6 Contingent worker considerations during COVID: Are we there yet?

The number of contingent worker considerations facing organisations right now is epic (to say the least). The pandemic has raised serious issues for organisations across most industries. And these issues are both internal and external. The external issues include risk and worker compliance; worker insurances; worker rights; and the responsibilities of all parties. And internal issues include company policy adjustments, stand-downs and workforce communications, amongst others.

Complex enough? You bet.

Just as we thought life might be getting back to normal, here we are again, at the end of June 2020, feeling like we’re back in March 2020… at the start of the outbreak.

So we’ve devised a comprehensive list of the contingent worker considerations you need to make;  whether you have these workers in your business right now, or you’re considering engaging contingent workers in the near future, this list is for you.

Seriously, are we there yet?

CONSIDERATION #1: RISK – Intellectual property

As the white-collar workforce In Australia is largely working remotely during the pandemic, the risk of a potentially lax approach towards safety and security of company secrets and intellectual property emerges. Company policies need to be addressed and reworked to suit remote workers, in light of lower worker visibility (Zoom aside). IT systems and processes, remote worker systems access and the sharing of company information internally and externally are all very real risk factors. And they’re factors to be addressed as ‘the norm’ now, not as an anomaly because of the pandemic. Especially as pandemic infections are in the midst of the second wave in some cities and countries.

CONSIDERATION #2: RISK – Worker classification, insurances

Just because your contingent workers are, for example, working remotely like your perms, doesn’t mean you can classify, engage and manage them in the same way. The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeing increasing numbers of workers and organisations seeking advice on rights and responsibilities of all parties to the contingent worker relationship. If you’re not up to scratch with stipulations of the law, you’re technically in hot water. So… make sure you’re across all relevant state and federal legislation, including the rapid rate changes we’re seeing.

CONSIDERATION #3: RISK – Outdated company policies

With little light at the end of the tunnel regarding returning to ‘normal’, companies need to address and, where relevant amend, key company policies to adapt to the era of COVID. These include contingent worker considerations as well as the permanent workforce:

  • Working from home (as mentioned above)
  • IT systems access and relevant processes
  • Sick leave: ensuring workers can recover quickly and return to work, remotely. Also ensuring workers report an incidence of sickness, and of a positive diagnosis of COVID
  • General hygiene: for staggered return to offices
  • Travel: what restricted travel for contingent and permanent workers looks like
  • Meetings policies: using virtual, video or audio technology
  • Establishing or reinforcing access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
  • Leave for contingent workers: unlimited, or access to leave without contractual penalty

CONSIDERATION #4: Workflow continuity

As the economy starts to slow down, many organisations are reacting with a cut to headcount, and contingent workers are frequently first in line. Given the often specialist nature of a contingent worker’s engagement, this poses a major risk to project completion and business continuity. With more thoughtful workforce analysis and decision making, this situation can be managed with less risk to the organisation’s commercial health. The potential implications here are greater than mere workflow continuity. An immediate or reactive cut to contingent workers can potentially set an organisation backwards by months, even years based on the project lifecycle.

CONSIDERATION #5: Accessibility to contingent talent

With turmoil and uncertainty on the rise in workforces across the globe, many contingent workers are, as I mentioned above, back on the market. Some organisations, seeing these workers as the most easily expendable resource, are – somewhat naively – bunkering down with only permanent workers. This creates a great opportunity for agile, forward-thinking business leaders. With a larger pool of specialist, highly skilled contingent workers on the market, these leaders and their organisations have a great opportunity to attract quality talent that may otherwise not have been available.

CONSIDERATION #6: Onboarding limitations

Accessibility to new, high-quality contingent talent is a conceivable advantage for many organisations. But the issue of onboarding can be a potential hurdle.

How will they understand the culture and nuances of working with the business?

How will they get to know their team?

Addressing onboarding as an entirely new process during lockdown will be critical for any business wanting to get the most from their contingent talent investment. Contingent worker considerations for onboarding during COVID include:

  • A multi-stage onboarding solution, inclusive of all major organisational departments
  • The appointment of a contingent worker project ‘buddy’ or mentor; someone the worker can defer to for day-to-day questions, uncertainties, business processes
  • High-level communications at the early stages particularly for technical specifics of their role and required output
  • Accessibility of business leaders and peers; providing the confidence and certainty that, despite working remotely, the contingent worker can access the necessary people across the business to ensure worker engagement and speed-to-productivity

There are other contingent workforce considerations to make during COVID.

And of all these considerations, many will likely become part of the organisation’s future-state operations. As the weeks progress, we’ll keep you updated on the most important issues to be across, pending the rise or decline of COVID cases and the federal and state government’s subsequent rulings.

As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is well positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help please contact us here.