By Will Snow
Disasters and the impact of Covid-19 have forced wineries to radically change long-held assumptions regarding where work can be performed and the traditional divisions between work within the winery, the vineyard and in cellar door/hospitality.
Prior to Covid-19, requests to work from home would often be rejected.
Expectations have now shifted, and employees now assume that future requests to work from home, or a permanent change to work from home, would be agreed to by an employer (where work can be done from home).
Likewise, divisions in a workforce between the winery, vineyard and cellar door/hospitality have blurred since Covid.
With the shutdown of cellar doors and hospitality across Australia in March 2020, and the introduction of JobKeeper, wineries were able to reallocate employees to new work.
JobKeeper, with appropriate supervision and training, has enabled many wine businesses to upskill their workforce to work much more flexibly across all aspects of the wine business.
While there remain significant challenges ahead for vintage, especially with respect to sourcing labour for hand picking of fruit, the positive challenge for the wine industry will be to keep these new flexibilities in 2021 and beyond.
Wineries should now have a much clearer picture of the value that can be added to their business by having employees who are skilled to work across different areas.
What better story for your customers to hear than that told by Deb and Justin at the cellar door about how they had been pruning and inspecting the very vines now being enjoyed by your customers?
A test for wineries will be to retain these flexibilities once the massive operational pressures of Covid have abated. Part of that challenge can be addressed by wine businesses adopting flexible and practical position descriptions – including the contractual right of the business to redeploy employees where their skills, experience and talents can be best used, as required by any new situation in the future.
Interested in more info? Watch the Finlaysons Wine (Off) Roadshow Webinar.
• Will Snow is a Partner of Finlaysons Lawyers in Adelaide.