Natural disasters IFRS accounting
In the wake of the recent and devastating flood events in Queensland and Victoria, the destruction caused by Cyclone Yasi in Far North Queensland and the fires that have raged in Western Australia, attention for business has now turned from crisis management and clean up to addressing the longer term financial and business implications.
Business Continuity and Crisis Management
In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the focus should be on stabilising your business.
Factors to consider include:
- Cash flow – consider your short term cash flow requirements and evaluate how these needs might be met. This could include sourcing government grant assistance, taking advantage of concessions offered by government agencies to disaster affected business (eg ATO lodgement and payment deferrals), discussing short term financing needs with your bankers, discussions with stakeholders such as shareholders, deferring or re-prioritising (where possible) major items of expenditure and reviewing your commitments to your customers and suppliers.
- People – employees may have been directly or indirectly impacted by the disasters, and support for staff at this time can be critical to the recovery of your business. Consideration should be given to ensuring staff are able to take an appropriate time off work (both when directly affected and also to participate in voluntary clean-up activities where appropriate), providing support services such as Employee Assistance Programs, and ensuring premises and work sites are safe. Other factors to consider include actively managing your workforce to preserve working capital, ensuring employees are focused on tasks that provide the biggest benefit to your business, and being mindful of potential legal obligations and responsibilities to employees. Above all, it is extremely important to communicate effectively with employees at times of crisis, to ensure that they remain focused on the things that matter to your business, and to ensure that a lack of information is not filled by counter-productive speculation and rumour.
- Customers and suppliers – businesses should focus on discussing how the disasters have impacted key customers and suppliers, as disruptions to the supply-chain or sales pipeline may have significant adverse impacts on cash flow. Consideration should not just be given to those suppliers and customers directly impacted, but also to the indirect impacts (e.g. suppliers to your supplier / customers of your customer etc).
In the longer term, many businesses will need to consider and perhaps recreate their business continuity plans/crisis management strategies moving forward. Despite many businesses having these plans in place, the “acid test” of true crisis has highlighted that many businesses were not as well prepared as they thought. Many plans had never been properly tested in the past.