Avoiding Workplace Disruption in 2021: Vaccines and Better Management of Retail Casual Workers

By Clayton Pyne | 07 Jun 2021

Last year saw one of the most challenging years for retail employers tackling workplace disruption. Managing an ever-changing and unpredictable environment forced retailers to be adaptable, agile and responsive. As employees make a phased return to the workplace, how can you better manage your casual workforce in the new normal?

The rise in COVID-19 cases in Australia over the course of 2020 had a direct impact on the local business community, as normal operations were disrupted by enforced lockdowns and social distancing. This had a knock-on effect on casual employees in Australia, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealing the number of casual employees dramatically fell from 2.6 million to 2.1 million between February and May. 

With states and territories around the country easing restrictions and promoting a return to the workplace, the economy is making a comeback and as a result, so is the nation’s casual workforce. Data from the ABS reveals the number of casual workers in Australia rose to 2.5 million in November 2020, almost reaching its pre-COVID level of 2.6 million. As employees across Australia make a gradual return to work: what does the future of work post-COVID-19 look like and how can employers limit the disruption to boost productivity?

Keep your business moving 

With the vaccine roll-out underway, businesses are setting their sights on the future and are eager to move forward to return to pre-covid levels of efficiency and profitability. With nearly a quarter of Australia’s labour force classified as casual employees, this area of the workforce will play a crucial role in the nation’s economic recovery. 

As the federal government’s vaccine rollout strategy continues, retail businesses need to be prepared for potential interruptions and challenges due to local covid cases or snap lockdowns in the interim. As a result, retailers will need to remain agile to reduce risk and manage the inevitable disruptions ahead. 

Stay connected and communicate effectively

Employers need to take the right steps to ensure their workforce is engaged, productive and safe ahead of any comprehensive vaccine rollout. Casual workers, even more so than a traditional office worker, require their employer to communicate regularly in an unpredictable and changing environment. 

Guidelines created by the Fair Work Ombudsmen state the health and safety of everyone in the workplace should be the first priority when managing the return to the workplace. Increasing communication around the kind of protection retail employees can expect in their place of work will instil confidence in your casual workforce and increase reliability and retention.

Increase employer-employee trust 

With the world transformed due to the impact of the pandemic, Australians are turning to their employers for guidance, reassurance and information that they feel they can trust. 

According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, the employer-employee relationship has emerged as a crucial trust bond, with employers seen as one of the most trusted institutions.

Importantly, 78 percent of Australians trust their employer compared to business generally, at 63 percent. This is supported by recent research by Humanforce, a provider of intelligent workforce management solutions, revealing 70 percent of respondents would be more likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine if it was recommended by their employer. 

Humanforce research also found 79 percent of respondents stated they would prefer that their colleagues are vaccinated. A further 67 percent of casual workers were also supportive of their employers requiring customers and visitors to the workplace to show they had been vaccinated.

To prevent tension in the workplace and further disruption, the pressure is on to build trust with your workforce to ensure they feel safe, particularly when they are required to mix with other members of staff and customers.  

While the concept of vaccine passports may still be a contentious issue, if casual employees are more comfortable coming to work with the knowledge that their fellow colleagues have been vaccinated, then it is on employers to develop the right systems and strategies to communicate the vaccination status of their workforce, so they feel safe and supported.

Improve the employee experience

As we emerge from the pandemic, the unemployment rate in Australia is better than expected and job ads are at a 12-year high, reaching 23 per cent above pre-pandemic levels. 

In this highly competitive environment, businesses are finding themselves fighting for capable and reliable staff. 

By improving the employee experience for your casual team members – for example, effective onboarding, comprehensive training and a flexible timetable giving workers a level of autonomy – retail businesses will be better placed to attract and retain the right people and skills to boost productivity and aid economic recovery. 

For more information on how you can better manage business disruption and your casual workforce, please visit: www.humanforce.com

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