Workplace rulings on jabs for staff is risky business

Kate Purnell, The West Australian
Directors of UDLA Daniel Firns and Scott Lang with staff in Fremantle, Perth.
Directors of UDLA Daniel Firns and Scott Lang with staff in Fremantle, Perth. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

The challenge of assessing and enforcing risk management strategies concerning the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is just as real for medium-sized businesses as it is for bigger firms on the terrace.

That’s according to WayFinder Capital co-founder Akram Sabbagh, who said the next six to 12 months would be crucial for companies to determine their vaccine policy and plan for hesitancy among employees.

“The big question for businesses will be: if part of your workforce refuses to get vaccinated, how will you manage the risk?” the mid-tier market expert said.

“It’s not just the big end of town that will have to make these choices — mid-tier businesses who will also be looking interstate for staff will have to consider this.”

WayFinder manages a $25 million search fund in Perth that supports budding entrepreneurs to take over mid-size companies.

Mr Sabbagh expected many companies would find it difficult to implement risk management systems in the face of vaccine hesitancy but said executives should view it from an occupational health and safety perspective.

He said it would become increasingly challenging for WA businesses impacted by skills shortages to source staff from interstate while mitigating the risk of COVID-19 among unvaccinated employees.

It comes as a Pitcher Partners report released todaythat assessed the impact of the pandemic on the national mid-tier business sector found more than half of WA respondents had trouble attracting and retaining staff.

The State’s skills shortage problem was higher than the national average, and more than a third of businesses attempted to remedy it through employee satisfaction and engagement programs.

Mid-tier business confidence in WA rose to 6.75 out of 10, up from 6 last year, according to the report.

Fremantle-based landscape architecture firm UDLA almost doubled its staff during the pandemic, transitioning the business from small to medium.

Director Scott Lang said the project planning and construction boom had created “enormous opportunities” for business growth.

“We’re in the best shape we’ve ever been in as an organisation,” Mr Lang said.

He said as the company geared up for the next stage of growth it was proving difficult finding mid-level talent with two to four years experience.

However, the biggest challenge management faced was overseeing remote working arrangements.

UDLA director Daniel Firns said there was still trial and error involved in figuring out the best way to manage the range of working from home schedules.

“The expectation has changed and our employees want more flexibility, which we are accommodating, but we’re still finding the sweet spot and I think that will still take a while,” Mr Firns said.

Pitcher’s research showed WA ranked ahead of its eastern states counterparts in the future success confidence index, with a score of 7.9.

The accounting firm said that was no surprise given the ongoing border closures and WA’s reliance on its booming resources sector.

Trade tensions with China was nominated the top issue to have the biggest impact on WA’s medium-sized companies, demonstrating the State’s dependence on a thriving mining industry.

“Our mid-market businesses rely on the wellbeing of our resources industry and the deterioration of the Federal Government’s relationship in China is clearly concerning,” Pitcher’s managing director Leon Mok said.

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