Answers to all the burning questions employers are asking during COVID-19

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COVID-19 has caused a huge amount of uncertainty for employees in NZ. Many have been made redundant, had hours reduced, switched jobs or started working from home and for some, that change hasn’t been easy. 

To help you navigate these strange times and provide a little certainty, we’ve collaborated with HR experts Jaime Gallocher and Bronwyn Rein from the People Project to answer all the burning questions employees are asking during COVID-9. 

We’ve condensed their valuable insights below, but if you want to hear the full conversation and get expert HR advice for free, check out the Beyond the Field podcast, on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

What should I do if I’m made redundant?

If you’re made redundant, your first priority should be taking care of yourself, your wellbeing and your mental health. Reach out to your support network, friends and family and always ask for help if you need it. It’s also a good idea to take a few practical steps:

  • Get advice from an employment law or HR expert to figure out what to do next and clarify what stage of the process you’re at. Has redundancy been proposed and are you able to give feedback or has it already been confirmed?
  • If your redundancy has not been confirmed, you should have a chance to suggest alternatives to redundancy and provide feedback to your employer. These alternatives might include:
    • Temporarily reducing your hours.
    • Temporarily reducing your pay. 
    • Switching to another role within the company.
    • Anything that will help the company retain you and allow you to keep your job. 
  • If your redundancy has been confirmed, ask your employer what support they can give you to help your transition. Negotiate your redundancy and notice period with help from an HR expert if you need it. 

The costs and time involved in rehiring and retraining to fill your role in future may be more than what it costs your employer to retain you. Use this to your advantage when you’re negotiating and suggest workable alternatives if you want to stay in your position. If you can come up with an alternative that works for both you and the company, you’ve got a good chance of keeping your job.

What is redeployment?

If your role is disestablished and you’re made redundant, you may have the chance to apply for other internal roles that match your skillset during your notice period. This is known as ‘redeployment’. If you’re keen to stay with the company it’s a great way to make it happen  – just look for open roles or skills shortages that you could fill and suggest yourself as a solution. 

When will the majority of COVID19 related redundancies happen?

Redundancies may come in two waves, the first of which we’re in the middle of now, and the second of which should arrive in 6-12 months:

  • The first wave consists of redundancies and restructures that have come hard and fast as a direct reaction to COVID-19 and the lockdown. Several NZ businesses will have lost significant income due to the lockdown and have needed to cut costs to stay afloat. 
  • The second wave could occur 6-12 months from now and a slower, more deliberate process. This will come as businesses realise their sales aren’t recovering as quickly as they forecasted and that they need to restructure in order to continue operating long term. 

If you find yourself being made redundant, it’s important that you know you can fight to keep your employment. Make sure you seek advice and use the tips we mentioned at the start of the blog to negotiate with your employer – they won’t work in every case but they could save your job. 

What if I want to keep working from home after the lockdown’s over?

Overnight, all of the NZ employees who were able to start working remotely from home. Some have struggled with the change, missing the social interaction, while others have thrived.

If you’re in the latter group, you may be able to continue working remotely if you negotiate with your employer. There is a clear legal provision to support flexible working arrangements here in NZ, so if you ask your employer to work from home:

  • They have to consider your request. 
  • If they deny your request, they must provide a valid reason why.

At the end of the day, their decision will come down to whether or not the arrangement you requested works for the business. It’s ultimately up to your employer to decide this. 

Taking care of our mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever right now. If I’m struggling with working from home and COVID-19, should I speak to my coworkers and managers?

If you have a relationship with coworkers or a manager where you feel comfortable opening up and/or asking for help, you should absolutely do so. We’re all human and we all have our own challenges and struggles to deal with right now and the more genuine, authentic and caring we can be, the better. 

If you do share your struggles or ask for help, you can’t be discriminated against by your employer.  

If I’m feeling uncertain about whether my job is secure and what’s going on in the company – should I ask my employer?

Yes, you can absolutely ask for reassurance. With that said, it’s very likely that your employer is feeling uncertain too and that they may not be able to provide you with the answers you’re looking for. They may also not be sharing things with you to protect you from stress and asking them may put them in an awkward position. If you can, it’s always better to trust that they’re making the right decisions and being transparent. 

COVID-19 has been a huge shock for everyone. There are so many factors that we can’t control, from the economy to our employer’s businesses, and worrying about these can cause huge stress. Right now, it’s better to focus on what you can control as an employee and make positive changes:

  • Do some personal development or training.
  • Learn new skills. 
  • Think about how you can add more value to your employer’s business. 

There’s no doubt the next year may be difficult for many, but we will get out the other side of this. Focusing on what you can control, doing what’s best for you and adding value to your employer’s business however you can will go a long way in the meantime. 

About The People Project

The People Project is an Auckland-based virtual/outsourced HR provider. They help Kiwi SMEs primarily with their people needs, and projects for larger-scale organisations.They are specialists in employment relations, restructuring & change management, leadership development, and executive coaching.

With experience working in corporates, SMEs and a business owner herself, The People Project’s director Jaime Gallocher understands how to get the best outcomes for businesses and their people’s needs. She leads a team of young professionals offering a modern, tailored, but simple HR approach that speaks to Kiwi business owners with an authentic style.

Bronwyn Rein joined The People Project bringing her learning and development background and experience from the retail sector where she led national sales and training programmes. Being a people leader for most of her career, she has a strong operational knowledge of what it takes to engage a team for success.

Check out the People Project’s website here and get in touch with Jaime if you need a hand with your people through these crazy times.

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