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Businesses recovering while keeping eye on Omicron threat

Businesses recovering while keeping eye on Omicron threat

24 Feb 2022

The surge in infections led by the Omicron wave has thrown a spanner in the works for business recovery.

However, lessons from past experience have taught businesses how best to deal with the current situation.

As a result, many have managed to continue operations with minimal disruption and loss in productivity.

In the manufacturing sector, where hundreds work together along production lines, employers have tightened standard operating procedures (SOP) to avert infections.

“With a tighter SOP, we hope to be able to detect new infections and manage them more efficiently so that the workplace remains safe,” said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai.

“This will enable us to continue operations with minimal disruption so that overall productivity can be maintained.”

However, Soh said there has been a surge in the number of workers identified as close contacts and this has put a lot of pressure on factory operations.

Casual contacts are allowed to report for work, so there is minimal impact on business operations from this group.

Soh said another problem that manufacturers are dealing with is the shortage of manpower caused by an increase in positive cases and close contacts. Many employers have resorted to employing contract workers to fill the gaps so that order schedules are not affected and deliveries not delayed.

In this regard, he said FMM fully supports the recent proposal by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin for a change in the SOP to dispense with quarantine for close contacts if they do not display any symptoms.

“However, we recognise the need for everyone to continue to play their role to ensure that their workplaces remain safe.”

He advised employers to continue with the TRIIS (test, report, isolate, inform and seek) regimen and to strictly observe the SOP to reduce the risk of infection among workers.

Malaysian Employers Federation president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said the high transmission rate of the Omicron variant has proven to be a challenge for employers in efforts to keep their workforce and workplace free of infection.

“Employers have been forced to make changes by requiring only those whose responsibilities cannot be performed remotely to be present at the workplace,” he said.

“Others have adopted a rotation system to reduce the number of people at the workplace. Meetings and business engagements are conducted in a hybrid mode – online and face-to-face.”

Some companies have also turned to part-timers to meet manpower demands.

Syed Hussain said the situation could be alleviated by planning ahead and recruiting temporary workers and giving them proper training.

“When the need arises, these workers can be asked to fill in.”

Syed Hussain also expressed concern that an increase in close contact cases could lead to abuse.

“It is important to remind workers of the consequences if they are caught cheating,” he said, adding that employers should manage abuse in accordance with their own disciplinary action procedures.

“Stern action should be taken against abusers because they jeopardise operations and mislead the authorities in the managing of the pandemic.”

Small and Medium Enterprises Association secretary-general Yeoh Seng Hooi said while disruptions are bound to happen, employers have to learn to accommodate such challenges as the nation moves into the endemic stage.

Yeoh said the impact of a surge in infections would be greater for companies that do not have operations at more than one location.

“Those that have several branches can move their workers around to optimise use of manpower.”

But he added that with or without Covid-19, many of the association members are already looking at automation to reduce their dependence on manual labour.

Yeoh also commended the government for its latest SOP update.

“It is now up to business owners to take appropriate action if positive cases are detected.”

Source: The Sun Daily