Business / Economy

Omicron tail hitting businesses struggling to recover

17:13 pm on 23 May 2022

Some businesses are resorting to hiring 'Covid fill ins' to cover staff absences, while others are just hoping for the nightmare to end.

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon


In west Auckland, beauty salon Headstart Total Body owner Simone Jones said with many staff and clients catching the coronavirus, rebooking was the biggest task at the moment.

"So I've heard a couple of clients that have been sick twice or even three times, so it's quite a big job to obviously get all those clients rescheduled and rescheduled when because it's sort of like when is that person going to be back."

Many salons still had bubbles in place, bracing for the winter months when it may strike again, said Jones, who is also on the board of New Zealand Hair and Barber.

"You can't have one person working there by themselves, it's just too difficult. Some hairdressers and barbers have split their teams so that if one gets sick, hopefully, the rest don't get sick but I don't really think that's working. It's sort of really everyone, all hands on deck until something happens and then deal with it then," she said.

For hospitality, it is a similar story, especially when masks come off at the table.

Cafe Hanoi co-owner Krishna Botica said it was dealing with a huge surge in staff sickness, some of them with round two of Covid-19.

"We use people on call the whole time, but even our on callers are calling in sick, sometimes you're just left with no choice but to shut down a service or to at least block off tables for bookings."

It was desperate for more staff to fill in the gaps when Covid-19 strikes again and again.

"We're taking people that might only be with us for two months, we've asked all of our staff to ask their friends if they want some casual, some full time and part time work."

With just over a month in orange alert level Botica said it could not afford to turn away customers.

"Four weeks does not cover off the last quarter that we had that was extremely disrupted, let alone the quarter before that."

A return to the office in orange has meant catching the bus again for many, but many routes have been cancelled in recent weeks with bus drivers sick too.

First Union spokesperson Graham McKean said drivers were bearing the brunt of Covid-19.

"It's a public-facing role even with masks, there's reasonably close interaction, stronger rates have been decimated with sickness, but had a huge effect on their availability to work you do pick it up and so there is like a second wave coming through."

He said Covid-19 interruptions were compounding an industry already severely short-staffed.

"The entire bus industry is at crisis level they cannot attract and retain staff, covid is but a small sum of the conversation the whole industry itself is just falling apart at the seams."