to-date with government health advice
Employers should ensure their staff are informed of all government health updates. This ensures that staff are aware of any vaccination requirements, how to protect themselves and their families, and how the cold and flu season is progressing in Australia.
These 5 tips should help small businesses reduce the amount of business risk they face as a result of rising levels of workplace sickness across Australia. Find your local adviser for more help managing business risks, including relating to cold and flu in the workplace and to protect your customers, staff and business this winter.
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