Caring for our Industry in a COVID Environment

By Andrew McKerrow (Racetrack Support Chaplain)

We are in divided times. Racing doesn’t escape this.

The vaccination requirement will have a huge effect on us and our participants regardless how we approach it, but my question is “how do we do we manage this in a way that conveys value and care to our industry participants while still complying with what is being asked of us?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple calls and face to face meetings with people battling with facing the loss of their jobs and in the past days, dealings with people who have now lost jobs or are about to lose them.

Whether it’s a racing club having to let go of staff, trainers having to let go of workers or the codes having to let go of drivers or jockeys, we need to be thinking now around strategies and an approach to managing the vaccination mandates and the people affected by this.

Whether or not we agree with people who have chosen not to vaccinate, it’s important to still acknowledge that for those losing their jobs, the cost is huge, and the effects are multiple.

There are some things that we can do which will be of help to those losing jobs, doing these things will also fulfill a duty of care we carry as employers, let’s not forget that many of the people who opt out the vaccine and hence their jobs have been valuable employees and good friends.

For them, these four things are important:
1. Ask what support is needed
These aren’t normal circumstances and for many of those losing jobs, they haven’t ever had to think of a plan B before. As the bad news is delivered, its important that this question (what support is going to be helpful for you over the coming days/weeks?”) is asked. If you get the answer “I don’t know what I need”, don’t be scared to ask some more questions such as “do you have something else to go to” or “have you thought about your next move from here?”.

2. Know what support is available and offer it
Each person will have different needs but here are some general contacts that could be helpful:
Pastoral support
• Andrew McKerrow (Racetrack support chaplain)
029 7712398
Counselling support
• Dianna Young – Alcohol and drug clinician for racing
021 941 085
• Vitae Workplace counselling
All three racing codes have a contract in place with vitae which give industry participants 3 free counselling sessions. Sessions for industry participants require individual pre-approval by the Codes for Vitae to facilitate.
1737 – need to talk?
This is a free helpline which connects callers with a counsellor.
Dial 1737 from anywhere in New Zealand

Financial support
The Salvation offers welfare assistance throughout the country. This can include:
• Budgeting
• Sometime to go with you to WINZ and advocate or you
• Food assistance
• Social worker assistance
Please contact Andrew if this needed and he will help link people to assistance to their area.

3. Express appreciation
Those who aren’t vaccinated aren’t leaving in normal circumstances, so take every opportunity to still leave these employees with a sense of being valued and important during their time serving in the industry. Still do those things that would probably happen if the person was leaving naturally for another job – e.g. still have fellow staff members write in a farewell card, have a final morning tea, express verbally your appreciation for the person and acknowledge their contribution. This will go a long way for those who are walking away from an industry and work mates they care about

4. Follow up
Give the employee a follow up call 2 or 3 weeks after their leaving and enquire about how they are doing and enquire again about what needs they have (their needs could be quite different 2 or 3 weeks down the track).

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