Tamworth business should consider adopting innovative workplace arrangements like job sharing to keep from sacking staff during the coronavirus crisis according to a Business Chamber spokesperson.
As many as one million Australians were made unemployed last week. Hundreds of Tamworth residents lined up at Centrelink to ask for unemployment assistance.
Chamber Executive Officer Sam Rains said business should err on the side of keeping staff on by shaving hours or job-sharing to reduce costs, rather than layoffs.
"A lot of our local businesses are doing all they can to keep their staff on," he said.
"We have no idea how long this epidemic will continue on for, but once it does pass one of the toughest things for businesses will be to get back on their feet and the best way for them to be able to do that is to maintain their staff."
In new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last Thursday, about half of all Australian businesses report some adverse impact as a result of the virus - even before recent shut down orders.
Sam Rains said these are "extraordinary times" with many business forced to shut up shop entirely.
But for those with the option they should have hard conversations with their employees about changing work practices.
"If they have the option and if it is financially viable for businesses to reduce hours then that's certainly something they look into rather than release staff."
Job sharing is an employment arrangement where typically two people are employed part-time to do a task normally fulfilled by one person. Every employee takes a pay cut, but they all keep working.
German business and unions kept a lid on dole queues during the 2009 Global Financial Crisis largely by negotiating flexible job-sharing agreements. Some 1.5 million Germans kept at least a short-term job through the crisis, reducing a spike in unemployment by about half according to their Institute for the Study of Labour.
Australian business tends to completely lay off workers to cut costs during recessions.
In ABS statistics released this week, some 86 per cent of Australian businesses anticipated they would be affected by the coronavirus crisis in future months.
The ABS survey was completed before a series of shutdown orders and strict restrictions issued by Federal government to stem the spread of the deadly pandemic.
According to the ABS, worst affected industry by the shutdown has been "accommodation and food services". Nearly three quarters of businesses in the sector said in mid-March they had already felt the financial hit of the crisis.
Average residents of Tamworth can do their bit by buying local said Executive Officer Sam Rains, talking up the Business Chamber's #shareyoursupport campaign.
"It can be more expensive shopping at your local store rather than purchasing online, but when you do shop at a local store you're keeping locals employed, you're keeping them in a job and the flow on effect from that helps everyone in town."