Council closes to celebrate Cup

On a winner: Petria Keen gets into the spirit of last year’s Melbourne Cup at the annual Our Kids function in Lismore.
On a winner: Petria Keen gets into the spirit of last year’s Melbourne Cup at the annual Our Kids function in Lismore. David Nielsen

WHILE Australia will lose an estimated $1 billion in productivity as the nation stops or lunches for the Melbourne Cup today, Kyogle Council seems to have the answer – give everyone the day off.

In what can only be described as a nifty show of forward thinking, the council bid for Melbourne Cup Day to be the organisation’s council picnic day.

Kyogle Council general manager Arthur Piggott said that under the Local Government Award, all council’s could nominate one day a year for the picnic day, which effectively gave employees a public holiday.

“We had to nominate early in the year and luckily the day we asked for was granted,” Mr Piggott said.

Kyogle Council employees will enjoy a trip to Woodenbong Golf Club for lunch and a round of golf, before heading back to Kyogle to watch the big race.

“People want time off to watch the race so it seemed reasonable to allocate that day as picnic day,” Mr Piggott said.

“It’s working well for us because we’ve got to have that time off anyway.”

All Melbourne workers will enjoy a public holiday today, but a survey of 889 workers around the country has found that employees take an average of 3.5 hours off work to enjoy the race and associated festivities.

Research shows the cost of that lost productivity is about $1 billion, based on ABS statistics that indicate there are approximately 11,276,100 full-time employees in Australia, earning on average $31.40 an hour.

The survey showed 12.1 per cent of workers chose to take the entire day off, while about 47pc took part in some form of office-organised event, such as sweepstakes (something 38pc of workers get involved in) or an office function (25pc of workers).

Just 15pc only stop long enough to watch the race before returning to work.

However, employers who might be throwing their hands up in disgust at the thought of all this lost productivity should consider using the event to their advantage.

At a time when employers want to improve staff retention, some cup day fun could be the perfect way of getting the team together – particularly if staff will be distracted anyway.

It could be pertinent to attach former prime minister Bob Hawke’s famous label after Australia won the America’s Cup in 1983 to any boss who doesn’t give staff time off to watch the race.

Mr Hawke famously labelled any boss who sacked an employee for not turning up to work the next day ‘a bum’.

Randstad CEO Deb Loveridge agrees.

“While employers should be aware of the Cup’s overall effect on their businesses’ bottom line, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs,” she said. “In fact, employers may damage their company culture, reputation and retention if they don’t get involved, such is the passion, excitement and anticipation around the Cup.”

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