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COVID-19 Business Continuity – 25th March

Hi, it’s Ashley Thomson with the update for Wednesday 25th March,

In today’s blog:
1. Temporary changes to debt collection and insolvency
2. Working from home

The shutdown announced yesterday by the PM was a lot less restrictive than many people expected. In light of that, I’ve deferred the brief on shut down and instead we’re talking about employees working from home.

First up, though, there have been changes to insolvency procedures that business owners should be aware of.

1. Temporary changes to debt collection and insolvency

Temporary measures have been put in place to relax the protocols around debt collection and insolvency. The upside is that it gives debtors more breathing room. The downside is that it means creditors will find it harder to collect monies owed.

I need to bring this to your attention because while you may not be at risk of being insolvent, your clients could be and they may take advantage of these temporary measures to avoid paying you.

The 3 main elements of the temporary relief package are:

1. Statutory demands: There are higher thresholds for issuing statutory demands and longer response times. The minimum threshold for issuing a statutory demand has been raised from $2000 to $20,000 and the time-frame for responding to a demand has been extended from 21 days to 6 months. This means that if you’ve got a problem with collecting debt, you’ll have to wait 6 months before it could be heard in court and recovered.

2. Bankruptcy: Higher debt level and longer response times. The minimum amount of debt for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy has been temporarily increased from $5000 to $20,000 and the debtor will have 6 months to respond and then another period of 6 months protection from unsecured creditor action to recover debts.

3. Insolvency: Businesses will be allowed to trade insolvently for 6 months without incurring personal liability.

My advice is to be careful with who you extend credit to and how much credit you extend. A coach will help you identify the markers of safe vs less safe businesses to work with and assess each on a case by case basis.

Read the Government fact sheet here: Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses

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2. Working from home

When considering the option of having employees work from home, the primary question you need to ask is, ‘Will this work be done satisfactorily (adequately?) at the employee’s home?’

Note that the question isn’t a theoretical one of, ‘Could it be done,’ or even ‘Can it be done,’ it’s a very practical, realistic question: Will it be done.

Some factors that determine if the work will be done are:
Whether the role is appropriate to be done from home; and
Whether there is a dedicated area where the employee can focus and be uninterrupted

If the answers aren’t definitely YES, then you need to consider whether it’s the right thing for your business right now.

1. Appropriate roles to work from home
2. Work from home policy
3. Expectations of work
4. Communication protocols and methods
5. Technology and security

1. Appropriate roles to work from home

Not every role and every function can be conducted from an employee’s home. Roles that are desk-based such as admin roles, marketing, financial, business development should be considered for their ability to be done from home. Other roles that are “on the tools” are obviously not able to be done from home.
There may be some roles in your business that are a hybrid of desk-based and on the tools. Speak with a business mentor or coach about options for structuring roles and possibly varying work hours in these situations.

2. Work from home policy

You need a work from home policy to clearly define the employee’s responsibilities and obligations when working from home.

I’ve attached a work from home (WFH) policy template that we sourced from the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There are likely to be other aspects of a WFH policy that are specific to your business – a coach can help you identify them and tailor the policy with you.

See attachment: COVID-19 Working from Home Policy Template

Also be aware that as an employer, you are still responsible for your employees’ OH&S even when they’re working from home. A coach can direct you to specialist advice and/or resources as required.

3. Expectations of work

It’s important that you’re clear about the output you expect from people working from home.

Working from home can be a flexible arrangement that allows people to manage their work time as they choose. That might be fine for some roles that have a predetermined output (for example, preparing financial reports). Other roles might require scheduled working hours to be agreed, such as roles that need to be available to answer client phone calls or sales enquiries calls, or attend meetings (by phone or video conference).

Document your expectations and discuss them with your employee.

4. Communication protocols and methods

Consider how to best communicate with your WFH employees for:
a) scheduled meetings such as weekly meetings, daily huddles or toolbox sessions, and
b) ad hoc conversations such as questions, troubleshooting, sharing information about projects or clients.

Things to consider:

Scheduled meetings: decide when they will be held, with who, and which method you’ll use.
E.g. one-on-one meeting daily at 9:15am via phone/FaceTime, or a team meeting every Wednesday at 4:00pm via video conference (we recommend Zoom).

Ad hoc questions and conversations: set guidelines for the frequency and importance of ad hoc communications. Do you want to get a phone call anytime there’s a question or only when it’s an urgent matter? Consider an online chat forum (Google Hangouts) or instant messaging system (like Slack) the whole team or sub-teams can use to keep in contact. Think about what will work best for you and your employee to be most effective and efficient.

5. Technology

Provide your staff with the appropriate hardware to work from home tech (i.e. laptop, tablet, even their desktop if needed). Check that they have access to the software and applications they require to perform their tasks.

I strongly recommend you use a password manager, such as LastPass or 1Password, for extra security and control of passwords.

Other accessories that should also be considered: power, chargers, printers, mobile WiFi, general office supplies.

Warn your employees that cyber criminals thrive during a crisis. Remind people working from home to be extra vigilant about cybersecurity. Some elementary security measures are:

• Be on the lookout for phishing emails, particularly with offers related to coronavirus protections. Their intent is to get you to unwittingly download malware onto your device and infect the company’s systems.
• Make sure your devices are up to date on their anti-virus protection.
• Use multi-factor authentication on any accounts for which it is available (e.g. Xero)
• Don’t use Bluetooth in a public place — it is an easy way for hackers to connect to a device
• Only work on secure, password-protected internet connections.
• Do not access any confidential commercial information (such as company quoting tools), from a public WiFi network.
• Any lost or stolen devices should immediately be reported to minimise the risk of fraud.

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The national cabinet meets again tonight. We’ll keep you updated as we hear any developments.

Stay safe and remain positive.

Ashley

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