There are two words that define small business in the current times: “uncertain” and “unprecedented”. Companies have had to overcome extraordinary challenges. They’ve had to change the way they work, how they engage with their people and how they connect with their customers. This has been a time that has ignited innovation and digital change, but it has also introduced unexpected pressures for employees.
According to Yolandi Esterhuizen, registered tax practitioner and director of product compliance at Sage Africa and Middle East, people need consistent support during these tough times – support that helps them feel secure within the organisation and about their futures.
“One of the key ways in which companies can help people feel secure is to ensure they feel financially stable and that the company they work for is prioritising stability,” she explains. “People are dealing with health concerns, societal changes, increased admin and complex workplace regulations, many of which have been introduced by the pandemic and continue to impact on the quality of life. They need clear frameworks and foundations to help them navigate this uncertainty and complexity.”
There are some very clear routes that companies can take to make life easier, and to improve workforce engagement and productivity. The first is to take the very real and measurable step of introducing wellness activities that can be managed by third-party service providers.
“One of the best ways of providing employees with really tangible support is to give them tools they can use to manage their own lives and wellbeing,” says Esterhuizen. “This can be hands-on tutorials on how to budget during a recession, how to optimise finances and complete tax returns within the new boundaries of home office allowances. Many people are not equipped to deal with this and would appreciate the support.”
Create clear and transparent office policies to help people gain clarity into workforce practices and regulations. This would apply to anything from taking sick leave or requiring time off to care for a sick relative to managing interruptions in the school schedule. These are all part of the current climate and companies need to recognise that they won’t change overnight.
“Employers should provide guidance to ease their people through the obstacles they are faced with on an almost daily basis by vaccines, illness, regulations and more,” says Esterhuizen. “For example, there are tax deductions available to employees who are primarily working from home, but the rules that govern them can be convoluted. Don’t make this their problem; rather work with a third-party and experts to make sure your people aren’t hit by a tax curveball.”
Ultimately, employees need to feel they are supported by the business and not disconnected by remote working, complicated regulations and convoluted financial obligations.
“Employers can also leverage legislative changes to minimise financial pressure,” says Esterhuizen. “There are tax relief measures that have been implemented by national treasury to help provide relief to employers, plus there are the ongoing benefits of employee help from UIF and Ters (Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme). There is also the added benefit of TRFS (Temporary Relief Funds) that was recently implemented.”
As the country adapts to the impact of the pandemic, it’s important to have agile policies around leave and remote working
While each of these legislative support structures offer very different types of support and have very different hoops in place for small and medium businesses to jump through, they can add some stability to companies feeling the burn of the current economic situation.
“As the country adapts to the impact of the pandemic, it’s important to have agile policies around leave and remote working; and to communicate consistently and clearly with your people all the time,” says Esterhuizen. “This level of support across the pillars of finance and wellbeing will go a long way towards keeping them engaged and capable. If your business is on top of the regulations, taxes and legislation that are shaping pandemic relief, and the future, then you can benefit from them, keeping your business and your people on solid foundations for the future.”
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