Corona update Corona update

Corona update

DECP shares information, examples and experiences

To support partners in overcoming the coronacrisis

Insights

Knowledge

Achievements

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HOW TO TACKLE THE IMPACT OF COVID-19

 

This special DECP-webpage supports employers organisations in tackling the impact of covid-19. It provides information, tips and tricks on the challenges that business members organisations face during and after the crisis.

This is a wiki-page:

  • To read all the information or find a specific section, just scroll down.
  • To get a printable pdf-file of each chapter, click on the hyperlinks in the table of contents.
  • Hyperlinks in the text sections lead to external websites with best practices and examples.

We appreciate your comments. info@decp.nl

HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF THIS WEBSITE?

You are now on the text-roll. You could take the time to scroll through the whole DECP Corona-update webpage. However, to guide you through the pages that interests you most, we present the table of contents below. Each section can be clicked on. You will be forwarded to a PDF page desribing only the particular issue of the section you indicated. To return to the table of contents, use the arrow top left which indicates one step backwards.

The same goes for all hyperlinks in the sections that guide you to a particular website. To return to the DECP Corona-page, click on the arrow top left. 

This webage is temporary. We hope we can leave the COVID-19 crisis soon behind us. Nevertheless, currently, we can help each other to benefit from experiences all over the world. 

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1. The employers' organisation as provider of information

The first type of actions which we see being developed very extensively, and under different formats, within employers’ organisations, is obviously information gathering and distribution for members and often non-members without distinction. The employers’ organisation acts as information broker and relays information it gathers to its clients.

This activity is in a way self-explanatory.

The outcome is to ensure that members perceive the employers’ organisation as a safe haven for information. Members have easy access to all official information and the guarantee that the information is complete. The outcome for the employers’ organisation is low cost membership acquisition. Because the employers’ organisation responds to a “collective” knowledge need amongst companies. The information is delivered with efficiency and quality. Additional outcomes can be reputational benefits with government authorities. 

1. 1. What do we mean by the employers’ organisation as 1 stop shop?

Although the activity (1 stop shop) may sound very simple and straight forward, in practice it is not. It requires, if it is done to perfection, quite some efforts on behalf of the employers’ organisation.

To reach the outcome as mentioned in section 1 (The employers’ organisation as provider of information), it requires many efforts of being complete, punctual, fast and client oriented. Many employers’ organisations indeed provide for some important information. But only a few succeed in regard of being complete, being fast and updated or in offering an orderly client friendly approach with complete references.

Some aspects, which should be looked at for achieving excellence in information delivery are listed in section 1.

Some good examples can be found at the following websites:

SNEF, the employers’ organisation of Singapore:

https://snef.org.sg/snef_news/covid-19/

VBO, the employers’ organisation of Belgium: (at sectoral level)

https://www.feb.be/en/business-issues/safety-and-well-being-at-work/securite--bien-etre-au-travail/impact-coronavirus-sur-les-entreprises/

Webpages Australian employers’ organisation: excellent example of information “one in all” website: FAQ, official information, surveys, guidelines, fully updated:  https://australianchambercovid.com/

Pakistan EFP. Nice information webpages, including provincial situations:  https://efp.org.pk/covid-19/

UK CBI: webpages with guidelines, information and policy proposals – beyond social issues: https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/the-latest-coronavirus-guidance-for-business-1/

Ireland IBEC – COVID-19 hub: updated –comprehensive, with information, guidelines, research-survey and advocacy: https://www.ibec.ie/employer-hub/covid-19/policy-advocacy/new-ibec-survey-reveals-extent-of-business-uncertainty-from-covid-19

1.1.1. What is the content about?

Basic idea: The information delivered by the employers’ organisation should be covering all possible aspects of the COVID related official information. So that a company perceives the employers’ organisation as a unique and 1 stop shop as far as COVID information is concerned. The company should be sure that he information made available is complete. The employers’ organisation reads for the member and ensures that nothing relevant for the company management is left out.

Such a rather broad approach will also allow the employers’ organisation to get visibility on its added value throughout the different departments of a member company and remain less confined in its reputation to the HR departments of the member only.

Possible themes:

  • Regulations on which companies are allowed to work or not: Definition rules essential sectors
  • Safety rules and regulations: Required protective gear, distancing, including specific sector rules (transport, construction, retail …)
  • Labour law aspects: Obligation to work, work diminution and income, work at distance, dismissal, possibilities to impose absence with pay (leave), possibilities to diminish pay- rules for sick leave and sick pay, effect COVID on CBA regulations
  • Social security aspects: Access to health services, access to unemployment benefits,  effects of COVID absence on pensions
  • Fiscal aspects: Incentives in personal taxes for workers who continue work, workers having stopped work, incentives for company fiscally for maintaining workers at work, deduction of losses, other incentives like vat, excise taxes, company tax
  • Financial aspects: Financial rules regarding credit lines, interest rate, export insurance
  • Legal issues: Bankruptcy legislation, legislation on seizure
  • Other relevant issues: Like logistics, transport regulations-port facilities, information on freedom of movement in regional economic communities, import barriers-export barrier.

 

1.1.2. How complete is the information?

The format in which the information is offered is of importance. The format should create trust and easiness of handling of the information. Trust because the information can be ensured to be complete. Easiness of handling because all aspects of the information are in the same place and format.

Concretely this means at least:

  • Availability of a small summary of the measures, understandable for the non-specialist
  • Precise texts which allows a precision check by the user (literal text of Executive order      
  • Forms which have to be filled in, to give access to the measure (subsidies or something alike)
  • Precise references of the measure or regulation (publication place and date, website, address, telephone number)
  • References for the contact person of the employers’ organisation dealing with the issue
  • References for the person or the institution dealing with the regulation (institution, address, telephone number) 

 

1.1.3. How to transfer information to members?

The information must be easy accessible and also up to date. This requires hence the use of wide spread information mechanisms, which also can be easily modified in contents. The information carriers and the ensuing follow up with new messages can also play an important part in the communication policy of the employers’ organisation. In which it may try to underline its pro-active presence and actions regarding COVID-19 in favour of its members.

Hence the following information carriers are most indicated:

  • Website. If possible a special page or a special dedicated website of the employers’ organisation. And, according to policy, protected by a member access or, if open, requiring at least a registration such that the membership department can afterwards contact the organization which would be a nonmember to become a member
  • Regular supportive reminder of the website or webpage via social media message every week
  • Announcement of changes in the contents of the information every time via e-mail and via social media
  • Parts of the information sent via email to members, as a teaser or reminder 
  • Webinars. Choose relevant issues and invite your members to participate
  • Servicedesk by phone. Offer direct support

Some employers’ organisations have installed a real information platform, which allows not only members to receive information, but they also can actively react and interact. Obviously, such platforms are of a superior quality than websites and other carriers. The question however is about financial resources available to establish such platforms, the maintenance cost and also the available time needed to establish such platforms, which might be too long to make such platforms relevant for the present crisis. In the framework of a structural digital strategy, such investments can of course be very useful for a longer term approach.

 

1.1.4. Sector specific or generic?

At a certain point in time, the information may become more specific for certain segments. Being sectors, or regions, or type of workers employed by the employer.

It is important that national umbrella employers’ organisations, in close collaboration with the sectors, also think of displaying that information also. It enriches the usefulness for the member companies and it reinforces the idea and the trust that the employers’ organisation information modules are complete and a 1 stop shop.

This increasing specificity will probably appear once thee phased exit out of lock down will start. This may lead to specific orders regarding OSH for certain sectors (shops, retail, construction), specific measures for work organisation, for protective gear and for CBA’s for certain sectors.

You can find some good examples here:

https://www.feb.be/domaines-daction/securite--bien-etre-au-travail/securite--bien-etre-au-travail/impact-coronavirus-sur-les-entreprises/

https://www.medef.com/fr/actualites/covid-19-un-protocole-national-de-deconfinement-pour-les-entreprises

 

1.1.5. Which resources do we need?

The resource needs to establish the employers’ organisation as a 1 stop shop are not huge, but cannot be underestimated neither if some excellency is strived at.

It will engage:

  • Staff resources. Their role is to explore, regular follow up all official websites of instances dealing with COVID-19, to prepare small summaries of measures and other contents measures (see 1.1.2)
  • Determine and upload information tool(s) like web page and social media for alerts

 

1.2. Guidelines and information

This  type of actions by the employers’ organisation is very similar to the above mentioned role as information broker. However, in this case, the employers’ organisation moves from being a broker to becoming a producer of the information itself. Such role allows to transcend official information and to add employers accents or viewpoints. This role adds to the added value of employers’ organisations and is of a higher qualitative nature as a service.

There are several variants of this self-made information.

Light variant is to develop a FAQ list, where the member-client can find readymade answers. Sometimes also official bodies produce FAQ (in which case we are in the above 1.1.1. information role of employers’ organisations). The more in depth variant is also very common: a brochure on a specific issue. However, specific information can also be made available on the website on hidden pages, accessible for members only. Organizing webinars and offering the possibility to ask questions through establishing a helpdesk will encourage concrete interaction with members and thus stimulate visibility.  

This type of information, and especially the specific brochure, is much wanted by members. It will mainly concern issues where the measures and regulations to apply are not new, but need a recall in the specific framework of the COVID crisis. A typical example will be an employer’s publication which explains the possibilities of dealing with retrenchment, or annual leave, or sick leave. Partially, such brochure will review “old” topics, but will do such review in the background of the COVID crisis. It will add of course an overview of specific cases or regulations which are added by new regulations issued at the occasion of this corona virus.

The outcome is to ensure that members perceive the employers’ organisation as a contents specialist in the concerned  areas of expertise, capable to guide them with correct and complete information. It is clear this goes further than reproducing information. The outcome for the employers’ organisation in terms of membership is recognition as the body that defends the interests of the company and is the voice of business. This is about leadership!   

Again, this may sound very simple and straight forward. In practice it is not. And it requires quite some efforts to achieve this objective.

To reach the aforementioned outcome, it requires many efforts of achieving “correct and complete“ information brochures.

Correct and complete implies:

  • Precise and in legal matters or in case of doubt giving an overview of the main elements to take in consideration
  • Employers oriented: the information serves employers and thus gives them  the employers best direction of the available solutions
  • It may go beyond legal issues and also give HRM or other managerial considerations, as to inform the reader of the whole spectrum of solutions
  • Good writing skills to avoid too legal or too general writing

A good example can be found on the following webpage:

https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/the-latest-coronavirus-guidance-for-business-1/

KENYA FKE: use webinars as means to inform - engage on COVID-19 issues (health- work organization- legal implications):

https://www.fuemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/FUE-Employers-guide-on-COVID-19-response.pdf

UGANDA FUE: webpage with reference to guidelines COVID-19: 

https://www.fuemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/FUE-Employers-guide-on-COVID-19-response.pdf

 

1.2.1. What types of guidelines?  

Basic idea: The information produced by the employers’ organisation is specific and to the point. It covers all aspects of the topics in depth.

In determining the subjects, the employers’ organisation should reflect on the member needs, the competition, and on its specific competitive advantages.

Competition: if some themes are widely and well covered, it may be redundant to put much time and effort in the redaction of texts which are hardly innovative  

Competitive advantages: The employers’ organisation has a number of competitive advantages over others:

  • Frequent contacts with companies and practitioners
  • Availability of a wide network of consultants- consultant firms who may wish for reputational reasons to work with the employers’ organisation
  • An international network which may reply to specific needs of company members which have international operations or transborder activities

These considerations have to be made within each national context, but may help to orient the efforts to specific niches for publications. 

For the rest, variations exist. In size, long brochures which cover all aspects of labor law related to COVID-19, to smaller shorter publications on a more specific topic. Also variations in tone. Some are purely descriptive, others have sometimes also a prescriptive aspects, suggesting certain actions or behavior.

Examples:

  • OSH rules in times of COVID-19
  • Ways to deal with staff who is redundant. Alternatives for retrenchment
  • Work at a distance or broader safer work in Corona times. Legal obligations and HR practices

MAROC EMPLOYERS CGEM: NICE WEBPAGES FOR COMPANIES, INCLUDING EG KIT FOR ORGANISATION OF TELEWORK:  https://coronavirus.cgem.ma/

 

1.2.2. How can we present the information?

In many cases, employers’ organisations are used to concentrate in their publications on the legal approaches.  

Most interesting are these publications where the contents reflect a multi-disciplinary mix of approaches: legal, managerial, financial, organizational. Especially in the field of HR issues, a combination of labour law and good practices may be  indicated.

Publications which also have some practical approaches (models, sample texts are seen by practitioners as superior in value for companies than pure legal analysis.

If collaboration can be organized with academics or consultancy firms, their capacity to develop nice schemes or overviews, combined with the capacity of day to day solutions of the employers’ organisations, forms often a good combination also.

 

1.2.3. How to transfer the infornation to members?

Different possibilities are available like paper, soft copies and websites.

In most cases publications are for free. But in quite a number of cases, limited to membership (members portal- specific email distribution).

 

1.2.4. Sector specific or generic?

Sector oriented publications, be they FAQ or in depth publications, may have an added value. For specific contents and also to highlight the interest and capacity of the employers’ organisation to care for specific sector issues. Creating this sector specificity can strengthen the specific niche of an employers’ organisation in a certain sector and hence support membership strategies. And indeed sector realities can differ strongly between a retail, a flower company and a construction company. In other cases, the business continuity plan for an SME sector may differ strongly from a sector with bigger companies. Attention for specific needs is a central element in employers’ organisations policy.    

Sector specificity may be the responsibility of the sector association, which mixes a general approach with a sector specificity, derived from characteristics of the sector, or derived from specific sector regulations embedded in collective agreements. Such as specific systems of income guarantee and specific leave regulations. It may also be that APEX organisations collaborate with sector associations to add, if appropriate, a “sector” appendix with the specific rules of the most important sectors.

TUNISIE EMPLOYERS UTICA : EXAMPLE OF SECTOR GUIDE FOR WORKORGANISATION IN CERTAIN SECTORS,  DEVELOPED JOINTLY EMPLOYERS-TRADE UNIONS:  http://www.utica.org.tn/Fr/actualites_7_9_D2046#.XrmOX2gzbIU

BELGIQUE FEB. webpages  with 1 stop shop and also sector level information (see point 1.1): https://www.feb.be/domaines-daction/securite--bien-etre-au-travail/securite--bien-etre-au-travail/impact-coronavirus-sur-les-entreprises/

1.2.5. Which resources do we need?

The gist of this chapter indicated clearly that specific employers’ organisations publications require a higher level of involved resources.

The design and writing will require a certain degree of specialization. In many cases, it may also need the collaboration between some departments of the employers’ organisation, like legal and HR services. Or the collaboration with external resources such as specialists- consultants- professors- practitioners.

In a number of cases, employers’ organisations were able to organize a collaboration with law firms, or consultancy companies, which agree to put their specialists and their name at the disposal of the employers’ organisation.

Sometimes, where collaboration is not possible, it may require some additional financial resources. Maybe mobilized via sponsoring by some important members. Either way, the financial effort often allows the employers’ organisation to distinguish itself via add- on quality and multi-disciplinarily.

 

1.3. Exchange of experiences

A third variant off the role of the employers’ organisation in information is of a different nature. Whilst we treated before direct information roles, with variant 1 the role of the employers’ organisation as information broker, and the 2nd variant the employers’ organisation  as specific information creator, this role touches rather upon the networking and reflecting role.

In this case, the information is of a more long term nature, and not as practical, or immediately useable as in the previous scenario’s.

The outcome here in essence is that the employers’ organisation is viewed as nurturing member companies with inside information and or reflection on longer term issues. This role may as well be classified under policy, if the reflections are used as members input for policy work or as advice if the exchange of good practices is used for helping companies to cope jointly with peers with common issues.

Notwithstanding the categorization, this role is important to engage members and create high added value. It allows the employers’ organisation to distinguish it from other service providers. The employers’ organisation has the capacity to mobilize companies for real exchange between peers, sometimes on a confidential basis, and/or to engage them in open brainstorming.

It must be noted that not too many umbrella employers’ organisations do feature this role in their service offer. It may well be that they do not organize such events, but also that they wish to keep the organization of such events low key, for confidentiality reasons.

Webpages World Economic Forum. Discusses measures to be taken at company level after Corona. Includes nice scheme Mercer on strategies for HRM after Corona: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-business-resilience-preparedness-skills/

Webpages of UN women with many good practices for workplace policies Corona related open pdf full document: https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/03/family-friendly-policies-and-other-good-workplace-practices-in-the-context-of-covid-19

FRANCE- MEDEF good practices guide:  http://www.medef-idf.fr/guide-de-bonnes-pratiques-du-covid-19/

Some elements can be further underlined:

 

1.3.1. What can we do?

In essence the “product” consists of bringing together some practitioners and ensure an exchange of experiences and /or ideas on a subject which is related to the COVID-19 situation.

In terms of contents, the employers’ organisation has the full liberty in determining the topics of the exchange. These can be of a more technical nature -like how to organize homework- or even more narrow: how to measure performance of employees working at home. Or more general policy oriented, like how to re-organise our supply chains with China or how to deal with banks in Corona times. As suggested, the themes also can be wide ranging: from labour issues, HR issues, to fiscal policies and financial policies.

Most important is to ensure that the participants are well chosen for the subject, and that a certain degree of confidentiality is respected, at least as far as the identity of the intervenients is concerned.

 

1.3.2. How can we present the information?

The formats can take different forms and in between formula’s :

  • A closed exchange amongst participants, without notes being taken by the employers’ organisation and hence no reporting. Advantages are selectivity and exclusiveness. A clear disadvantage is that wider audience does not benefit from exchange
  • Open debate, with note taking, short publication afterwards and open to public.

A variant is exchange between different types of publics like experienced managers with young entrepreneurs.

 

1.3.3. How to transfer the information to members? 

If public:

  • Website
  • Platform
  • Webinar

If not public, public effect via conclusions or anonymous cases.

 

1.3.4. Sector specific or generic?

Sector specificity is also here an opportunity.

1.3.5. Which resources do we need?

Staff

Although experience sharing is in essence the result of the panelists or participants themselves, some important input can be expected also from the employers’ organisations staff:

  • Definition of worthwhile themes
  • Preparation of red thread
  • Effective facilitation and debate animation
  • Timekeeping
  • Conclusions
  • Reporting (if allowed)

Hardware and software: good facilities to allow on distance flawless discussion ( Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams)

Use of CRM

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2. Services

In the range of services for company members, the intensity of services increases when they move from “collective” answers to individual cases.

Under services, we understand the provision by the employers’ organisation to advice, cater for individual companies, which, up and above a collectively phrased need, may have an additional individual need.

The outcome of services is that company members view the employers’ organisation as a trusted provider of individual support. The qualities of services in general such as precision, alertness, client understanding, solution orientation, rapidity and apply fully.

The outcome for the employers’ organisation lies in increased opportunities for membership. Individual contact and solutions create a basis for long term membership.

 

2.1. Routine assistance for individual companies

Under this heading, we regroup the services in which companies are individually helped with rather simple but very concrete support which helps them forward in dealing with questions and issues raised by COVID-19, which are special and uncommon for the company but routine for the employers’ organisations’ staff because they apply it often.

This type of service leans very close to the provision of information role 1 stop shop (see chapter 1). With this service, the company is not only informed on what it should do, but is also practically helped in the implementation. Especially for SME’s, which are limited in staff in administration, these services may be highly appreciated, if carried out with precision and very little workload for the company.

In section 2 briefly some additional elements regarding this role of the employers’ organisation.

Some good examples can be found at next webpage: 

http://www.medef-idf.fr/guide-de-bonnes-pratiques-du-covid-19

SRI LANKA EFC Good example of extensive own publications on Corona related issues:  http://www.employers.lk/

 

2.1.1. Assistance on what?

The employers’ organisations’ staff prepares and implements for the member a number of “routine” tasks regarding issues arisen with COVID-19.

Examples.

  • Filling in forms to obtain as employers types of state support or exemptions like fiscal, diminution PAYE, reimbursement VAT
  • Sample letters regarding labour contracts like termination for COVID-19 and obligatory annual leave for the worker
  • Sample collective regulations for organizing telework or home work
  • Sample letters for credit renewal to banks

 

2.1.2. How can we develop routine assistance?

Normally these routine forms are at the disposal of the employers’ organisation.

Its staff is trained to fill them electronically or individually. The employers’ organisation’ staff maintains close contact with official authorities to make sure they execute the tasks of filling in properly.

In case of big companies, the employers’ organisations’ staff may increase effectiveness by training clerical staff of the HR department of those companies.

For smaller companies, the service will probably best be individual.

 

2.1.3. How to transfer the information to members? 

Given the routine character of these tasks, and the high number of operations, it is best to try to digitalise these roles, or to ensure digitalization by the company :

  • Website loading forms
  • Special platform

 

2.1.4. Sector specific of generic?

If some sector specifications exist, the service can include them.

 

2.1.5. Which resources do we need?

  • Staff: This type of services can be very labour intensive. A good organization via close collaboration with the authorities, and digitalization may be a precondition to implement this service properly.

Employers’ organisations with a role in social security via joint management may seek collaboration of the institutions which they co-manage to help employers’ organisation in this service.

Good training of the concerned employers’ organisation staff in handling the tasks of these services is essential. Even if routine, members will only appreciate if flawlessly done by the employers’ organisation.

  • Hardware and software: to be seen according the type of documents  
  • Income: to be examined if members as well as nonmembers can be charged for the service and at which rate. But in many cases these services would be considered not to be part of the “normal” membership package of services.

 

2.2. Advice

Employers organisations can limit themselves in their services role to information (see section 1 The employers’ organisation as provider of information ), made available as a “collective“ service to all the members, or go further in depth and helping each company individually.

In this approach, the “collectively” available information is complemented by “individual” services for company A-B or C, and taking more into account its specific features and requests.

Employers organisations can also do more, via services geared to the individual companies, over and beyond a “collective” approach”:

·       the EO can help with a sort of “ routine assistance”: help in filling in forms and explaining what should be done, by company A , B or C:

·       or go further and really give individual contents advice on the particular issue raised by the company.

The latter we call specific advisory services .(click 2.2.1.What kind of advice)

SOUTH AFRICA SEIFSA (metal) : example of specific sector portal for members – sector specific information:

https://www.seifsa.co.za/

SUISSE : Union patronale : example hotline system for COVID-19 issues:  https://www.centrepatronal.ch/coronavirus#

2.2.1. What kind of advice? What themes?

Under this category of services, we include all the services which entail Eos to deliver individual advice to companies on the multitude of aspects regarding COVID-19.

For many employers’ organisations this service may be a simple continuation of what they do already, with of course focus for Corona related themes.

A number of employers’ organisations hence limit their services offer to labour law and HRM. That is a deliberate choice. They feel having competencies mainly in that field, and hence stick to their strength in order to provide for top quality services in their comfort zone of core competency.

Their themes for advice:

·       Individual cases of individual labour law or HR management on a range of issues (frequent questions: can I oblige my workforce to take holiday ? Can I dismiss my workers, how much does this costs, are there alternatives, can I delay the payment of wages, can I diminish wages, can I pay  premiums to those who work, what is the gross cost? How can I measure performance of a home workers, what can I do if performance is not good?)

Important is to note that ideally the employers’ organisation looks at the specific questions from different angles. Legally, but also from an HR viewpoint and a cost viewpoint, and gives a holistic quality level reply.

·       Cases of collective labour law or HRM (labour rules in general, rules for home work, dispute and disciplinary rules)

·       HR policies. Remuneration policies, disciplinary policies, setting up telework, absenteeism policies or motivation.

Other employer’ organisations have broader competencies and also stretch into services – directly or with partners – which are broader and also cover fields such as management advice, company law advice, financial advice and trade.

Their themes:

·       Company management

·       Financial management

·       Legal and company law issues

·       Tax issues

And still others see opportunities and try to respond to the needs of their members by expanding the coverage of their present services to annexed fields, where they gather new competencies, or bring in additional competencies via partners of allies.

The most important criterium to determine the boundaries of action is the quality and the value proposition an employers’ organisation can offer to its members. If quality is guaranteed, an expansion to some other fields than the core competency is no issue. But if not, we think it is advisable to take too many risks by venturing in uncharted (service- advice) waters.  

The outcome should in any case be that companies receive good quality replies to individual queries related to COVID-19 issues.

 

2.2.2. How do we get organised to give quality level advice and strong delivery?

The traditional added value features of any advice obviously also apply to the services and advice role of employers’ organisations in the COVID-19 context.

·       Accuracy: the advice is contents wise correct and goes in depth

·       Rapidity of reply : the availability to receive calls and the rapidity of replies

·       Client orientation: the advice looks at the issue from the clients- member perspective; in the contacts with the client the advisor listened very well; in his reply he starts from the clients question. 

·       Solution orientation: the advice gives a real solution or multiples solutions, about which pro’s and con’s, or risks are well weighted

·       Multi disciplinarity: the advice is multi angled, and looks at the issue from different perspectives which may be relevant for the client. like law, HR and financial

The requirements in terms of quality of the advice will require careful handling of the question raised by the members. In a number of cases, a referral to outside specialists is indicated, if the employers’ organisation staff is not capable of dealing properly with the issue. The limitation of advice to the field of traditional strength of the employers’ organisation hence warrants quality failures. Another possibility is the setting up of employers organisations’ networks. Cooperation with other employers’ organisations according to the specialty and strength of each or conclusion of partnership with outside consultancy companies .

The formulation of advice requires no specific investments in carriers. Most advice will be formulated via telephone and mail, and can be continued in the Corona distance society.

Interesting cases can anonymously serve as example  case for communication purposes, or for trainings .

In some cases, they can also be useful to be signaled to the lobby team, which has to be aware of cases in reality to make arguments or propose solutions. 

Good resources are key.

·       staff handling these services should be have at least one high level staff member as a back up

·       the availability of a good network of specialists, which can be called in, or to whom the member request can be referred to, is an essential part of the “equipment” of the employers’ organisation for the delivery of these services

·       staff connectivity has to be well organized for the periods of activity of the employers’ organisation where staff works from home. This connectivity concerns as well the links between the staff members amongst themselves (joint short staff meeting 1x day?) as the stability and quality of connections with the member client (internet, WhatsApp, telephone, skype, other)

·       follow up: the use of CRM to register clients and services must be underlined

 

2.2.3. Sector specificity

The employers’ organisation looks to give added value to its advice. One of the ways of doing so, is to take the sector specificity on board in your advice.

It may be an element to underline in marketing the service. The sector specificity may imply that your advice also takes into account the sectoral situation of your member, that you link it to the sector CBA’s or other specific regimes which differ per sector. Also collaboration with sectoral associations  (if having staff on board) are a must.

 

2.3. How can we help companies in broader fields such as risk management?

In many countries, the employers’ organisations have not a lot of capacity in advising or accompanying company members in the business development as such, ranging from general strategy development, to specific managerial functions such as finance, marketing, production, quality and ITC. 

Traditionally, the core competencies were rather situated in “collective” services (services for a group of companies) and in labour law and social dialogue ,as being the core competencies. Later on this was extended in a number of employers’ organisations to the neighboring field of Human Resources management.

Having said so, the markets develop and more and more member companies need such services . The service consultancy offer is wide and descends from the Big Four consultancy firms, to many smaller companies specializing in general or specific business advice.

If employers’ organisations have not been involved before in such types of business advice, it is in our opinion too late to develop this types of services now, even if the markets would need them strongly, and even if the market would not always needs top level services (at top notch prices). It is too late because the development of such services needs quite some time. And because a certain quality needs to be guaranteed in order to avoid bad reputation and deception with members.

However, some limited options to respond to the needs of some members are available.

1)      Analysis tool for risk assessment

The ILO published recently, and especially at the occasion of the COVID-19 crisis, a tool which can be distributed via employers’ organisations. It enables companies, and especially SME’s, to do a rather simple risk assessment exercise to map the effects and possible issues linked with the pandemic.

It is a tool which invites companies, and especially SMEs to map better the risks they may incur with COVID19 in the management of the company. It maps risks in supply, demand, staff, finances and so on.

The employers’ organisation can market this tool, or organize a webinar around these tools. This can be very useful, also for the lobbying staff, to have concrete input on the issues which are felt by the companies concretely.

The danger is of course existing that the risk management exercise may also incite companies to expect the employers’ organisation to help with the solutions of identified risks.  

Explore the publications of ILO ACTEMP on risk management

2)      Partnerships

If the employers’ organisation does not feel comfortable with venturing in management advice, it can refer to, or partner itself with advisory firms in that field. By negotiating collectively, it may also try to get a discount for its members.

Partnerships with PUM, the Dutch initiative to send senior retired experts to emerging countries, (see https://www.pum.nl/en) can be a way to offer expert advice.

 

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3. Lobby, advocacy and social dialogue to increase policy influence

Advocacy, lobbying and social dialogue, as methods for exerting policy influence on the way the COVID-19 issues are tackled, are obviously, and more than direct services, the main task of the employers’ organisations. In that role of collective interest representation, they are unique and cannot be substituted by other consultants or service companies.

In these activities, the employers’ organisations act as voice of business Here they are at the core of their reason for existing: inform the authorities on the reality in the private sector, represent the concerns of the business world, and look for solutions in all the area’s in which CoVID-19 has an effect. And in doing so, involve the trade unions as a social partner representing the workers, understand the concerns, negotiate bilaterally some solutions and try to forge an alliance with trade unions to go jointly to the authorities.

The global outcome of these activities is hence clearly defined. Position and ensure that the employers’ organisations is acting as the well informed, representative and credible voice of business which co-defines with the authorities and the trade unions the balanced solutions to mitigate and overcome the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy, on employment  and on the  private sector.  

It is correct that some companies will free ride and benefit from the efforts of the employers’ organisations, which is only financed by the member fees of a limited group of companies. From an organizational viewpoint, concerns on free ridership are important. But at this stage, they are not a priority. Companies which will perceive, especially via strong communication, the leadership role of  employers’ organisations in proposing solutions, may be convinced by the intensity of the work and the quality to join. In many countries, lobbying and advocacy is the main and sometimes almost exclusive activity for employers organisations, and the employers’ organisations succeed, by the preponderance of their place in the public debate, to continue to convince companies to remain or become a member. The life threatening consequences of COVID-19 on the economy are hence a unique opportunity for employers’ organisations to show their capacity to intervene in policy for the good of companies.

Last but not least: the COVID-19 situation is a unique opportunity to stimulate the proper use of Social Dialogue to solve the enormous and unique problems together. 

3.1. Research and surveys

Research and surveys are an essential step in the process of lobbying and advocacy. It provides  essential information to decision makers .As such it allows the employers’ organisation to shape the debate, with the authorities, but also with the wider public via communications, and feed it with quantitative information, with qualitative information and also with information on future prospects.

It is also a means to get to know better members views, and to serve as input to determine the direction the employers’ organisations’ lobbying efforts will take in terms of contents. What are the priorities we should lobby for? Which solutions are viewed as viable and relevant, and which as harmful or non-priority? what is he possible impact? Views on the possible impact of proposed solutions.

Finally, a survey may also help to determine members needs towards the employers’ organisation itself in terms of priority activities related to services. This is important, but the priority in surveys should however be on the external information surveys can bring.

In this paragraph, we have used the notions research and surveys together. This is normal in the general view on lobby and advocacy, where often (academic or secondary sources) research goes hand in hand with new information collected via surveys (so-called primary sources of information). In this case of the COVID-19 crisis, research is at this stage limited. There are hardly any researched models which allow to predict the effect of a pandemic on the state of the economy. Research hence will be limited, but should not be totally neglected. Some institutions may have already recent figures  regarding some aspects, which may allow to estimate the size of the economic impact of COVID-19 via a comparison with the present vs one year back normal state. Or VAT revenue- port traffic and so on. But most probably, surveys will be the main actual source of information, and will function on the basis of extrapolation. It can be expected that later on the institutions which traditionally monitor  economic developments will start collecting information, but especially at the initial stages of the crisis, surveys will be a major tool. In that context, the survey capacity of employers’ organisations, to engage their members, gives them an important competitive edge to collect and distribute new information and to obtain high public profiles via the information which is published.

Research via surveys is not a one shot operation. The credibility, but mainly the added value of surveys, is linked with the capacity to draw trends over a certain period. Especially in this context, employers’ organisations should prepare for a regular system of surveys with their members.

Speed in collecting and reporting is important, because this crisis evolves in an unpredicted and rapid way. The survey may achieve results rapidly, if the sample is not too big and members are willing and motivated to reply quickly. Also the survey design of course will impact the response rate and rapidity of collection and reporting.

Credibility of the information which is collected is key. Surveys have hence to be transparent on representativeness – on questions- on methods of extrapolation. Some support of external specialists, especially when launching the first survey, may be appropriate. But it should also be reminded that the best may be the enemy of the good.

Find a good example here:

https://www.ibec.ie/employer-hub/covid-19/policy-advocacy/new-ibec-survey-reveals-extent-of-business-uncertainty-from-covid-19

Examples of communication survey news in Vietnam:

https://vietnamnews.vn/economy/684961/record-number-of-businesses-stop-operations-in-q1.html

https://e.vnexpress.net/news/business/economy/covid-19-could-bankrupt-50-pct-of-vietnamese-enterprises-vcci-4081637.html

INDIA FICCI. Webpages on survey – link survey and policy proposals:

http://ficci.in/Sedocument/20497/FICCI-Survey-COVID19.pdf

http://ficci.in/Sedocument/20499/FICCI-BCS-April-2020.pdf

 

3.1.1. What are the themes?

Surveys

Sometimes a distinction is made between quantitative surveys, which measure in figures the present state of the economy and of businesses, qualitative surveys which measure in non-quantitative ways and/or members needs surveys which particularly seek to know what members want. The distinctions are probably more theoretical than practical, because a survey can easily combine quantitative questions with some open questions which allow more qualitative statements and need expression.

Without going into detail and without defining here the precise contents, with a survey, the employers’ organisation should collect ideally hard information to inform the authorities and the public about pressing questions regarding:

·        the present impact (how good or bad it is)

·        prospects of future impact (how do we see at this stage the future)

·        a description and prioritization of challenges- issues to cope with and to solve (what should be done?)

Starting from these basics, the questions will concern the following but can also be broader:

·        Present state of business

-        active

-        non-active

-        partially active

 

·        Who have been hit by COVID-19

-           Type of companies

-           type of sectors

-           which regions

 

·        Extent of negative impact at this stage since the start COVID-19:

-           Effect on turnover last month versus last year, revenue

-           Effect on financial status: cash flow, reserves, projected profits 2020, credits

-           Effect on employment: number of temporary unemployed, number of employment versus last year

-           Effect on workers: % active, % sick leave,  % with reduced working time, % teleworking, wage situation of workers: number of reduced wages and average %

 

·        Prospects on future development (future with what we know at this stage concerning company and duration COVID-19 measures)

-           Level of % loss in turnover in next  3 months, until 2020 

-           Level of employment over 3 months

-           Level of profits, investments, orders

-           Level of confidence

·        Main challenges today for your business

-           Demand- supply disruptions

-           Labour issues (absence, distancing, sick leave, difficulties to adjust labour volume, labour cost, organization working from home)

-           Credit lines and cash flow

-           Transport difficulties

-           Unfair competition

-           Other

 

·        What should governments do very soon for creating better business prospects whilst not endangering health:

-           Financial, fiscal, trade

-           Labour rules, rules for workers

-           Other ideas

·        What should governments do for the longer term 

·        What do you expect from your EO : at national level – at sector level

·        The ILO-ACTEMP survey is a very good sample for such survey. And ready-made.

 

This generic list of issues should not prevent employers’ organisations to define some additional  precise questions, linked to maybe some specific features of its country situation.

Please note that ILO-ACTEMP developed and published a ready-made questionnaire which is excellent and which can be easily used. Also DECP can advise by checking your survey questionnaire.  (https://www.ilo.org/actemp/publications/WCMS_740215/lang--en/index.htm)

Surveys are however more than asking and collecting questions. The real result are short reports. They should in principle be reflecting only the results of the survey, but in an introduction, the link between the policy objectives and the survey results may be made. It will frame the survey results in the policy context and upgrade the survey from fact to argument.

Finally, but equally important, must be underlined that surveys and information gathered, which also concerns the views of members on what needs to be done, is not replacing the policy work preparation in policy committees via the normal governance institutions of the policy committee, Board and in times of urgency, the Executive Committee. Surveys may inform the governance institutions on certain members view. But the real decisions on the orientations to take in policy work are not based upon survey results, but on a careful weighing and discussion and decisionmaking of the governance bodies.

Research

Above, it was remarked that research data are probably very limited on the impact of COVID-19 on the business world. However, as the COVID-19 develops, more and more official data will become available, because government agencies and social security agencies will be registering the real effects. And research institutions or important actors in economic policy, like National Banks, will develop scenario’s .

The government authorities will probably have these data more quickly than the employers’ organisations. The information role of the employers’ organisation is hence not strengthened by serving these data to the authorities. But knowledge and close monitoring of what is gathered as data and research is of course paramount for the preparation of policy options and proposals by the employers’ organisations towards the government. It would be a pity that a proposal which is formulated by the employers’ organisation regarding economic recovery would be totally incompatible with figures or research which would be available officially, or at least a pity that the employers’ organisation would not be aware that such research does exist.

The presence of employers’ organisations in social security institutions (unemployment benefits,  sickness benefits) and the presence in bodies of concertation on measures to take for a future restart of the economy can ensure the availability of such figures and data for the employers representatives.

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds -when lock downs are over- and when the first discussions on restart are over also, the share of research input, versus input via rapid information gathering via surveys, will proportionally become more important in the discussions. This shift will also challenge the capacity off the employers’ organisation, but may also provide for additional avenues of research and valorization of the role of the employers’ organisation. We refer to input of the employers’ organisation on discussion in labour law, via an analysis of CBA’s and wage developments where the employers’ organisation based upon its service role in HRM, may bring in additional knowledge and experience.

These themes will be elaborated in a later edition, once the first phases in crisis handling are over.

Interesting research may also concern the monitoring of policies in neighboring countries. Since the COVID-19 crisis is an identical issue in all countries, also the solutions can easily inspire. All are confronted with a temporary non activity; the fear for layoffs and the need for a stimulus policy after getting out of the health crisis.

Comparative “research” can be extremely useful, both for publications towards the public, as for lobby and advocacy reasons. Comparative research is also powerful, especially if it concerns “example” countries and neighbors. Politicians may find it more difficult to discard solutions which are working in other countries.

 

3.1.2. How complete is the information?

The launching of surveys question to the sample participants is more and more computer based, or telephone based. For details, basic literature on survey implementation is available. If the employers’ organisation has decided to execute the survey by itself. Software is available to launch simple fast surveys. 

The format of the outcomes of research and surveys will differ according to the target public and its use.

For communications on facts and figures with the press and the wider public, survey reports should be short, simple, and eye catching. And if possible accompanied by the message which are being transmitted.

For policy input, to underpin the employers request, the reports and data should be more lengthy,  credibility and reliability are important factors, if employers’ organisations want to use their data to underscore their proposals.

 

3.1.3. How to transfer the information to members? 

There is nothing special to mention under this heading.

Reports are in writing, brief and to the point and are communicated via the various channels at the disposal of employers’ organisations. Sometimes accompanied by a short summary or a slide presentation, to be distributed to stakeholders, important members and the public via You Tube.

We will come back to communication in section 4. But the importance of keeping the members informed on what is published, be it as a result of employers’ organisations surveys, but also data and figures by other actors, like authorities, think tanks and trade unions, cannot be sufficiently underlined.

3.1.4. Sector specific or generic?

Sectors again may have specificities, which the members of such sector may appreciate to be highlighted. This has a number of consequences for the employers’ organisation It may choose to organize, on a less regular basis than general surveys for all companies, occasionally a sector level survey, or support the sector association to do one. And provide in the design of questionnaires for some specific questions for some sectors. And do the same in reporting.

The choice for which sectors may request specific attention is entirely a choice by the employers’ organisation to make. But it is logical that sectors which are strategic for the employers’ organisation and the country, or sectors which are particularly hard hit. Like tourism, or sectors which are more at the forefront of policy decisions like ports, transport or sectors where the employers’ organisation sees important untapped membership potential, are primary targets for specific attention.

 

3.1.5. Which resources do we need?

Surveys

The production of surveys requires important resources and some time. Although time is not available and rapid data are needed.

In terms of resources, employers’ organisations need at least one staff member to manage and direct the process, irrespectively if the survey implementation is outsourced or not. The staff member has the final say on the questions, the design, the sample, the report. Ideally, he or she has some experience with survey management.

In many organisations the whole process is outsourced. This could be not an ideal situation, since the employers’ organisation has very few learning points, and a considerable  expense to bear. Having said this, in the present circumstances, the launching and publication of figures on impact should be fast, as to take leadership as employers’ organisation, and also to set the pace of the discussions. In other cases, the employers’ organisation maintains the design and reporting but outsources the pure he implementation work, like the gathering of replies, and the uplifting of response rates, via recalls or reminders, to be done by consultancy firms or independents.

Software for surveys: Available software used for simple and fast surveys: survey monkey. https://www.surveymonkey.com/

Research and gathering of secondary data

To be done by a staff member of the policy department within employers’ organisations:

·        identify interesting sources with information relevant for the policy issues of the employers’ organisation

·        collect

·        analyze from the perspective of usefulness for the employers public (publications) and/or for policy team preparing employers’ organisations’ positions and proposals.

Above we mentioned the usefulness of comparative research, and especially the monitoring of policy development as it happens in neighboring countries. The setting up of a small informal network of regional colleagues employers’ organisations to register and monitor policies can be very helpful to achieve this.

3.2. Preparation of policy positions

This part of this publication touches upon the real policy work of the employers’ organisations.

Having gathered information and having done some research, the translation of these data in employers’ organisations’ policy position, which then lead hopefully to effective policy interventions and policy influence in favor of the private sector, is covered in this paragraph. 

The ideal outcome of this phase is that the employers’ organisation is perceived to be the voice of business to translate the needs/concerns of companies into clear realistic policy positions towards the decision making political authorities and other decision making or powerful stakeholders such as trade unions. These policy positions may be of a general nature, or more specific. They are formulated in a evidence based, constructively voiced position papers, which are also widely communicated to the members and the public at large.  

In this phase of policy preparation, some elements, which are characteristic of good advocacy and lobbying strategies in general, are also crucial here. We just recall the most important one’s briefly :

·        the need for mandates of the employers: the policy positions need to reply to real concerns of members, based upon a mandate by the governance bodies of the employers’ organisation if possible.

·        the need for a certain prioritization based upon a logic of criteria. Themes which are of interest for many companies; feasible- realistic positions and proposals; positions which serve the common national  interest; urgent issues first

·        the need for an evidence based approach, with constructive non polarizing argumentation

·        the need for realism and feasibility, both financially and implementation with the need to tackle real issues and not symptoms, in other words focus and specificity 

Find a good example of the Irish employers’ organisation here:

https://www.ibec.ie/employer-hub/covid-19/policy-advocacy/covid-19-business-priorities

Find a good example of a press release of the Ghanaian employers’ organisation here:

https://ghanaemployers.com.gh/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2GEA-PRESS-RELEASE-ON-COVID-I9-2.pdf

Webpages American Chamber EU. Very comprehensive withy many examples of national policy interventions in EU ( but transferable?) http://www.amchameu.eu/covid-19

Webpages of international trade union movement ITUC. Fully updated overview of national measures worldwide: https://www.ituc-csi.org/covid-19-table

Webpages AFRICA of international trade union movement ITUC. Updated overview of Africa situation and social partners texts:  https://www.ituc-csi.org/covid-19-responses?lang=en

MALAYSIAA MEF. Webpages with very intensive communication for members and for policymakers: http://www.mef.org.my/Home.as

IRELAND IBEC: clear policy proposals:  https://www.ibec.ie/employer-hub/covid-19/policy-advocacy/covid-19-business-priorities

The ILO published a complete overview of policy responses per country: 

http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/country-responses/lang--en/index.htm#UN

3.2.1. What are the themes?

The outcome is to arrive at a series of positions, of which the employers’ organisation is convinced that these positions are the correct answer the state authorities -which decide upon legislation and rulemaking- should give to reply to the concerns of the private sector employers and companies. 
The themes to be covered by these policy positions can have a very varying coverage.
In countries where the employers’ organisations mainly cover social and labour issues, the employers’ organisation will concentrate on policy positions regarding:   

• safety rules for staff and customers (protective gear, osh rules, responsibilities, discipline, safety rules for allowing return to activity in non-essential sectors) • labour law-social security rules concerning remuneration and organization of work  (overtime, premiums, sickness leave rules, flexibility to social security contributions)

• labour law and social security rules concerning income during imposed closures or periods of inactivity due to COVID-19 restrictions (unemployment benefits, leave pay)

• labour regulations concerning employment- retrenchment and the use of alternatives for retrenchment  • measures to support companies for companies in difficulties (social security contributions, temporary layoffs) 
The precise in-depth contents of the themes will also vary according to the COVID-19 phase in which the country is. This will regard different issues at different periods. In quite some countries, we see similar issues per phase. 

• In phase 1 (inactivity and lock down for most companies) probably the most urgent issues on how to deal with safe work in companies where work continues. How to deal with income and secondary working conditions (leave, sickness) for workers who do not work but are not dismissed. 

• In phase 2 (restart out of the lock down) urgent issues such as the safety conditions of the restarting workers, stimulus for restarting companies like social security contributions exemptions, work flexibility for restarting companies. 

• In phase 3, other issues will appear. Unfortunately we still have to wait to define them better.
In countries where employers’ organisations cover a wider array of issues, the policy positions will also touch upon broader themes, like:  

   
• fiscal mitigation for companies. During the periods of inactivity, restart and full recovery 

• financial mitigation. Credit arrangements with banks

• legal mitigation: Impact of COVID-19 on commercial contracts, rental contracts, legal procedures

• export support 

• mobilization of capital • measures to stimulate demand • monetary policies 

• social protection policies 
 
Again, the themes will be even broader and will also be varying with the stage of the COVID-19 virus development. 

 

3.2.2. How complete is the information? 

The format of such positions can vary. Time, capacity, available resources will determine this ( length, appearance, format).

In any case, a position paper has some basic features which are well known, and which should also be applied here if possible and desirable :

·        a 4-5 step design

a) the problem/the concern (with some data on negative effects for private sector and country)

b) the proposed solution (in some detail)

c) the argumentation why this is feasible, balanced, beneficial for all ,with some references

d) who, when should this be done

·        easy to read (short, nice presentation, some graphs, summary message)

·        constructive tone, not technical language

·        clear short mentioning of all the partners which present the position (delicate and important for position papers made in collaboration with other partners)

 

3.2.3. How to transfer the information to members?

In the situation of COVID-19, where urgency of production is an important criterion for success, the appearance of documents is less important.

3.2.4. Sector specific or generic?

Obviously sector specificity can be an additional angle to look at the development of position papers. Specific attention for sectors which are severely impacted by the COVID-19 virus is key, or via specific positions, or via specific sector attention in one general paper.

This is very appropriate when the measures also provide for a gradual, sector specific approach for the restart of certain sectors which were obligatory closed or in lock down. Sector associations like retail, or sections of the retail branch such as flower shops, garden centers for example may appreciate specific attention for their branch or sub branch.

Having said so, the counter argument is that too deep sector specificity may blur global messages, or may create internal friction with the employers’ organisations’ membership, since some sectors are favorited vis à vis others. A good balance will hence have to be struck.   

 

3.2.5. Which resources do we need?

The production of positions by the employers’ organisation can be labour intensive, and again the search for perfection should not come at the cost of being too late to influence the policy cycle.

The employers’ organisations’ staff is responsible for the production. This entails

·        design and writing

·        formatting

·        getting approval by Executive Director and, if needed, the governance instances, only for very important problems

Quite a number of organisations outsource the work fully or partially. The full outsourcing may result in a loss of control.

 

3.3. Policy solutions via lobbying and social dialogue

Advocacy, lobbying and social dialogue, as methods for exerting policy influence on the way the COVID-19 issues are tackled, are obviously, and more than direct services, the main task of the employers’ organisations. In that role of collective interest representation, they are unique and cannot be substituted by other consultants or service companies.

In these activities, the employers’ organisations act as voice of business Here they are at the core of their reason for existing: inform the authorities on the reality in the private sector, represent the concerns of the business world, and look for solutions in all the area’s in which CoVID-19 has an effect. And in doing so, involve the trade unions as a social partner representing the workers, understand the concerns, negotiate bilaterally some solutions and try to forge an alliance with trade unions to go jointly to the authorities.

The global outcome of these activities is hence clearly defined. Position and ensure that the employers’ organisations is acting as the well informed, representative and credible voice of business which co-defines with the authorities and the trade unions the balanced solutions to mitigate and overcome the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy, on employment  and on the  private sector.  

It is correct that some companies will free ride and benefit from the efforts of the employers’ organisations, which is only financed by the member fees of a limited group of companies. From an organizational viewpoint, concerns on free ridership are important. But at this stage, they are not a priority. Companies which will perceive, especially via strong communication, the leadership role of  employers’ organisations in proposing solutions, may be convinced by the intensity of the work and the quality to join. In many countries, lobbying and advocacy is the main and sometimes almost exclusive activity for employers organisations, and the employers’ organisations succeed, by the preponderance of their place in the public debate, to continue to convince companies to remain or become a member. The life threatening consequences of COVID-19 on the economy are hence a unique opportunity for employers’ organisations to show their capacity to intervene in policy for the good of companies.

This paragraph covers the ultimate stage of the lobby and advocacy process. The stage in which the employers’ organisation attempts to exert effective influence on the contents of decisions.

The outcome is ideally the following. The employers’ organisations are -and are perceived by the members and the public as- playing an active and even proactive important role in negotiating, co-determining and influencing the solutions at government level. Tripartite or bipartite for the issues related to COVID-19.

This outcome implicitly puts two methods to reach solutions, at the same level. Lobby, like direct influence of the employers and sometimes together with trade unions, on the government. And social dialogue. Direct with the trade unjoins bilaterally, or trilaterally with trade unions and government.

Whilst both methods have the same outcome, for example employers influence on solutions, the methods are different.

Lobby

In terms of main characteristics, this process does not differ substantially of a normal lobby process.

The main characteristics are there:

·        Ensure access to the real decision makers

·        Correct timing is important

·        Knowledge of the issue, also in some technical detail, is essential

·        Good communication and convincing skills which go beyond knowledge 

·        Mastering of negotiation skills are the add on with the other mentioned skills

·        Precision in what has been “convened “ in the lobby process and follow up until that result has been produced in an official type of act

·        Strong communication on efforts and achievements to the members and if possible to the public

Social dialogue

How can Social Dialogue be used by the employers’ organisations to influence the content of decisions in addition to lobbying to deal with the consequences of COVID-19?

This can be done by practicing the social dialogue, direct with the trade unions bilaterally, or trilaterally with trade unions and government. Social dialogue well practiced is an opportunity to come of out this crisis even stronger for employers’ organisations.

According to the ILO, Social Dialogue is defined as:

"All forms of negotiations, consultation or exchange of information between representatives from government, employers and employees about economic and social policy issues with a common interest". This includes both bipartite forms of social dialogue (employers and employees) and tripartite forms (employers, employees and government”.

In the current and urgent situation of COVID-19, Social Dialogue is a strong tool for influencing decision-making to position employers organisations, both bipartite and tripartite. Like lobby, this process does not necessarily differ from the normal Social Dialogue process. The need in this situation is even bigger than usual. Benefits for employers’ organisations are better influencing of the relevant stakeholders which are the government and trade unions. Clear common interests  will improve a stable and positive climate between parties, more transparency and thus mutual trust. The common view of employers’ organisations and trade unions are much more influential for governments and also a better guarantee for successful implementation of measures for members of both employers’ organisations and trade unions. This is a large advantage over lobby and should convince governments to take Social Dialogue seriously.  

Last but not least: the COVID-19 situation is a unique opportunity to stimulate the proper use of Social Dialogue to solve the enormous and unique problems together. 

Seven golden rules for social dialogue can be listed:

  1. The same principles as always are needed more than ever: trust between parties, dialogue about all interests at stake, creativity in finding solutions and reasonability in deciding.
  2. Build trust between employers’ organisations and trade unions by transparency and formulating the common goals in this situation.
  3. Use Social Dialogue to monitor the situation. The views of the other parties might be different from yours sometimes and can add value to your views.
  4. Don’t come up with ‘sudden surprises’ for your parties in Social Dialogue. Take them along in your thinking process by using your Social Dialogue. Of course they won’t agree always with your way of thinking, but at least they know. If sudden surprises occur this will cause mistrust.
  5. Build a dedicated agenda for Social Dialogue especially in this situation of COVID-19 with trade unions. Influence of common solutions of employers’ organisations and trade unions together are more difficult to neglect for the third party.
  6. A strong position for employers’ organisations in Social Dialogue will be a great advantage for members in their playing field.
  7. For the Social Dialogue process the main characteristics about knowledge and skills are the same as for lobby mentioned above.

Discover a good practice: http://nedlac.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/BEST-PRACTICE-GUIDE-RELIEF-OF-RETIREMENT-FUND-PAYMNETS.pdf

Example of possible area’s for employers’ organisations’ interventions in policy development via advocacy-lobbying- rather specific in contents: https://www.ilo.org/empent/areas/covid-19/WCMS_741870/lang--en/index.htm

Webpages trade union movement OECD level (TUAC) with policy responses of trade unions – social partners, and overview list websites of international trade union sector federations (transport, industry):  https://tuac.org/news/covid19-crisis-mapping-out-trade-union-and-social-partners-responses/

SOUTH AFRICA – webpage with results tripartite social dialogue:  http://nedlac.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Media-Statement-Nedlac-Special-Exco-held-with-President-Ramaphosa-on-Covid-19-17-April-2020.pdf

BELGIUM:  full texts of social partners agreements at national level: http://www.cnt-nar.be/Dossier-FR-covid-19.htm

 

3.3.1. What is it about? 

Here the product is basically the promulgation of new regulations, in the broad sense, including law, decree, administrative regulation and subsidy programmes, of which the contents reply wholly or partially to the needs and concerns of membership and the private sector at large, both in general orientation, administrative, and as in terms of cost.

These conditions for “success” are setting high standards. The realization of these success conditions is a function of many factors. The influence power of the employers’ organisation, the trust relationship it has been able to create with the authorities, the technical merits of the employers proposals and the skills of the advocates of the employers’ organisation to convince. 

The “product” in terms of contents can be broad or limited to labour issues.

The COVID-19 crisis, which affects business in many ways, can be an occasion for the employers’ organisation to expand its field of action to these  broader issues and shift, as many employers’ organisations in Europe did, to a more general role and become an EBMO. Or, on the contrary, it may follow a strategy of specificity. The mastering to perfection of lobbying in its area of excellence, like labour issues. Both strategies have their merits, and country specific elements, such as the type of collaborative or competitive relations with other employers’ organisations, are an important factor. But also capacity of staff and the ability to offer high quality before embarking in other domains should determine the choice.

For the type of lobby interventions do we refer to the many examples of employers/  organisations were able to achieve results. (see section “Inspiring examples”)

Webpages of the EU trade unions, with very comprehensive overview of bi- and tripartite texts and social dialogue documents: https://www.etuc.org/en/trade-unions-and-coronavirus

Webpages EU trade union institute with per EU country nice overview of texts national social dialogue statements- agreements: https://www.etui.org/Covid-Social-Impact/Netherlands

3.3.2. What about information carriers?

Not relevant here

 

3.3.3. Sector specific or generic?

We draw again the attention for the role of sector specificity.

Lobby by umbrella employers’ organisations can and should have strong attention for the sector needs. Or by associating specific sectors to the lobby effort, like taking part in delegation. Or by delegating and actively supporting sector lobby, like creating access to decision makers or technical support.

 

3.4. Management of cooperation and the post Corona employers' organisation

Regarding management of cooperation

During the COVID-19 crisis, there is also an important role for the employers’ organisation as a “manager” of cooperation.

In these difficult times, where many have been taken by surprise, and where the traditional approaches are often surpassed by the rapidity with which the virus moves, the employers’ organisation can see here a good opportunity to act as a good manager of cooperative systems.

The ideal outcome of the good partnership management can be that:

·       the employers’ organisation is viewed as leading partner of the business community, with an authority to speak on behalf of the business, or in general, or in the field of labour relations and labour issues. And since the workplace issues are so strongly present in the COVID-19 discussions, this field of competence is very important

·       The employers’ organisation is viewed as cooperative with other employers’ organisations  “competitors” and is more effective as voice of business via cooperation. The crisis is seen by many as fundamentally threatening health of citizens, of workers, and the economic future of the country. The companies would most probably not approve in any way of parochial stances of the different employers’ organisations. They want cooperation and fairness in doing so. In many countries  the COVID-19 crisis has been the occasion for employers’ organisations to cooperate closely together, towards their membership in delivering services, and towards the government, in taking joint positions.

For good examples in Kenya and Tanzania, click:

KEPSA explored the business perspective on the impact of coronavirus on Kenya’s economy

Tanzania (ATE) applied the ILO survey and developed a useful guide

·       the employers’ organisation is viewed as effective in relations with trade unions. The same rationale of cooperation as sketched with the other employers organisations may most probably also hold true for the cooperation between employers and trade unions.

We refer to section 3 on social dialogue.

 

Regarding the future of employers organisations after Corona

Obviously the COVID-19 will affect our future as employers’ organisation in all its aspects: will membership remain at the same levels, and will the economic crisis not affect the affordability of membership? The view on its usefulness and relevancy, especially since the services may have to be organized totally different? Its governance, since the direct contacts between the organization and its members may be affected? Its main role in lobbying, since the COVID-19 crisis may have shown the essential role of good information and the need for a voice of business, but maybe also the need for a unified voice of business, or more unifying social dialogue?

These reflections will have to be started very soon.

It might be useful first to monitor facts and figures closely in the first months. Evolution of membership, membership of reasons of increase or decrease of membership and fees, the effects of the Corona-crisis on revenue and on specific revenue streams (income from membership, from the different services such as training, advice, legal support. What is affected and what is increasing).

Secondly, a members needs survey, be it under the form of a focus group approach, or under the form of a membership survey, maybe most appropriate. It will help to define new needs or the modification in “old” needs.

Thirdly, the reflection of the CEO and its top management will be needed. What do they see as new venues, necessary short and medium terms modifications like training under e-learning format and what types of investments are needed.

Within VNO, the umbrella employers’ organisation of the Netherlands, a reflection note has been prepared, which invites the management to reflect on the future of employers’ organisations after corona. It can be a first step to start the reflection in each employers’ organisation.

For further reading:

What will the future of the employers organisation look like

VIETNAM VCCI Webpage Vietnam  with news on tripartite policy plan to cope with economic impact COVID-19: https://vnexplorer.net/moit-vcci-to-support-firms-in-post-covid-19-period-a202034873.html

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4. Communication during corona times

Tackling the corona crisis takes a lot of employers’ organisations communication power. Focus in communication should be on providing information for the members and on supporting advocacy and lobbying efforts. 

The first questions any employer asks himself when new governmental policies are announced are: ‘what does this mean for us?’ and ‘what are we supposed to do?’.

His employers’ organisations should be his first party to turn to in order to get reliable and impartial explanations. This means that the employers’ organisation has to be quick at providing explanations and have its information up to date all the time.

The first thing an employers’ organisations asks itself when a social of economic crisis is appearing: how can we influence the events? Advocacy and lobbying are its natural activity. The employers’ organisations should be the voice of its business community. See the page on ‘advocacy’ on this website.

Channels for influencing are usually members of government, politicians, civil servants and (public) media (through which the general public are addressed) and stakeholders like trade unions and NGO’s. People in these target groups may for different reasons be interested in your opinions, points of view and analysis. Make these as widely available as possible.

The most effective and efficient way to make the information available for the mentioned target groups is by dedicating a special section of the website to your opinions and combine this with a special digital newsletter or posts on social media like Facebook an Twitter. The opinion section may actually be a part of the ‘corona information section’ as mentioned under Information for members. Likewise it may be more efficient to make ‘opinions’ part of the ‘corona newsletter’ (see Information for members).

It may be helpful if your organisation has a ‘face’, a real person who is the main public spokesperson. ECAM, ECOP, ATE etc. are abstract entities. A person who speaks on behalf of the business community makes more impact. She or he may also be the person who’s name is attributed to opinion forming articles on website and in your newsletter.

Explore some good examples from the Netherlands, Ivory Coast, the IOE and the ILO: 

Dutch umbrella employers’ organisation, general website including Corona webpagelink: https://www.vno-ncw.nl/

Employers’ organisation Ivory Coast, general website including Corona webpagelink: https://cgeci.com/

International Organisation of Employers IOE, general website including Corona webpagelink: http://www.ioe-emp.org/

International Labour Organization ILO, general website including Corona webpagelink: https://www.ilo.org/actemp/lang--en/index.htm

4.1. What are the questions to be answered?

The first questions any employer asks himself when new governmental policies are announced are: ‘what does this mean for us?’ and ‘what are we supposed to do?’.

His employers’ organisations should be his first party to turn to in order to get reliable and impartial explanations. This means that the employers’ organisation has to be quick at providing explanations and have its information up to date all the time. See the page on ‘providing information' on this website.

The most effective and efficient way to make the information available for members is by dedicating a special section of the website to this ‘corona information’ and combine this with a special digital newsletter and/or posts on social media like Facebook or lInkedin.

4.2. Who is talking? 

The first thing an employers’ organisations asks itself when a social of economic crisis is appearing: how can we influence the events? Advocacy and lobbying are its natural activity. The employers’ organisations should be the voice of its business community. See the page on ‘advocacy’ on this website.

Channels for influencing are usually members of government, politicians, civil servants and (public) media (through which the general public are addressed) and stakeholders like trade unions and NGO’s. People in these target groups may for different reasons be interested in your opinions, points of view and analysis. Make these as widely available as possible.

The most effective and efficient way to make the information available for the mentioned target groups is by dedicating a special section of the website to your opinions and combine this with a special digital newsletter or posts on social media like Facebook an Twitter. The opinion section may actually be a part of the ‘corona information section’ as mentioned under Information for members. Likewise it may be more efficient to make ‘opinions’ part of the ‘corona newsletter’ (see Information for members).

It may be helpful if your organisation has a ‘face’, a real person who is the main public spokesperson. ECAM, ECOP, ATE etc. are abstract entities. A person who speaks on behalf of the business community makes more impact. She or he may also be the person who’s name is attributed to opinion forming articles on website and in your newsletter.

 

4.3. Information for members. Tips and tricks

  1. The website should be container of all the corona related information that are for the use of others – members first and foremost. Your website is the back bone of your communication system. Focus should be on keeping the website up to date.
  2. It works to refer to your corona related information by putting a banner on your homepage, linking to the actual articles.

 

4.3.1. Example: homepage

Notice how Netherlands’ employers’ organisation VNO-NCW have dedicated most of its homepage to corona: www.vno-ncw.nl.

The newsletter is meant to draw people to the website. Articles in the newsletter and posts on Facebook should function as teasers to make readers click on hyperlinks to your website. Therefore keep these articles as short as possible.

 

4.3.2. Example: newsletter

Netherlands’ employers’ organisations MKB Nederland sends a regular update to all its members. https://mailchi.mp/mkbdenhaag/coronacrisis-update-mkb-den-haag-22-april?e=825e9551b1.

1.       Modern readers are browsers, especially when they are looking for problem solutions. They will only read long pieces if the content is relevant from the beginning to the end and if they have time. It helps the reader if you start with a header and an intro that give him the opportunity to judge if the article as a whole is relevant to him. Give him the opportunity to stop after the intro.

2.       Readers love summaries and checklists. They hate long texts when looking for a solutions. Avoid pages full of text. Use pictures as well as empty spaces.

3.       Make your website accessible and easy to navigate by using clicks (hyperlinks). E.g. make a little contents table consisting of hyperlinks. Formulating each theme as a question helps readers. How to retain members?  is a better title than Membership.

4.       Likewise a frequent-asked-questions-page can be helpful for your readers to find what they want as well as for you to say what you want.

 

4.3.3. Example: frequently asked questions

Check out the faq page of Netherlands sectoral organisation FME (technological industries) https://www.fme.nl/nl/faq-over-coronavirus

1.       A ‘How do other employers do it’ page is a guaranteed hit. Collect best practises from members and from other employers’ organisation, put it into text and publish on your website.

2.       Sent your newsletter as an email – not as a pdf. Clicking on a pdf is an extra hurdle readers have to take and attachments are suspicious objects nowadays.

3.       Publish the newsletter as often as there is relevant new information on your website. You don’t need a regular frequency. If there is no new information for several days or a week then sent a newsletter anyway to remind your members of your existence. Don’t forget to make the information relevant (again) by finding a new angle (there will always be one).

4.       To give your members an advantage over non-members put – if possible – the information on your website behind a wall. Only members should have a login code. Access can be made available for potential members to experience the befits of membership – a ‘special offer’.

5.       Sent the newsletter to as many people as possible, not just to members. You want the world to know how smart and well-informed you are. Extra costs of a long send list are zero. The real valuable information as – see 10 – behind a locked gate for members only.

 

4.4. Advocacy and lobbying. Tips and tricks

On website and newsletter also see the section Information for members : tips and tricks

1.       Integrate the advocacy and lobby information – your opinions – in the corona section of your website, but don’t put this information behind a login. You want the world to know what your views are.

2.       Integrate summaries of your opinions in the special corona newsletter and posts on social media.

3.       Make sure the newsletter is delivered to the mail box of the people you want to reach – people in government, politicians, civil servants and (public) media. Invest time and finding their personal details. info@ministry.org is not good enough.

4.       Make sure to include details of people in your organisation in every article – preferably telephone number and email. Be available for questions. You want your audience to get in touch with you. If possible even organise a dedicated corona helpdesk.

5.       Try to involve the general public and stakeholders in your lobby. Consider a campaign to inform the country about the importance of industry for employment.

Find a good example on the next webpage of NECA, Nigeria:

https://news.neca.org.ng/index.php/2020/04/28/gradual-winding-down-of-the-lockdown-by-federal-government-reaction-from-organized-private-sector/

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