How to stem job loss post COVID-19, by experts

By Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf

With growing fears of possible job losses post COVID-19, experts have allayed such fears, saying most org-nisations may not announce job cuts arbitrarily.
According to the experts, there is need for employers and the government to hold a roundtable to discuss on the fallout on employment as a result of COVID-19.
In an interview with our correspondent, Dr. Timothy Olawale, the Director General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), an umbrella body for employers in the org-nised private sector (OPS), while speaking on the economic implication for the workforce, suggested short, medium to long term measures to mitigate the possible job crisis.

While acknowledging that globally, job cuts, layoffs, wage cuts and employee redundancy have continued to exacerbate as the coronavirus pandemic which continues to disrupt social life, the economy and every other human activity, he however said, “millions of jobs could be saved if OPS and government can adopt short and medium term decisions to ensure minimal job losses and create new job opportunities jobs. Thus, the decisions they take today will determine the health of our societies and economies for years to come.”
The International Labour org-nisation (ILO) estimates that as many as 25 million people could become unemployed, with a loss of workers’ income of as much as USD 3.4 trillion. However, it is already becoming clear that these numbers may underestimate the magnitude of the impact.
Management, Olawale reiterated, “Can adopt a number of strategies both in the short, medium and long term to address this looming crisis. The management can meet with financial institutions to restructure loans to free up working capital for business operations.”
“There should be engagement with government through Employers Association to develop policies that will business continuity and access to that access to a stimulus package to help pay wages or for investment to protect against downturn inactivity– and tax payment deferrals in the form of rebates for businesses, particularly in sectors most affected by the crisis. In addition, employees who are self-isolating or those diagnosed with the virus should receive payment support from the government, to encourage disclosure and help contain the spread.”
Echoing similar views, Louis Ntanda, a human resource and management expert based in Enugu, said it will be counterproductive for org-nisations to cut jobs arbitrarily.

“It’s actually a position that ties the hand of the HR in all org-nisations as the Labour law and their various handbooks does not provide for such. We may be faced with lots of litigations after the lockdown if the various org-nisations and mostly HR do not handle the current situation well.”
How to minimise job loss- DG NECA
Dr. Timothy Olawale, an Industrial Relations and Strategic Human Resource Management expert, is the Director General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), an umbrella body for employers in the org-nised private sector. In this interview with Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf, he speaks on the economic implication of COVID-19, especially how it’s going to affect the workforce and proffers useful suggestions. Excerpts:
Can work-at-home policy survive Covid-19?any org-nisations have adopted work-at-home schedules and judging by the moderate success achieved thus far are considering sustaining the trend post COVID-19. What’s your take on this?
Globally, job cuts, layoffs, wage cuts and employee redundancy have continued to exacerbate as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to disrupt social life, the economy and every other human activity. The areas that have been most negatively impacted are almost all the value chains including manufacturing, sales, and marketing, distribution, wh0lesale and retail, governance, aviation and tourism amongst others.
The International Labour org-nisation (ILO) estimates that as many as 25 million people could become unemployed, with a loss of workers’ income of as much as USD 3.4 trillion. However, it is already becoming clear that these numbers may underestimate the magnitude of the impact.
Furthermore, Nigeria as a country largely dependent on oil even face dire consequences amidst falling global oil price, which is around $30 per barrel, down from $65 at the start of the year. Credit rating agency Standards & Poor has even warned of a further slide in the oil price to $10 amidst falling demand for crude oil due to coronavirus. This can trigger job cuts, especially in the Nigerian public sector as the federating states depend largely on revenue allocation from the central government.
As part of government’s efforts to cope with the increasing number of confirmed cases of infected as well as some reported deaths, there was a declaration of a lockdown in the major cities, Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, with a spillover effect to other states of the federation.
Thus, in a bit to keep businesses afloat and also obey the directives of government, there was the need for some employees to work from home, aided by technological advancement. In short, the much emphasised Future of Work is here!
However, not all business operations can be done online which has led to huge reduction operations and income while maintaining huge overhead costs. The result is the possibility of massive job cuts and loses.
However, millions of jobs could be saved if OPS and government can adopt short and medium term decisions to ensure minimal job losses and create new job opportunities jobs. Thus, the decisions they take today will determine the health of our societies and economies for years to come.
What suggestions can you give to prospective management on steps to take?
As I mentioned earlier, management can adopt a number of strategies both in the short, medium and long term to address this looming crisis. The management can meet with financial institutions to restructure loans to free up working capital for business operations.
Besides, there should be engagement with government through Employers Association to develop policies that will business continuity and access to that access to a stimulus package to help pay wages or for investment to protect against downturn inactivity– and tax payment deferrals in the form of rebates for businesses, particularly in sectors most affected by the crisis. In addition, employees who are self-isolating or those diagnosed with the virus should receive payment support from the government, to encourage disclosure and help contain the spread.
Another thing is that this time calls for creative thinking by management. In this regard, there should be a drive towards business innovation via the adoption of e-commerce as part of business operations. Tens of jobs will also be created as they partner with operators in the restaurant hospitality, pharmaceutical, essential daily needs sectors as a result of increased demands for these essential needs during and post COVID: 19.
There is need to accelerate revenue through packages, incentives, discounts and/or prepayments. Also of critical importance is the need to manage accounts receivables, collect as much as possible from outstanding customers through strict collection policies and/or incentives and discounts. The management also needs to execute on cost-reduction strategies that allow the business to maintain productivity while matching the demand of product, audience and customers. Reducing operating costs in order to conserve cash is critical to the survival of businesses.
To the extent possible, negotiate the cost of inputs such as supplies, raw materials, labour, etc. and pre-buy materials at a discount when possible. The management also needs to postpone all hiring and when possible reduce staff this may be an opportunity for some staff to work part time as they care for children at home. Overall, there is need to discuss with staff to consider across-the-board temporary salary cuts as an alternative to cutting staff at this difficult time.
 

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