New Omicron cases recorded - HR professionals speculate on workplace impact

"What I can say is we'll be monitoring the situation, particularly in NSW, extraordinarily carefully"

New Omicron cases recorded - HR professionals speculate on workplace impact

Eight cases of the Omicron variant have now been confirmed in Australia, and global executives say the new variant will bring new challenges to HR departments around the world, as they’ll be looking to maintain a strong company culture in the midst of a fresh outbreak.

The latest case arrived on a flight from Doha to Sydney in late November, and has caused some concern for NSW Health as the individual had not travelled to southern Africa - the main region of transmission for the new variant. This has led to concerns that transmission may have occurred during their flight.

Those who arrived in Sydney from Doha on QR908 on November 23 have been advised to immediately get tested and self isolate, and to wait for further health advice.

South Australia has changed its border restrictions for those coming from NSW in response to the new Omicron cases, with SA Premier Steven Marshall saying that these decisions would be reviewed day by day.

“Effective later this afternoon, we will be putting further requirements for people coming from NSW to have a test on arrival,” Marshall said. “This is another way that we will be protecting ourselves.

“What I can say is we’ll be monitoring the situation, particularly in NSW, extraordinarily carefully. We have been looking at it on a daily basis.”

With Omicron cases on the rise, the government has already delayed the reopening of the Australian border by two weeks, meaning travellers will have to wait until at least 15 December to enter the country.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has criticised the government’s decision to delay the re-opening of the border, saying that Australia should not have to go back into lockdown for each new variant of COVID-19.

He highlighted that Australia is still one of the safest places to be during this pandemic, and said that the delay has led to uncertainty among skilled workers, international students and other visa holders.

“Australia is a safer environment for people than in many other places in the world,” Dutton told Sydney’s 2GB radio.

“We can’t close down each time there’s a new variant, and we need to keep those vaccination rates up.”

Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that the border will be opened up again when it’s safe, and that Australia will learn to manage the pandemic while still maintaining movement at the border.

“We don’t want to lose the many gains that we have made in recent months,” Frydenberg told the Nine Network.

“But I’m pretty confident that the borders will reopen safely. More of those skilled workers will come in, more tourists eventually will come in, and of course we will get to living with this virus.”

For HR professionals, Cegid’s North American companies head Marc-André Nataf said that the new variant means that the challenge of the past years are “unfortunately not finished.”

He said that while the sector has done “a tremendous job” over the last two years, the Omicron variant will almost be like turning back the clock to the start of the pandemic, and HR leaders will have to do “more with less.”

“The biggest issue facing HR leaders in the coming weeks is to make sure their company culture is strong enough to endure the pandemic, especially when employees are getting further and further away from their time in the office,” Nataf said.

“Because it’s more difficult to get good candidates and recruits, it’s more important than ever how you treat your current employees. Assessing and being able to make your human capital evolve in the coming months is a stronger strategy than pure recruitment.”

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