How lockdown-affected businesses can support staff who have pre-existing caring obligations

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As Sydney faces tighter restrictions amidst the outbreak of the Delta strain of COVID-19, many business owners will once again be feeling anxiety around financial stability, managing remote workforces, and of course the flow on effects of the mental health and wellbeing of their staff.

For some staff, however, it is the hidden pressure of caring obligations for family members with compromised immune systems or heightened risk of infection, while also trying to retain their employment, that will be taking its toll right now.

As an employer, there are many things you can be doing to support your team members to ensure they can continue to perform in their role, while also being a carer for a loved one.

In home care

In home care programs exist within the aged, disability and childcare sectors to ensure vulnerable members of our community receive care in their home and are at lower risk of contracting infection. While many in home care programs require government approval to access funding, employers can supplement, or cover, the cost of home care for staff until that approval comes through.

For example, under the In Home Care scheme within the child care subsidy, approval must be granted by In Home Care Support Agencies. Until that approval comes through, employers could cover the cost of in home childcare so employees can continue to work.

For staff who have caring responsibilities for aged relatives, home care services can be privately funded without waiting for government approval to enter the scheme. 

Compassionate leave

Although the law only requires two days of compassionate leave to be considered, additional leave can be provided by an employer at their own discretion.

Despite the challenges of financial sustainability within the business community right now, we also know unemployment levels are at a record low, which means that it can be difficult to find replacement staff in key roles.

So, if one of your valued team members requires additional time to support a family member, consider providing them with more leave days, or giving them flexibility to adjust their hours according to their care obligations and doing their work outside normal business hours.

Job sharing

Given the COVID-19 risk is not going away, and we are likely to face more snap lockdowns across the country, it is a good idea to duplicate tasks across team members to ensure some of the crucial roles within your business can be performed by more than one person if someone has to take extended time off.

Although you may not need those team members to job share on a regular basis, it is a great opportunity for upskilling and information sharing among staff. This strategy will not only reduce your team member’s stress when their care obligations are heightened, but it will also be crucial to maintaining smooth business operations in times of crisis.

We know these outbreaks increase anxiety and isolation within the community. So the more that we, as employers and business owners, can do to alleviate those pressures within our own organisations, the better we will all be as a community once life hopefully returns to normal.

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