In the spotlight: the Office of Economy and Labour AWA

Two out of many: Highlighting the work of the Economic Development and the Labour Inspectorate (AI), our next two contributions shed light on how the many departments of the AWA are striving to deliver outstanding and COVID-19-specific services – all of them directly benefiting the companies in Basel-Stadt.

A point of contact and guidance for companies, during and after COVID-19

A vital link between companies in Basel-Stadt and the cantonal administration, the «Contact Point for Companies» is the central information hub and place to go for all questions and concerns pertinent to governmental and administrative matters. Right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic it only took a few hours for the Contact Point to morph into an actual help desk offering orientation and guidance in all matters related to Corona support and relief.

In addition to and the many hotlines swiftly set up by trade and business associations, other cantonal departments, and many external organisations, the Economic Development AWA of Basel-Stadt was also tasked to answer a diverse range of Coronavirus-related inquiries by phone and in writing from mid-March to mid-May.

Just like at other hotlines, inquiries at the «Contact Point for Companies» spiked immediately after the announcement of the lockdown. Because the federal and cantonal governments had swiftly established and implemented measures of support and relief, and as all actors involved were fully prepared for close and uncomplicated cooperation and processing, inquiries could be directed straight to the relevant government agencies where individuals and companies impacted would quickly find professional and personalised help.

Not before long, the «Contact Point for Companies» was not just functioning as a general inquiry coordination and triage office only, but also in high demand for detailed in-depth advice in individual and specific cases – other than many other hotlines that are still answering high volumes of rather general questions. The Office of Economy and Labour itself for instance is still answering and processing many general inquiries regarding short-time labour and payments every day.

Here, the Economic Development and the entire AWA would also like to take the opportunity to express their gratitude to all colleagues within and outside the cantonal administration for the extraordinary collaborative effort in the valuable service and support of companies in Basel-Stadt!

The Contact Point continues to be at the service of businesses in the Canton. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have. We look forward to offer direct and personal advice or to refer you to the agency you require within the cantonal administration.

We are gladly offering you additional information about our services and industry programs if required. We are here for you – during all future stages of the pandemic and beyond.

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Labour Inspectorate: Ensuring the safety and protection of businesses from COVID-19

From one day to the next, COVID-19 turned the lives of people and businesses upside down: Public authorities, the economy and the population scrambled to cope with the new normal. For many, the first step was to introduce safety plans and protective measures.

Inspecting new safety and protection protocols

Faced with an extraordinary situation, the Labour Inspectorate rapidly and in accordance with federal health guidelines introduced new ways of inspecting and securing the protective measures for the benefit of businesses, self-employed, employees and clients across different industrial sectors. The swift integration of adaptations and instructions from the Federal Government into inspections as well as training and preparation of inspectors for their new task proved to be the main challenge in performing new inspections of the new safety and protection protocols – always following the overarching goal to guarantee the highest possible degree of safety and protection of people at risk of infection in businesses and at construction sites.

Many positives – few business closures

Business inspections were conducted unannounced and predominantly in the construction and services industries. A large majority of businesses has done a good or very good job in implementing the safety and protection protocols, despite the great logistic requirements and economic challenges involved. In most cases the Labour Inspectorate only had minimal complaints, e.g. lack of flyers by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and missing distance markers on the floor in waiting areas, dividers that were too small. The overwhelming majority of these minor deficiencies could be remedied quickly and by simple measures. Only in a very few exceptions the Labour Inspectorate encountered businesses without any protective protocols in place. Here the inspectorate had to issue warnings and binding deadlines to implement protective measures, and performed repeated follow-up inspections in due course.

Frequent feedback by businesses and stores confirmed that inspections of safety protocols are generally welcome and appreciated, because they serve as confirmation of the correct implementation of protective measures. Quite often, the inspection was perceived as an advisory and supportive service by the Labour Inspectorate. Some businesses even approached inspectors proactively. Despite a majority of positive and constructive experiences the Labour Inspectorate had to order eight business closures by the end of June 2020.

A task force appointed by the Canton of Basel-Stadt was assigned with planning and coordinating the inspections of safety protocols. Its objective was to conduct the inspections quickly and without redundancies. This mission has been fully accomplished, not least because all parties involved went out of their way to fully support and complement each other’s knowledge and professional skills.