Kiama Inn Hotel has taken a novel approach to meeting COVID safety marshal requirements.
Maggie White, John Studden and Curtis Roberts have run the business for two years and recently teamed up with employment services provider Campbell Page to take on local people struggling to find employment, to fill the government-mandated role.
Ms White said the NSW government required a COVID safety marshal to work every day. Kiama Inn Hotel is no longer eligible for JobKeeper so that means they have to fill the role with no additional funding.
"This is an additional cost for businesses already doing it tough," she said.
But then Mrs White had an idea.
"We realised COVID is not going away any time soon. And in hotels and many other businesses there is still a four-quare-metre rule indoors which means people still have to sit down and they can't mingle or dance. And they have to sign in," she said.
"What was happening was our manager was falling into the COVID marshal role. They are the most expensive member of staff for us and they were being tied up for hours a day.
"So we started thinking about how we could manage it better. We had the idea of using an employment service provider and access incentives from the government to employ people who have been a long time out of work, or young people who can't find work, or people with a disability who are having trouble finding an opportunity."
Ms White encouraged other hospitality businesses to look into doing something similar because accessing incentives to employ locals looking to get back into the workforce was a win-win for everyone.
"We are helping our local community and in return receive government subsidies to offset the cost of COVID safety marshals," she said.
"People have to have their RSA to be a COVID marshal but Campbell Page said they had funding to train people up if need be.
"One of the young ladies we employed in the role already had her RSA and is interested in bar work in the future."
Ms White told her first COVID marshal recruit Nadine Bornemann that she would train her up to work behind the bar as well. That will give her the opportunity to do that post-COVID and pick up extra hours during COVID.
The total number of COVID marshal hours Kiama Inn Hotel needs to fill a week is 49 which means it is employing two people to cover those hours. One will also be able to do some hours elsewhere at the venue.
With Kiama being a seasonal town, Ms White is expecting things to get busy leading into summer with Australians exploring regional areas rather than travelling overseas.
"The town is going to be busy, so we are going to reopen the old dining area upstairs that has not been used for at least 30 years," she said.
"With COVID restrictions we can only have about 70 people in the hotel downstairs and this will give us extra 24 seats upstairs."
Ms White said local custom was very loyal in Kiama and people were already responding favourably to Kiama Inn Hotel wanting to provide opportunities for people who have been out of work for a while or trying to find work for the first time.
She said existing staff were local and she was able to keep them on during the shutdown with help from JobKeeper.
Campbell Page Jobactive service improvement manager Louise Smith said as a local employment provider, working with local employers to find jobs for local people, it welcomed the approach from Kiama Inn Hotel.
"This is a really important cause to be finding local jobs for local people to strengthen our communities long term, particularly off the back of the bush fires and now the pandemic," she said.
"The COVID-19 restrictions this year have certainly made it a bit more challenging to find work, but there's still jobs out there and we're starting to see some recovery in the local economy now.
"It's really positive to see things opening up again. We're seeing a huge influx of qualified locals looking for work and a number of employers who want to grow their team. We're providing that missing link to connect them and make sure they're well supported."
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