Employers have always known they needed (and are obligated by law) to protect their staff but the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the thinking and tested the boundaries of existing methods, practices and tools. It has also resulted in a flurry of new technology solutions in the market to assist, ranging from; the comprehensive to basic, expensive to free and complex to simple. So what do employers need to do and how can they define a way forward for their organisation?
Legislative and regulatory obligations on employers persist and have, in some jurisdictions, been strengthened in this period. Additional expectations include tighter controls on visitors, enhanced cleaning and sanitation requirements, enforcement of social distancing, managing dislocated workforce's (including working from home), capture and management of health status of individuals and notification requirements
It is important to check with the local authorities in your jurisdiction. Some of the key ones are as follows:
Australia: Safe Work Australia - COVID-19
New Zealand: WorkSafe NZ - COVID-19
Singapore: Ministry of Manpower - COVID-19
Systems claiming to address contact tracing requirements can be classified into three broad categories; Government provided community-based contact tracing apps, visitor management systems and workforce management systems. Each are assessed below in terms of cost, effectiveness and longer-term value and utility.
Government provided community based contact tracing apps:
Cost: $0 / Free
Value: Low value to employers but good value to the Government in efficiency/effectiveness of the contact tracing process for COVID-19. Limited ongoing value or utility
Key Issues for employers: Apps are not universally adopted (less than 20%), no data is available to employers on employee use or outcomes/results, there are no insights/reporting and no location based information, do not meet employer obligations to protect staff
Visitor Management Systems:
Cost: Varies by provider, generally low set-up costs (except hardware)
Value: Satisfies COVID-19 requirements for visitor registration to sites now and potential value in future through understanding who is on-site and for what duration to assist in site security and visibility. Generally do not provide close location information (ie. will know individuals are on-site but not where they are), provides limited information/diagnostics and do not provide staff protection or performance improvements
Key Issues for employers: Apps do not capture close location-based information and are point-in-time location (generally on entry/exit to site only), limited data is available to employers for insights/reporting and no location based information, does not meet employer obligations to protect staff, limited communications (including for site evacuation/muster) capabilities, no ability to lift performance
Workforce Performance and Protection Systems (Vault Solo):
Cost: Per user per month, varies based on scale, no hardware CAPEX
Value: Satisfies COVID-19 requirements for close location management of staff on site, can identify risks for people and places. Up to 10x ROI. Provides close location information, detailed insights, duress alerts, auditable communications distribution/acknowledgement, health status collection, retrospective individual and location/zone reporting, usage based pricing and financing options, instant deployment and scale on smartphones, ongoing performance and protection benefits
Key Issues for employers: business change to using a new app and removing other apps, understanding current spend and benefits case
It is important to think about this in terms of; customers, financial, staff and risks.
From a customer perspective, can you assure customers you are doing the right thing and minimising potential impacts on them?
Financially, is there a potential for your revenue to be severely restricted or costs increased (e.g. site shut-downs or extra cleaning costs through lack of information to target resources), are you getting the most out of your workforce in the office or outside?
Do your staff believe you are actually looking after them and therefore keeping them engaged and communicated with? Do you know if they have received and read the information you are giving them, do you know their physical and mental health status and what are you doing to assist?
From a risk perspective, as cases against employers regarding staff protection ramp up (e.g. there is a pending COVID-19 case, lodged in Alaska in March 2019 for 8,000 staff in the US regarding a failure by the State of Alaska to, amongst other things, fail to effectively clean and sanitise locations, enforce social distancing and limits on numbers of staff in facilities) can you demonstrate to regulators you have done everything necessary to protect staff?
There is a lot to process so you need to think about your strategy for dealing with the current situation but also beyond, this could be an ideal time to reassess and reset. Once you are clear on your strategy and direction, questions you should ask prior to making decisions on the veracity of the offers and/or solutions includes:
Does the app mitigate or eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution against the company, Directors and Managers for not meeting regulatory and legal requirements for the protection of staff?
Will the solution satisfy my obligations to support my staff returning to work?
What is the cost to implement and maintain, not just for the solution but for the business change?
Does the app reduce my risk of having to shut-down my entire site in case of infection?
Does the app deliver ongoing utility and value, beyond the current crisis, what is the Return on Investment (ROI)?
Do I need to make a significant CAPEX commitment or can I use my existing hardware?
Can the provider give me flexible pricing options to suit my business needs, short and long-term?
Can I satisfy my obligations with a single application and can I turn other applications off, or consolidate my apps/applications?
Does the app cater for people with the app and also visitors or contractors without?
Does the provider have sufficient scale and a road-map to be around in future and provide ongoing improvements and value?
Is the solution available now and how quickly can it be deployed at scale?
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