What's the go on rapid antigen testing in the workplace?

DETECTING COVID-19 through the use of rapid antigen testing may be an option for some businesses but it may become a requirement for others to meet their health and safety obligations, according to employer advice group Employsure.

Vaccination related calls to Employsure’s dedicated employer Advice Line surged a further 187 percent in October - up almost 8000 percent since the start of the year.

But with rapid antigen testing now available for at-home use, as of November 1, or through workplaces under the supervision of a health practitioner, employers have been given another option to help maximise safety, according to employsure health and safety manager Larry Drewsen. He said guidelines and procedures were being established now by many companies and these should be checked that they fall within the law. 

Implementing rapid antigen testing

Mr Drewsen said businesses only needed to implement rapid antigen testing if a government direction or industry standard required them to do so. Otherwise, the tests may be an alternative control measure to manage COVID-19 transmission risks for business owners, subject to the results of any risk assessment they carry out.

“Employers who want to implement rapid antigen testing in their business must know that without a legal requirement, they can only require an employee to take a rapid antigen test if the direction is considered lawful and reasonable," Mr Drewsen said. "The testing must be connected to the employee’s employment, the nature of their workplace, and is considered necessary for an employer to know the employee’s fitness to work.

Employers should first undertake a risk assessment in consultation with workers and identify rapid antigen testing as a reasonable measure to control the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This can include implementing a rapid antigen policy. Employers can then direct staff to take a test in line with their policy and risk management plan.

“While rapid antigen testing may be an effective control measure to address infection transmission risks, alternative measures, such as providing PPE, practicing hand hygiene, workplace cleaning and a detailed infection control policy may still be required to adequately address health risks and meet health and safety obligations.”

Employee refusal

If a government or public health direction requires an employer to implement rapid antigen testing in their workplace, the employer can direct their employee to comply with the law, according to Employsure.

"As an employee’s refusal to take a test will flow from either a refusal to comply with the law or the employer’s policy, the employer may be able to commence a disciplinary process with the employee," Mr Drewsen said.

Positive result

Employers who introduce rapid antigen testing must pay for the employee’s test kit, Employsure said. If an employee purchases a test kit at the direction of the employer, the employer must reimburse them the cost. If that employee returns a positive test result, they must be paid for time worked up until the results are received, he said.

“If an employee returns a positive result, employers must direct them to stay out of the workplace, immediately take a standard COVID-19 test and communicate their result as soon as they receive it, as well as follow any government advice or regulations with respect to testing and self-isolating,” Mr Drewsen said.

“If the subsequent standard test is positive, then permanent employees are eligible to take personal leave for the full period of absence. If negative, the employee is not entitled to payment in the ordinary course (but will be permitted to work). Annual leave can also be taken by mutual agreement.”



Strategic thinking is key to post-pandemic growth

By Leon Gettler >>

BUSINESSES need to start thinking strategically if they are to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic market.

Ryll Burgin-Doyle, a local Australian business growth strategist and billion-dollar disruptor, who has a passion for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), said she had been surveying businesses since the start of the pandemic and had seen some clear trends. 

People were spending money in areas they hadn’t gone near before – such as home renovations, pools and luxury cars – and certain sectors were thriving.

Ms Burgin-Doyle said SMEs had to be flexible and show they could lead and adapt over the next 12 to 24 months. 

She said there were specific strategies for growth during this period, depending on the type of business.

“In my world, the fastest way to create growth is to continue to ask yourself, ‘How can we add more value to our customers, to our prospective customers, to our larger community, to people we make a difference, with?’,” Ms Burgin-Doyle told Talking Business

“That’s a fundamental way to find opportunities for growth in any business regardless of type but obviously there’s very specific strategies required for each type of business in each industry.”



But the bigger challenge for businesses, she said, was to focus on three things: perspective, strategy and actions.

For perspective, she said companies need to realise that business is a long game – it’s a marathon not a sprint.

“You want to be thinking, where do I want this business in 10 years time? Where do I want it to be in 2031-2032? What do I want it to look like then, and work backwards from that,” she said.

This meant making decisions based on that future, not on what is happening in the here-and-now.

The second step was to examine the strategy that would get the business to that goal faster and easier – and more profitably – than any other strategy.

 “That can be everything from understanding your client’s true value to a strategy particular to that industry, but you’ve got to stop and be strategic,” Ms Burgin-Doyle said.

“Do the thinking work, go out to that longer term goal and work backwards from that. Be strategic rather than be busy,” she said.



Ms Burgin-Doyle said businesses needed to take actions that would forward their short term needs. At the same time, those actions needed to be in the context of that longer term gain.

She said talking to clients, and talking to their teams, was the key to adding value for their market.

“Often your team knows what the customers want and what would make a difference to them and they have lots of ideas,” Ms Burgin-Doyle said.

She cited one example of client in the construction sector that got massively impacted by COVID, shrinking from $25 million to $7 million overnight.

The leadership looked at where they wanted the business to be in 10 years time, how they needed to operate differently and what projects they needed to take on now.

She said the team “absolutely smashed it” and made a difference to their current and future clients.

The budget was to make it back to $11 million and they made it to $13 million in the middle of COVID when they were shut down. They were now well on track to be back to $25 million and on to $50 million.

To get closer to clients, she said businesses could set up client advisory boards or even have a mix of clients on a Zoom call and ask them what they think and how to make things better.

Especially, what do they need to do to get better value?



Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness


Lockdowns: A how-to guide for leading teams through them successfully

By Kris Grant >>

IT SHOULD NOT BE NEWS that lockdowns aren’t fun for anyone. Businesses are impacted, and so are the people in them.

Leaders are worried about business, and employees are stressed about their health, safety and livelihoods. And as almost every state in the country currently faces sporadic lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, tensions are high.

Lockdowns are a test for even the most empathetic leaders, and those who are open and transparent with their teams are those whose teams will thrive during times of crisis.

So, how can you demonstrate your commitment to your talent and ensure your employees are supported throughout the lockdowns and beyond? By working hand in hand with human resources (HR), and implementing the following strategies: 

Prioritise mental health within your workforce

As a leader, it’s important to be aware of the mental health issues the current lockdowns and restrictions might trigger for your workforce.  Set up a time to address your organisation, and clearly communicate that their mental health and wellbeing is your number one priority during the lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions.

Give your staff permission to take a day off if they need, and offer judgement-free support by providing the contact details for mental health services like Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

If your organisation doesn’t yet have clear mental health best practice in place, this should be at the very top of your priority list for you and your HR counsel, even when the lockdowns end.

Employee assistance programs have never been more important, so clear some time in your schedule to evaluate the needs that might arise for employees in your industry, and work with your HR and internal communications teams when rolling it out, in order to clearly communicate to staff the assistance that will be made available to them.

Encourage collaboration time for your remote teams

Collaboration and incidental learning are imperative to personal and professional development, both of which happen far less in a remote work setting. This is because employees miss out on incidental interactions and the moments of listening and connecting with one another that they would get when sitting in an office space.

To create opportunities for incidental learning for your remote team, encourage teams within your organisation to schedule both work collaboration time, and social time, throughout the working week. This might take the form of a new project brainstorm, a recurring weekly trivia quiz, or a lunchtime exercise class.

Whatever it is, providing an opportunity for staff to meet will increase team bonding, and maximise incidental learning opportunities, making them feel like part of a team even when they can’t share the same physical space.

Equip your team leaders with EQ skills

At ASPL Group we see a lot of organisations fall down by leaving their team culture and wellbeing to their HR department. While HR is key to guiding culture and employee wellbeing, it’s not HR’s sole responsibility to drive the team’s morale. Leaders are responsible for this, too.

Consider rolling out professional development for managers at all levels of your organisation, to better equip them with EQ skills (emotional intelligence, expressed scientifically as 'emotional quotient').

Working with dedicated leadership and management consultants to improve leadership styles within your organisation is the best way to better support your employees, particularly in a remote working environment. After all, your business is only ever as good as your team, and deny as you might, company culture is a direct result of the company’s leadership.

As a leader, it’s so important to actively try to enhance the employee experience.

Your organisation is only as good as its people, so giving them the best experience possible during lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions should be one of your biggest priorities.


About the author

Kris Grant is the CEO of ASPL Group, a consultancy that works with executives to help them be better leaders and build stronger teams.

COVID has transformed workplaces says @Workspaces

By Leon Gettler >>

AUSTRALIAN workplaces have been transformed by COVID-19, according to @Workspaces founder and managing director, Jenny Folley.

Ms Folley said that as businesses were now bringing workers back to the office, behaviours had changed.

She said this was most evident in her business @Workspaces, where the behavior of both staff and clients have changed in a several clear ways.

First, now people have to sign in when they arrive at the workplace. This applies to both staff and clients.

All the workspaces at @Workspaces now have hand sanitizers. Hand shaking has been replaced by either a wave or an elbow rub.

People are also keeping a 1.5m distance between them.  

People have to wipe up after themselves in shared areas. The company provides paper towels and sanitized wipes to wipe hands and laptops.

Paper cups and wooden stirrers are in the share kitchens and people have to dispose of the paper cups in the recycle bin, rather than just leaving them there.

People should not touch the phones of others, Ms Folley said.

And gone are the days when people should be seen as heroes struggling to work when they’re sick. The respectful thing for people to do now is stay at home and work from home.


“In our workspaces – we have locations all around Australia in Brisbane, Gold Coast and Melbourne – our staff are trying to encourage clients to do this,” Ms Folley told Talking Business.

“We make sure that everyone who comes into the office sign in and they do sanitize their hands and out staff make sure the common areas and our shared areas are wiped down regularly.,” she said.

“We have also trained our cleaners to do the right thing and I think the clients are fantastic. They respond to this.

“They know you’re trying to keep them safe and keep them in a safe environment.”

Ms Folley expected this would continue for some time.

“A lot of this is things we should have been doing anyway: being respectful, especially in shared areas, the wiping down after yourself, that’s just the respectful thing to do,” she said.

“We are finding they (clients) are far more respectful now. I think with washing your hands, we all forgot to do that. And I think we’ve all learned to work from home now.”


Ms Folley said one of the big permanent changes created by the pandemic will be around travelling to work, with people sometimes spending an hour to an hour-and-a-half travelling to and from work.

She said her business tries to employ people living closer to the workspace.

“What are doing is trying to create little workspace pods all around Australia so people can work closer to home and they don’t have to travel,” Ms Folley said.

“You can walk, you can ride your bike and working in a garden setting with open fresh air, not with shared air conditioning.

“Times are going to change and the way we work is going to change, but maybe for the better.

“So rather than just be focused in the city, which we used to be, and in big buildings, you are going to find more homes converted into offices where it’s in a garden setting, where people can walk or ride their bikes,” Ms Folley said.

“That will be the future. So you can work from home, or work close from home.”




Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness



Brisbane office style: @Workspaces is seeing a surge in demand from people getting away from working at home.

Succession planning guide launched to help build family business legacy

A NEW ONLINE guide to succession planning has been released, with the latest available data revealing just 17 percent of Australian family businesses have a unifying plan for the future.

The Introductory Guide to Family Business Succession Planning – co-produced by Family Business Australia and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s office – provides a step-by-step guide to passing the family business on to the next generation.

“Succession planning can be challenging,” Family Business Australia (FBA) CEO Greg Griffith said. “But with the right approach, supported by quality information and advice, you can achieve rewarding outcomes. 

“Our guide provides a great starting point for families in business to consider the what, why and how of transitioning the business to the next generation.”

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said there had never been a more important time to initiate a succession plan, given the highest proportion of business owners are aged between 45 and 59 years. 

“Australia’s most successful family business stories – and there are many - are a result of well-executed succession planning,” Ms Carnell said.

“However, a  KPMG report reveals 54 percent of family businesses have no documented succession plan in place and no retirement plan for the current CEO.

“That’s particularly worrying when our Small Business Counts report shows more than 60 percent of employing small business owners are approaching retirement age.

“This generational shift presents a number of challenges for the sector and the economy more broadly as some business owners may find it difficult to attract a buyer. It really highlights the need for meticulous succession planning for those family business owners who are planning to retire in the coming years.”

FBA CEO Greg Griffith said the easy-to-read guide offers tips on how to handle tense conversations that can arise between family members throughout the transition phase.

“The key to families working well together is to have really open and honest communication – which can be difficult when your boss, colleague or direct report is also a member of your family,” Mr Griffith said.

“Our succession planning guide offers practical tips to ensure an orderly transition process.”     

The free Introductory Guide to Family Business Succession Planning is available on both the Family Business Australia and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s websites.



Employsure warns of retail casual penalty rate changes and updates to modern awards

EMPLOYERS covered under the General Retail Award are being reminded to update their payroll system, as the final increase to the weekday evening rates for casual workers takes effect.
Workplace relations advisor, Employsure is highlighting the situation.  In September 2018, the Fair Work Commission agreed to increase the penalty rates for casual workers covered by the General Retail Industry Award 2010. These rates have gradually increased since 2018, and the next increase is due from the first full pay period on or after March 1, 2021. 
The new penalty rate changes apply to casual workers who work hours after 6pm on Monday to Friday, and will now see them paid 150 percent of their minimum hourly rate (inclusive of casual loading). This is up from 145 percent, which came into effect last October. 
“While these increased casual evening rates will put a strain on employers in the retail industry, they should take solace in the fact that this is the final expected rise,” Employsure business partner Emma Dawson said.

“Employers have had to adapt to a number of industrial relations changes as a result of the pandemic over the past 12 months. When the JobKeeper wage subsidy ended for many businesses ahead of the holiday period, employers were forced to hire less casuals than usual because they simply weren’t able to afford the increased pay rates over permanent workers.
“While employers should already be used to these increased penalty rates, many have been surviving week-to-week due to a drop in demand. With the COVID-19 vaccine now being rolled out across the country, there’s hope this demand will return to normal by the end of the year.”
Amendments ranging from minor to major have been made to several other awards throughout 2020 and into 2021, following the four-yearly award review process and clarification from the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on how some award provisions apply.
Some awards have seen no significant changes, but rather more cosmetic changes and simplified language choices that don’t change the substantive nature of the award.
Awards with minor changes include the Building and Construction General On-Site Award, the Joinery and Building Trades Awards, the Mobile Crane Hiring Award, and the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award. The FWC is still yet to decide some potential substantive changes to the Building and Construction General On-Site Award.
“Modern awards have been updated constantly throughout the past year, and it’s up to business owners to stay up to date with any changes that may affect them,” Ms Dawson said.

“Employers should always double check their payroll systems and stay up to date with the FWC website to ensure they are meeting their minimum pay obligations.
“Some employers may not be aware of the changes and could run the risk of underpaying their employees. When it comes to an employee’s minimum wage, their entitlements are set apart across a variety of factors such as industry, job type and experience in the role, and are therefore important for employers to understand and abide by,” she said.



Procensol says robots are coming – better get used to it

By Leon Gettler >>

ROBOTS are taking over industry and businesses need to get ready.

Mervin Chiang, head of market development at Procensol Australia, said companies needed to get on with their change management programs to get ready for it. 

He said robots were already taking over, even though we might not yet know it.

“If you think about it, technology always starts with the home before the corporates,” Mr Chiang told Talking Business.

“We had the weekend experience of social media before corporates started using things like Slack and Teams in various chatting ways to collaborate. It happened at home before it happened with the corporates,” Mr Chiang said.

“It’s the same with robotics and AI (artificial intelligence). We have Google Home, we have Alexa, we have Google Assist on our phones and we use GPS. There is a lot of AI everywhere.

“It’s no longer a robot arm that puts a car together, I think a lot of people think about bots and then automatically think of Terminator and robot arms. We’ve got to expand that understanding and corporates are trying to catch up.”


Mr Chiang said bots could now be programmed to mimic keyboard strokes to help alleviate menial, mundane or brain-numbing tasks of copying and pasting spreadsheets or crating letters out of systems. This made them an important part of any business.

“If you think about it, any industry that needs a computer to do work would have lots of spreadsheets, PDFs, emails to deal with and with quite a percentage of that work, bots can already do it today,” he said.

“So if you think about bots that way and not just robot arms in the production line or AI in a kind of futuristic predictive super-smart, Teminator 2 type of way, then pretty much every industry would be impacted by it. We already have chatbots in the retail and services industry so it’s starting to grow and hit every industry.”


This means people need to redefine what a bot means and understand what it can do for the business. He said rather than resulting in massive job losses, it could create many new jobs.

“I see it more as productivity prosthetics, to help with productivity and creativity, to take away the boring bits so that we can actually thrive,” Mr Chiang said.

“So if you’re part of an industry where your skill set is to do the boring bit, then we as employers in the industry have a responsibility to upskill or change the way they’re skilled to help increase productivity,” he said.

He said companies need to plan ahead and know that it’s coming. They need to invest in change management.

“It’s really basic transformation stuff. To understand there is a new technology. It’s potentially disruptive. To collaborate,” he said.

Mr Chiang said one of the big issues was that when bots or AI are introduced into organisations, the issue becomes whose job it is to manage. Is it the CIO’s job? The person in IT? Is it an HR job to upskill and train?

“Planning collaboration between HR and IT is one of the key steps and also to understand where these knowledge workers are and how they can actually increase their productivity if you take away the boring bits,” Mr Chiang said.

“To be able to plan what that is actually quite important.”

He said businesses needed to start planning for a digital workforce. One that will be more skilled.



Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

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