COVID-19 has created significant challenges for many people, businesses and communities around the world – and that includes Aristocrat and our employees. While the pandemic has brought many changes, it hasn’t changed what’s great about Aristocrat’s business and culture. Care for each other, a passion for our customers and the drive to be the best we can be continues to unite us. The contributions and commitment of every team member to see us through the challenges has been an inspiring demonstration of our value of ‘Collective Brilliance’ in action.
Aristocrat took early, comprehensive steps to position the company to emerge strongly from the challenges presented by COVID-19. Formation of Local Crisis Management Teams (CMTs) and Response Teams enabled rapid response and recovery plans to be formulated, these being centred around key controllables:
- people first: acting quickly and comprehensively to protect the health and wellbeing of all employees, customers and suppliers;
- customers & product: continuing to invest behind our strategic advantages in product and customer service in the Gaming business, and game development and marketing in our video games business; and
- optimising liquidity and protecting our robust financial fundamentals.
Further information on our COVID-19 response can be found in our Annual Report for the 2020 financial year.
Our top priority was and remains people; specifically the health and wellbeing of employees, families, customers and suppliers. Over 99% of Aristocrat’s global workforce pivoted to remote working through March and April 2020. The company has provided all affected employees with appropriate transition assistance, access to paid leave, counselling and assistance accessing government support where available.
With a material impact on global Gaming revenue stemming from the global shutdown of venues through March and April, the business made the difficult decision to permanently remove or temporarily stand down/furlough a number of roles across our global operations. The balance of our non-Digital staff was asked to accept temporary cuts to base pay ranging from 10-20% based on pay level, and the higher expectations we have of leaders. Our Executive leaders and Board members took a 20% cut, while our CEO took a 30% cut to base pay. Pay cuts were applied for 6 months, with normal pay restored on 1 October 2020. In making these difficult decisions, we adopted an approach that strived to maximise opportunity and preserve jobs for our people over the long term, spread the burden equitably, and provide as much support as possible throughout.
As part of our response to the impacts of COVID-19, Aristocrat launched a Wellbeing Portal, offering a range of programs and tools to support good mental and physical health, offer employees learning options, encourage financial health, and assist people to stay connected.
One important initiative launched via the Wellbeing Portal was the AristocratCARES Employee Relief Fund. This company-sponsored fund provided cash grants of up to USD1000, AUD1500, and GBP750 (or local value equivalent) to employees (including those temporarily stood down or furloughed) experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. This initiative was funded through a company contribution, including a percentage of the savings generated by cuts to executive salaries and Board fees as well as generous contributions from employees through donations of annual leave/PTO and payroll deductions.
Another resource made available to employees was free enrolment in RestoreResilience. RestoreResilience is a twelve-week telehealth program designed to help employees build mental and physical resilience during challenging times. The program provides access to a health coach who creates a personalised program specific to the employee’s needs, which may include guided meditations, exercises and nutritional advice to support mental, emotional, and physical health, and access to an online community to maintain a connection with others and access to group online coaching. 430 employees signed up for this program during 2020.
We are proud of how our teams have come together to support each other during the pandemic. One example comes from our Summerlin team in Las Vegas, which launched an Employee Care Package Donation Drive. This practical program collected donations of household staples such as non-perishable foods, toiletries and cleaning supplies, and made them available to local colleagues in need.
Enhanced information security, asset protection measures and cybersecurity training were also launched during the period to assist employees to work remotely with confidence and with minimal loss of productivity.
Our Digital businesses also pulled together to support each other – and the community – through the pandemic. We participated in #PlayApartTogether, a World Health Organisation (WHO) and video game industry campaign that leaned into the power of games as a means to connect while sharing important health and safety messages to millions of players around the world in the fight against COVID-19. Product Madness, Plarium, and Big Fish were proud to support this effort across some of our most popular games:
More information on our People First priority can be found in the Employee Relations section of our disclosures.