Tips for Earthquake Affected Businesses

25 Nov 2016
Earthquake

TIPS FOR EARTHQUAKE-AFFECTED BUSINESSES
– THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW

The toolkit has been designed to be a simple, user-friendly guide. It features a Cyber Security Warrant of Fitness – a simple checklist of the basic measures businesses need to have in place to protect their business, staff and customers online.

Sponsored by Vodafone, the toolkit was developed as part of Connect Smart Week, a new Government-led initiative. Connect Smart Week is aimed at raising awareness of cyber security issues and promoting ways for people and businesses to protect themselves online.

Ensure Safety

  • Your health and safety and the health and safety of your employees is paramount
  • If your building cannot be accessed or it has not been cleared for entry by the authorities then do not enter
  • Do not enter your building if there is any sign of structural damage. You must ensure that your building is safe before you or your employees enter. As an employer and/or building owner this is your responsibility
  • If you are able to enter your building you will need to ascertain the status of water and sanitation
  • If it is essential for some staff to attend work, they should do so but only where it is confirmed that the workplace is structurally sound and has adequate amenities and sanitation

Insurance

  • Fully check and understand your insurance cover – exactly what this means, including your Business Interruption Insurance. Opening even for a short period may compromise your eligibility
  • Ensure you have documented and photographed all damage to building and contents before cleaning up as insurers will be busy. You will need to collate all evidence of damage to be able to support your claims
  • Where your business is unable to open either due to inaccessibility or damage, check with your business insurer first to determine whether your policy covers lost remuneration for employees in circumstances like these

Support

  • Contact IRD – you may be able to defer payments (GST, PAYE etc); they are taking flexible and realistic approaches 0800 473 566
  • Talk to your bank manager – ensure they're aware of the situation; they may be able to assist with low / no interest
  • Get in touch with suppliers – delay payment if possible, and cancel / postpone stock orders
  • Check and understand your lease agreements - get in touch with your landlord
  • Enquire about the Earthquake Support Subsidy - 0800 779 997, and the online form is on www.workandincome.govt.nz.

Communicate with Staff

  • Keep it positive, provide reassurance and be empathetic
  • Understand every individual is different and encourage them to seek support. The Earthquake Support Line is 0800 777 846
  • If you can't access payroll records, your bank may be able to replicate previous pay

Communicate with Customers & Suppliers

  • Keep consistent, open communication with suppliers and customers so they're aware of situation as it changes day to day, otherwise assumptions may be made. Customers outside of your area and NZ may be receiving the wrong messages so it's best they hear from you directly

Paying Staff

  • The question of whether you are obliged to pay your employees is a matter to be determined by the terms of the applicable employment agreement.  Some employment agreements will contain provisions expressly dealing with situations following events such as earthquakes and may provide relief from the obligation to pay wages.  The majority of employment agreements will not and it is here that the position is largely untested in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves
  • Where your employees do not have any leave entitlements, or if you are unable or unwilling to agree to staff taking leave in advance, you will have to decide whether or not you have the capacity to continue paying wages
  •  The current consensus is that in normal circumstances employers have on-going obligations to pay wages where staff remain ready and willing to work.  The present circumstances are clearly unusual in that some employers are unable to provide employees with work through circumstances that are beyond their control. 
  • If you are unable to provide your employees with work and where you can pay your employees' wages for a period of time without fundamentally jeopardising the future of your business, then you should try and do so, at least in the short-term. Where paying employees' wages is either impossible or would likely result in the complete failure of the business then you need to discuss these circumstances with your employees, ideally with a view to obtaining their agreement to taking leave without pay. If they do not agree to taking leave without pay, then you will need to commence consultation with the employees regarding possible redundancies. You should not proceed with this without obtaining detailed advice regarding the process to follow and the selection of the staff to be made redundant

Cashflow

  • Contact IRD – you may be able to defer payments (GST, PAYE etc); they are taking flexible and realistic approaches 0800 473 566
  • Talk to your bank manager – ensure they're aware of the situation; they may be able to assist with low / no interest
  • Get in touch with suppliers – delay payment if possible, and cancel / postpone stock orders
  • Check and understand your lease agreements - get in touch with your landlord