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3AW with Dee Dee Dunleavy

“For the small businesses, it’s a situation of ‘oh well, it’s out of your own pocket’, you carry the burden, you’ve been closed for over 200 days, you’ve been heavily restricted to, you know, for basically 18 months you can’t trade. And by the way, can you pick up the tab for your workers to go off and get a jab tomorrow?”

Randal Killip, head of research at Small Business Australia joined Dee Dee Dunleavy from 3AW to discuss the issue.

Dee Dee Dunleavy 

For this entire public sector, as I mentioned, nurses, teachers, emergency service personnel and government workers and bear in mind these are people who’ve kept their jobs throughout the pandemic. They being given paid leave to get vaccinated. But what about our private sector? What about our small businesses, many of whom are struggling? They seem to have been forgotten in this. The Industrial Relations minister Tim Pallas strongly encouraged all employers, including those in the private sector, to put in place an arrangement where their employees are paid to take time off to get the vaccination. Can they afford it? Randal Killip joins me now. He’s a head of research for Small Business Australia. Good afternoon Randal.

Randal Killip 

Good afternoon, Dee Dee.

Dee Dee Dunleavy 

Do you think it’s fair that private businesses, the private sector and not being given financial support to allow their employees to take time off with pay as you get the vacs?

Randal Killip 

It’s a really interesting one Dee Dee, you know, firstly, we support Small Business Australia, every measure to get people vaccinated. And we understand it’s the only way out of this crisis, very supportive, the Prime Minister urging us to get to the 70-80% magical number. But what we’re seeing here, again, it’s happened throughout the pandemic. Now, we’re well into it by eight months into the sort of two-tiered, two-tiered employee, two-tiered economy where you have the public sector, you know, that, keep their jobs as you’ve rightly said, many have had pay rises, they get paid extra to work from home, the office workers, and now they get a day off, they get a vaccine on top of other entitlements. Whereas for the for the private sector, for the small businesses, it’s a situation of ‘oh well, it’s out of your own pocket’, you carry the burden, you’ve been closed for over 200 days, you’ve been heavily restricted to, you know, for basically 18 months you can’t trade. And by the way, can you pick up the tab for your workers to go off and get a jab tomorrow? I mean, it’s just completely unfair. I think that’s the only way to say it.

Dee Dee Dunleavy 

So Randall, what sort of reaction were you hearing from small businesses to that news that the public sector was getting support to have vaccinations?

Randal Killip 

They’re were really concerned about this sort of whole grey area around vaccinations to be honest Dee Dee. To them, it’s just another added burden they’re being asked to carry. But they’re also a lot of grey area around vaccinations of, you know, should we get our employees to do it? Shouldn’t we get our employees to do it? There’s no direction, there’s no framework. And yet again, we have the Relations Minister and Treasurer, Tim Pallas, coming out saying, Oh, well, you know, you just sort it out, just to get your, your employees to do it, they’re completely frustrated. And to be straightforward, many, absolutely at the end of their tether, they’re broken. They can’t go on, and simply had enough of the government lobbying one more thing and another thing and another thing on top of them, while they try and wade their way through this financial nightmare that most of them find themselves in.

Dee Dee Dunleavy 

So they need any approach to the government for some sort of financial support so that small businesses can have their workers vaccinated?

Randal Killip 

I’m not aware of any we’ve actually gone to gone to government, I think we fought very hard, obviously, around compensation for businesses and getting adequate compensation. We’ve seen some improvements on that on that front. But nowhere near what they’re asked to cover the 1000s, and 1000s of dollars in losses they’re facing each week as we remain locked down. My view on this would be similar view to Small Business Australia is we’d actually expect the Victorian Government to turn around to  their workforce, their entire public sector force and say, we’re going to mandate you to have vaccines. And this is a health reason not to, because what we actually want to see are these office workers back into the city, back into their city offices. The trade as open and so that we can actually see financial, the financial future of those traders secured. What we don’t want to see is this haphazard approach of differing ideas and balls in the air, it should be a very simple thing. The Fair Work Ombudsman has come out and told the private sector, it’s up to you to work, it is reasonable for your workforce to be vaccinated, we’d expect greater direction from government and I’m actually setting the standard on this Dee Dee. I don’t think we actually need to give people the day off. I think that could be covered by sick leave, I don’t understand why would even consider adding a day off. But you know, let’s put in place strong policies that actually say, this is the rules for the workforces. If it’s a day off, then that’s costs covered by the government. If it’s going to be done that, you know, all public facing workers should be vaccinated, let’s get that done. If we can get as many office workers back to the city as possible through vaccination, let’s get that done. But let’s see firm directions with firm rules. So they sort of floating these ideas. It just frustrates the owners, they’re under enough pressure as it is.

Dee Dee Dunleavy 

How are they doing at the moment? How is the Small Business picture to your eyes at the moment?

Randal Killip 

It’s horrible. I spoke to 1000s of business owners every week. They are, I mean, you’ll have grown men in tears, just crying on the phone. I mean, many telling me they just don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to cope. They’re at home crying with their families. I mean, the mental health issues in those homes is absolutely unbelievable. We are seeing devastation across the community. For many Victorians, it doesn’t feel like that because it’s simple, you get paid, you go home, you watch Netflix, so you can work from the office, and that’s fine. But when you run your own business, if you work in tourism, you work in hospitality, you work in anything that’s customer facing, you run a gym, you’re on your knees, and you’re wondering what tomorrow will bring. I mean, they are on a brink of financial devastation. Their real concern is the endless nature of what we’re seeing in front of us. They don’t know how long we will be locked down for, nobody knows. It’s, it’s horrible. I must say, I’m usually quite emotional and you talk to them, because you just you just feel their whole life being sucked away from them.

Dee Dee Dunleavy 

I absolutely understand what you’re saying. And I’ve spoken to a few that have called and shared their stories and it’s it honestly, it stays in my head. You know, when you’re let, you’re probably the same. And when you lay down to sleep at night, live replays in your head, it’s just to hear people who’ve worked their whole lives losing everything, and there’s nothing you do to help them. It’s, it’s devastating. Randall, thank you so much for your time, Randal Killip, he’s the head of research for Small Business Australia. And you hear the clear picture that Randal paints and they’re off the state of small business at the moment and then to ask them to pay employees to take time off to have the vaccination. I’m sure they want their back or their employees to be vaccinated, and they will support them to do that. But where are they supposed to find that money from? And yet the government supporting its own workers to be to have paid time off to be vaccinated. It’s so unfair. They’re the wrong people to be asking them to stand on their own two feet through it. They need the support.

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