With all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it doesn’t look like we’ll be attending any industry events for the next little while. Unless… we could do them virtually? As if reading our minds, our friends at HAVAN (Homebuilders Association Vancouver) reached out to invite us to be a part of their first ever webinar. The webinar series is a new resource HAVAN has launched, providing informative and helpful content, as well as providing a platform for industry professionals to connect while practicing physical distancing.

The first episode, Navigating the Human Resources Side of Business During COVID-19, featured Andrew Delmonico, Partner at Kuhn LLP, who provided details on the legal responsibilities a business has to its employees, and Impact Recruitment’s Vice President – Building Division, Michael Scott, who focused on strategies to keep employees informed, engaged, motivated and focused on moving forward in a time of crisis.

We encourage you to listen to the full webinar, but if you’re strapped for time and looking for the Coles Notes version, we summarized some of the key takeaways below:

THE LEGAL SIDE – Andrew Delmonico, Partner, Kuhn LLP

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, there have been changes made to the Employment Standards Act Changes (ESA). Some of these changes are temporary, implemented only for the duration of the pandemic, while other changes will remain in the ESA permanently. For details on the changes please see the BC Government News page.

Temporary layoffs, as defined in the ESA, can be up to 13 weeks in any period of 20 consecutive weeks. An employer may only temporarily lay off an employee if the right to do so exists within the employment relationship; either by:
• a term of the employment agreement,
• a well-known industry-wide practice, or
• with the consent of the employee.

According to the Worker’s Compensation Act, an employer is responsible for ensuring employees have a safe workplace, even when they are working from home (who knew?). Develop a health and safety policy that addresses:
• Protocols for evacuating home.
• Safe workplace practices and reporting.
• Emergency preparedness and information security.
• Ergonomic considerations (proper sitting and lifting).

There is government assistance available for businesses:
• Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers: eligible employers include Canadian-controlled private corporation, non-profit, or charity. Max. $1,375 per employee, to a max. $25,000 per employer.
• Business Credit Availability Program: $10-billion direct lending program administered by Business Development Bank of Canada and Economic Development Canada in partnership with financial institutions.

THE PEOPLE SIDE: Michael Scott, Vice President – Building Division, Impact Recruitment

Communication and transparency are of the utmost importance during this time of crisis. It’s an employer or manager’s job to help employees combat the fear and anxiety that’s brought on by uncertainty and a perceived “loss of control”. Be positive and optimistic (no one needs more doom and gloom right now), but don’t try and sugar coat what’s happening, either. Be as crystal clear as possible when communicating changes to your team, and don’t just explain what is happening, but why it’s happening and how it will affect them.

Identify your game plan. Come up with an triage plan to deal with the immediate effects on your business, and then determine a plan for three, six and nine months from now. Be sure to share this long-term thinking with your team to ensure they know you’re planning for the future.

If possible, repurpose your staff rather than laying them off. Consider where they can add the most value to your company – what potentially untapped skills do they have that could help you and them weather this storm? You may consider moving them into a different role or a new division. Be sure to discuss this with them and get their input as to where they would be interested in rounding out their skills or developing themselves professionally.

Triple your communication efforts while your team adjusts to working remotely. Be available for extended hours if anyone needs extra help or support. Communicate regularly with your employees, through email, phone calls, texts and (most important) video calls to get in that face time.

Humans are very social, and that means working from home can be pretty lonely – especially for those members of your team who live on their own. The small things matter now more than ever, so do your part to keep team morale up and ease feelings of isolation by encouraging group get-togethers on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or whichever video chat platform you prefer. If your team meets every Tuesday at 10am in the boardroom for coffee, set up a recurring video meeting for 10am on Tuesday so everyone can catch up over coffee, from the safety of their respective homes.

As mentioned, the recording of the webinar is now available on HAVAN’s COVID-19 Resources page and on HAVAN’s YouTube channel. Please share with your friends or colleagues, or anyone you think would benefit from this information.

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