A letter to the industry

30 March, 2020 by
Charles Watson

Dear hospitality industry,

Allow me to be a little straightforward because right now I am sure you are really busy. We are in the middle of a crisis right now that is both personal and economic, and the situation is changing quickly.

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I am sure there has been a big impact on your business, and that is unavoidable. Given the point we are at now, your efforts will likely be taken up with your business continuity solutions and moving forward with them.

Perhaps you have been able to operate under the different circumstances, or have found alternative and creative ways to generate revenue. Perhaps you have decided you need to take a pause and turn the lights off for a while.

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By now you will have considered every aspect of your business and current situation. Issues from clients, inventory, supply chain, cash flow, supply and distribution, through to people management will have been on your mind for at least the last fortnight and probably longer.

You will have got your head around the federal, and the state and territory government stimulus proposals and how they may assist your business.

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You have likely spoken with your lawyer, accountant, bank, landlord, family, and other advisors. You probably have already made some strong decisions and carried them out or be undertaking them as I write this. You will have stopped the bleeding and without prevarication. But I am sure you will have done it with kindness and empathy.

Perhaps you have been able to work out some form of agreement with your employees over their employment terms, such as reducing hours for a period of time or taking annual leave. After all, what is happening is not going to last forever. Putting those amended terms in writing will give the employee some assurance and also evidence what was agreed between the parties.

Perhaps by now you have had to let casual employees go, wished them all the best and told them you will see them on the other side of all this.

You may have stood down permanent employees for a period of time, if that is possible or permissible in the circumstances. You will have advised them, confirmed it in writing, and let them know that while they won’t be being paid, but they will continue to accrue leave while they are stood down. At least under these arrangements they can seek government assistance.

Perhaps you have made or will have to make the ultimate decision and implement redundancies. You will have carried them out according to the relevant Award terms and legislative provisions.

The letter confirming the redundancy you provided those employees will be a reminder of the consequences of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Doubtful the employee will look at the letter often, but you provided one to them after meeting and consulting with them and realising there were no other options available.

Given you are the hospitality industry, there is every chance you have foreign nationals working for you. It is most unfortunate they are not currently entitled to receive the benefits that Centrelink are able to fast track to the stood down or redundant employees.

Their working holiday visas may hold them out for possible work elsewhere, but a sponsored visa is a slightly different story. Hopefully another employer in your industry, or a different industry, will be able to pick them up. Let’s have faith that the federal government will do the right thing in the circumstances.

Essentially, having done these things, I am sure you will be a little beaten, hurt, bruised and even melancholic as a result.

But allow me to sincerely say here and now ‘Well done’. Everyone wants to be a sailor until there is sailor stuff to do. You have shown the intestinal fortitude to run a business, be a leader, show kindness and make hard decisions.

If you have undertaken all these things, then it is time for planning what comes next. Given what you have gone through in such a short time, this should include looking after your health and wellbeing.

You will no doubt be undertaking a post-match review in the coming weeks and determining what worked well and what could have been done better.

From here it is a matter of continuing to hold on and getting ready for when the restart is announced. It will come, and when it doe, your patrons will be itching to get out of their houses and enjoy what your awesome industry offers.

Charles Watson is the general manager of Workforce Guardian.

 

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