On March 18 the Federal Government announced restrictions on public gatherings which were to have a direct, dire impact on Hotel, Club and Pub operations throughout Australia. Those impacts, designed to keep patrons safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, were to shut the doors of most establishments on Thursday March 23, bringing the industry to its knees.

Within the numbers who lost their jobs or were stood down are those who were injured at the time - still on the books, but not at work.

Hospitality Employers Mutual, a specialised industry workers compensation claims management insurer, immediately swung into action.

“We know our customers and their businesses by name,” Hospitality CEO George Katsogiannis said.

“We know their operations intimately and these circumstances are unprecedented. It was so important that we were there for them.”

That Monday Hospitality reached out to its customers.

“We hit the phones with policyholders to gain an understanding of how the restrictions were affecting them and the wider hospitality industry,” Hospitality’s Manager, Policy Services Jay Mitchell said.

“Throughout these conversations there was talk of letting staff go and general concerns relating to cashflow in light of reduced revenues. It helped us to formulate an immediate strategy to try take some of the financial pressure off.”

“From the outset and based on the information obtained from early contact with key clients, it was evident that there was going to be tough times coming for the Hospitality industry,” Jay said. “Given we are an industry-based, specialised insurer, we had to take proactive steps to help as many businesses as we could to get through it.”

Armed with direct customer knowledge, Hospitality created a crisis plan, centred around immediate financial relief by re-working policies.

Our strategy was to make contact with every client as their next instalments fell due, with the objective of reducing costs and helping to improve cash flow,” Jay said.  

“This is the benefit of tailored, specialised client engagement and our team was on the front foot from the outset,” George Katsogiannis said.

In the nine days, between the afternoon of March 25 to April 3, more than 600 calls were made to policyholders. By April 16, Hospitality’s team of Policy Management Specialists processed 553 wage amendments, resulting in total premium savings of more than $11.7 million.

“They are our customers, large and small, and we weren’t going to let them down,” George Katsogiannis said.

During this time the Federal Government  announced the $1,500 fortnightly employee payment for Australian businesses to keep their staff on the books.

“This was a bold move by the government, but it does help injured people who had been on workers compensation and were ready to return to the workforce to shift across and receive those funds,” George Katsogiannis said.

“It also ensured that the connection between employer and employee remained intact. When this crisis ends, employers will still have great team members who know their business, are part of the extended family and recovery will be easier.”

The crisis is far from over with most hotels and clubs still closed. It will take time to return.

“This is about the ongoing relationship and ensuring that we support everyone to get back on track. Some of these businesses have been with us for our entire 12 years. We won’t let them down,” George Katsogiannis said.

“We look forward to the time when our businesses call to increase the number of employees on their books – a key indicator of recovery. Hospitality Employers Mutual will be there to help them rebuild.”