The human side of things

As more and more businesses face the harsh reality of needing to reduce staff hours or even layoff team members indefinitely, we turned to Tyla Makin, HR Professional, to touch on the human side of doing business throughout a global pandemic.

Our current global situation has certainly thrown many businesses, big and small, into a tailspin, and the hospo industry has arguably been one of the hardest hit. You’ve been told to close your doors or figure out ways of offering contactless delivery, so what do you do with your casual wait staff who are severely cutting into your bottom line? Here are just a few helpful tips on doing the right thing by your people, and the law. 

The technical stuff

The Fair Work Ombudsman is going to be your new best friend. Every business is different, and as such every employer/employee contractual and professional relationship is different, so your first point of call should be Fair Work. But here are some basics:

  • Your employees still have the same rights & entitlements they had before COVID-19
  • You need to look at your Casuals and Permanents (full-time or part-time) differently


Double-check your Contracts of Employment and the Award/Enterprise Agreement you use, but most casuals will only require between 1 hour to a day’s paid notice if you are terminating their employment. Obviously, this makes them an easy target to get rid of first. But wait! Keep reading for why that may not be your best move…


Again, you’ll need to check your employment arrangements but your permanent staff will need to receive full redundancy entitlements, whatever this looks like for your business. It’s important you fully understand your obligations under the Fair Work Act before making your permanent staff redundant.

Who do I keep on if I can only keep a few?

In any time of financial hardship, it’s easy to want to let go of your most expensive employees first but that’s rarely the best way forward. To put it simply, a cheap but poor performer will end up costing you a lot more in the long run, and loyalty and high performance are invaluable traits.

The hospo industry is also built on human interaction & quality, so you’d want to think twice about letting your best, remembers-everyone’s-order barista go, over your green-as-the-hills, minimum wage receiving barista.

Make it a win-win

We know what you’re thinking – ‘but once this is all over, I’ll need all my people back!’ And to be honest, terminating people should really be your last resort. It sounds crazy but we’ve actually got an unprecedented opportunity right now to redesign how we work and how we view the typical employment model. And if your employees can keep paying their bills while you keep afloat, you’d be excused for calling that a win!

So what are your options before terminating? 


Honest and transparent communication with your staff is vital, and you never know what may come from these discussions. A solution the whole team has had a part in making will be a helluva lot more effective. 

Reduce hours

Rather than losing their jobs altogether, a lot of employees would prefer their hours be reduced for the next few months. For your casuals, they simply get less hours, but for your perms, they could take Annual Leave or Leave Without Pay. If you are reducing hours, make sure it’s evenly spread. 

Adjust roles temporarily

Perhaps you’ve moved completely from restaurant seating to delivery. Are your wait staff willing to switch the apron and pad for driving gloves and Google Maps? 

Alternatively, you may discover your staff have hidden talents you can tap into and bring a previously out-sourced function in-house. Maybe you’ve got a gun videographer in your midst, just dying to refresh your ad content. These are the little gems of information we’re referring to when we say ‘Communicate!’

At the end of the day, you employ human beings (a fact forgotten by some decision-makers), and they make up the heart of your business. If you do right by them, good employees will always return the favour.


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