As Australia attempts to live with COVID-19 rather than eradicate it, workplaces across the country are facing challenges unlike any they have faced before. This has been exacerbated by the spread of the Omicron variant, with high community transmission forcing businesses to remain agile to avoid crippling disruption. From a staffing perspective, one of the key challenges is, and likely will continue to be, the management of day-to-day disruptions caused by COVID-related staff absences. While there is no magic formula to help businesses overcome this challenge, workplace policies and procedures have never been more important.  

Why are workplace policies and procedures important?  

Policies and procedures ensure consistency and a level of certainty when dealing with the everyday happenings of a workplace. During a crisis like the one we are experiencing now with COVID-19, consistency and certainty are critical. When a staffing issue arises, workplaces need to act quickly to ensure there is as little disruption as possible. This is achieved through the degree of certainty a policy and/or procedure provides. Take the following scenario as an example: 

Example

A staff member contracts COVID on their day off and is unable to come to work the next day. With a clearly defined personal/carer’s leave policy, the employee knows who to notify (e.g. their manager), how soon they need to notify that person (e.g. as soon as possible before their next shift) and any other information they have to provide to that person (e.g. how long they expect to be absent, evidence requirements and so forth) 

It is vital that an issue like the above is dealt with in the same way that previous instances of the same or a similar nature were dealt with. This will help avoid feelings of frustration or even favouritism among staff members, so that the situation is always managed according to the same procedure (regardless of who is affected).  

In essence, having a relevant policy and procedure will automate the response to a particular issue, which in turn saves time and helps a business get on with business.   

 

 

How to ensure effective development of policies and procedures 

To ensure policies and procedures continue to achieve their intended purpose, it is important to regularly review and (if required) update them. 

Regular monitoring and maintenance of policies and procedures allows them to remain relevant in a volatile market, and also ensures any outdated or unhelpful practices are removed. Remember, policies and procedures are all about creating consistency and certainty to keep a business running effectively. If a policy or procedure is still relying on practices that are outdated, it will likely not achieve what it was designed to achieve.  

Once a policy or procedure has been developed or updated, it is vital to train all staff members about the policy/procedure. Policies and procedures are useless if staff don’t know they exist or are unsure how they apply. Regular training will help to remove this ambiguity. 

A note of practical advice on storage

Finally, workplace policies and procedures should be kept in two separate manuals: 

  • A Human Resources ‘policies and procedures manual’; and 
  • A ‘Work (Occupational) Health and Safety’ manual  

These manuals should be easily accessible to all staff members (whether in hard or soft copy).  

Which procedures are important for the new COVID-normal?

When managing the new COVID-normal, the following policies and procedures are important to maintain and follow.  

  • Leave policies (including personal/carer’s leave and annual leave)  
  • Relevant ‘Work (Occupational) Health and Safety’ policies (including a COVID safety plan)  
  • Working from home/remote working policy  
  • COVID-19 vaccination policy (if applicable) 

The APodA’s HR Service has a suite of sample policies and procedures (including those related to COVID) available in our online resources portal for members. 

The final word

There is no secret tonic to guide workplaces through this new phase of the pandemic, but being consistent through the use of strong and relevant workplace policies and procedures will help. 

For more information about this article, please contact the APodA HR Advisory Service on 1300 620 641 or email hrhotline@podiatry.org.au

Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is general comment and is not intended as advice on any particular matter.  No reader should act or fail to act on the basis of any material contained herein. The material contained in this publication should not be relied on as a substitute for legal or professional advice on any particular matter.  Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd expressly disclaim all and any liability to any persons whatsoever in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance whether in whole or in part upon any of the contents of this publication.  Without limiting the generality of this disclaimer, no author or editor shall have any responsibility for any other author or editor. For further information please contact Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd.
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