Nuff Nuff

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Small business and your duty of care

Small business is about to be hit with another hurdle with parenting rights and responsibilities, as parents we do everything we can to protect our children, as business owners we do everything to protect our (and our employees) interest in the business.

With the awful events of Black Saturday, the government is doing everything possible to prevent massive public liability claims should anything happen. And who can blame them? These decisions will affect both large and small businesses. It will impact businesses at all levels.

An extract from the interim findings from the Royal Commission into the Bushfires that occurred on February 7th 2009, states:- 8.143 a new procedure for school closures on TFB days and days of extreme fire risk

The implications of this are enormous, using the 2009 Central Victorian Fire District as the template. There were 16 days declared days of total fire ban, of which 13 days occurred on a weekday.

The fire season runs from November to March - a break down on that is 151 days, 43 of those days are weekends, 5 public holidays, 10 days Annual leave - so from 151 days you have already lost 58 days (or 38%), now add to the mix a further 13 days for total fire ban days (8.5%), worst case scenario of an employee taking every sick day when due - that is another 3 days (2%) lost production - as an employer you have lost a further 8.5% more than budgeted of possible productivity that you, the employer has to pay for. When employees are forced to take time off work to care for children when the schools are closed, who will fill their position? Will the remaining staff become stressed at the unfairness?

The Royal commission interim report stated that parents didn’t seem to mind the schools closing due to fire risks this year. But I think the shock of the whole event, forced people to re-think priorities for a short period of time. Eventually people will have to put finances before safety.

As an employer, does this leave you open to litigation if something happens and it is claimed that you forced the employee to attend work that day?

Will you be forced to look at the address of a prospective employee to avoid issues with absenteeism? What happens if the employee moves into a high risk area and have a young family?

So many questions and so little time – in fact only 14 days to the next fire season.

No comments: