COVID-19 (Coronavirus): information for small business owners
Updated 2 April 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak is impacting businesses globally in many ways including reduced trade, temporary business closures, staffing issues, and supply chain interruptions. The following information will provide you with tips and resources to help you manage your small business during the crisis and into the recovery phase. We will continue to update the information on this page regularly.
What businesses are restricted from trading?
Updated 30 March
The following non-essential activities and businesses have been temporarily shut down or restricted:
- Pubs (licensed bottle shops attached to pubs may still operate)
- Registered clubs
- Gyms, indoor sporting venues (this includes indoor dance classes)
- Cinemas, entertainment venues (including music halls, amusement parks, concert halls, billiards, pool or gaming arcades)
- Casinos and nightclubs
- Restaurants and cafes are restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery (drive through allowed)
- Indoor and outdoor play centres
- Community and recreation centres, including health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, pilates and barre studios, spin facilities, saunas, wellness centres, and indoor boot camps
- Food courts in shopping centres (take away may continue to be offered)
- Auctions and real estate open houses
- Beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlours
- Strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues
- Swimming pools
- Galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites, libraries, community centres, non-essential facilities, community facilities such as halls and PCYCs
- Hairdressing salons and barbershops may continue to operate (there must be four square metres per person)
- Updated: Personal training may be offered outdoors with a maximum group of 2 people (there must be four square metres per person)
- Weddings may have no more than five people (there must be four square metres per person)
- Funerals may have no more than 10 people (there must be four square metres per person)
Shopping centres and retail stores can remain open provided that the social distancing guidelines are followed.
Activities and businesses that are not listed above can continue
The restrictions apply across NSW, including regional and rural NSW.
Read the full list of restricted activities and exceptions.
My business is experiencing lost trade and cashflow problems - can I get help with my bills?
If you’re having concerns about cash flow, paying fixed costs such as rent, wages, utilities and loan repayments, the earlier you act the easier it can be to negotiate temporary payment terms with your lenders, creditors and suppliers. Read more about financial hardship.
For more advice on helping your business stay afloat during this difficult time, watch What small businesses can do now with Kate Carnell of ASBFEO.
Business loan repayments
Small businesses impacted by COVID-19 are now able to defer their business loan repayments for six months. Read the FAQs.
To find out more about deferring your loan repayments, contact your bank. Here are the dedicated business hardship contact lines for the key Australian banks:
- ANZ Bank – 1800 252 845
- Commonwealth Bank Hardship – 1300 720 814
- National Australia Bank Care – 1800 701 599
- St George Bank Assist – 1800 629 795
- Summerland Credit Union – 1300 802 222
- Newcastle Permanent – 13 19 87
- Regional Australia Bank Hardship – 13 20 67
- Bank of Queensland – 1800 079 866
- Westpac Assist – 1800 067 497
- Southern Cross Credit Union – 1300 360 744.
The Australian Taxation Office can help you with your tax and super obligations if you're experiencing difficulties. For tailored support, contact the ATO Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 or visit the website for more information.
What financial support is available from the government?
As part of an economic stimulus package, the Commonwealth Government has introduced several financial support programs to assist small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.
The NSW Government has announced a state economic stimulus package. This includes:
- $450 million for the waiver of payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months (the rest of 2019-20). This means these businesses will save a quarter of their annual payroll tax bill in 2019-20.
- $56 million to bring forward the next round of payroll tax cuts by raising the threshold limit to $1 million in 2020-21
- $80 million to waive a range of fees and charges for small businesses including bars, cafes, restaurants and tradies (note that details are currently being finalised and will be published on the NSW Fair Trading, SafeWork NSW, Liquor & Gaming NSW and Service NSW websites).
- $250 million to employ additional cleaners of public infrastructure such as transport assets, schools and other public buildings.
- More than $250 million to bring forward maintenance on public assets including social housing and crown land fencing.
- $500 million to bring forward capital works and maintenance.
Additional stimulus measures supporting small businesses were announced on 27 March. These include:
Deferral of gaming machine tax for clubs, pubs and hotels for six months, which includes payments due for the most recent quarter and payments due for the coming quarter.
Deferral of duty on lotteries and keno for six months. These deferrals will include payments due from April 2020 to September 2020.
Deferral of the parking space levy for six months.
Deferral of rents for six-months for commercial and not-for-profit tenants with less than 20 employees in all Government-owned properties.
I’m struggling with my rent.
The Commonwealth Government announced on 29 March, a short term, temporary moratorium (pause) on eviction for non-payment of rent to be applied across commercial tenancies impacted by severe rental distress due to COVID-19 for the next six months. Further information will be provided soon. Read more.
If your business is experiencing a downturn in trade, then cashflow and making your usual payments such as rent may be a problem too. If you’re falling behind in your rent, make sure you speak to your landlord about the situation before it gets out of control. In some cases, your landlord may be willing to negotiate a rental reduction. Read more about asking for rent reductions.
Speak with an expert about your obligations under retail or commercial leases, and advice on dealing with any landlord and tenant issues. Call 1300 795 534 or contact us.
I need advice on consumer rights (e.g. event cancellations, refunds, delayed orders).
If you need advice on your consumer rights and business obligations in relation to cancelled events, refunds, delayed orders, supply chain issues visit the ACCC website.
How can I prepare my business if I get sick?
It’s important to be prepared in case you cannot be there to run your business. Having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) ahead of time is a good way to ensure that your business can remain operating or viable should a disaster strike. Start your Business Continuity Plan with this BCP template.
Access a suite of free services, advice and tools designed to support Australian business continuity through the use of technology.
CPA Australia also have a COVID-19 Contingency Plan checklist that's quick and easy to use.
Here are some other practical ways to prepare for a shut down or isolation period:
- Use cloud-based storage for all your business records to enable you to access your key data and documents from any location with an internet connection.
- Have a list of your key contacts and a handover notes prepared and easily accessible in case someone needs to run your business on your behalf
- Have a staffing plan to ensure your employees are trained so they have the skills and knowledge to undertake necessary activities.
- Make sure that you have arrangements for relief or casual/temporary staff you can call on at short notice if your regular staff are unable to work.
What are my employer obligations (including workplace entitlements, standing down staff)?
Standing down or terminating staff
To help businesses retain their employees, the Commonwealth Government have announced a wage subsidy called 'JobKeeper payment'. This allows eligible businesses to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum of six months. Find out more.
Find out about your workplace entitlements and obligations including information about stand downs from work, working arrangements impacted by school closures, and pay and sick leave entitlements. Visit Fair Work Ombudsman website for specific information about COVID-19 and workplace laws.
Work health and safety
As an employer, you do have certain obligations to look after your employees under work, health and safety legislation (WHS). You must identify hazards and risks in the workplace and do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate and/or minimise them.
COVID-19 is considered a workplace risk and you must put in place minimisation strategies.
Your employees also have a duty of care. Workers also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others. Workers should always practice hygiene and other measures to protect against infections.
For advice on managing COVID-19 risks and work health and safety, visit Safe Work Australia.
The NSW Department of Health have a number of resources including health FAQs, industry-specific fact sheets and workplace signage templates available. Visit the website.
I need advice on managing employee leave.
Fair Work Ombudsman provides specific information about what to do if an employee is sick or needs to be excluded from work. It also provides guidance on whether employee leave should be considered as sick leave, carer’s leave or annual leave, as well as advising on the process for requesting employees to take leave.
How can I protect myself, my employees and my customers?
Work Health and Safety laws require a person conducting a business to ensure (as far as reasonably practicable), the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace.
The best prevention is to encourage staff to practice good hygiene including:
- Clean your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, or an alcohol-based hand rub
- Practice cough etiquette; use a tissue and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Avoid close contact with others, such as touching
- Maintaining social distancing measures of 1.5 metres
- Generally, avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose
- Clean surfaces or objects (like doorknobs or tables) with a common household disinfectant and provide appropriate resources like hand wash, paper towels, sanitiser, desk wipes etc.
- Avoiding or reducing non-essential travel
If you develop fever or respiratory symptoms, call your doctor right away or NSW Health via the health direct helpline 1800 022 222.
More information can be found at Safe Work Australia.
I’m having a dispute.
The Small Business Commission offers a confidential dispute resolution service which helps small businesses needing assistance to work through problems with other businesses or government. We help parties talk about their problems and work towards a solution through negotiation and communication. We can also assist small businesses with issues in relation to insurance and regulatory concerns. Find out more.
I need business advice.
If you need some advice and support on topics such as managing cashflow, changing your business model and delivering services online, marketing your business during in a challenging environment, reassessing your supply chain, or even accessing financial support, there is a free, mobile business advisory service called Business Connect (provided by the NSW Government).
You can arrange to meet a trusted local business advisor available by videoconference and phone. Subject to the latest health advice, advisors can also meet you at your business premises or another convenient location. You can also choose an adviser who speaks your preferred language.
To book a session with your local advisor, visit the website or call 1300 134 359.
Who can I speak to about other issues such as red tape?
The Small Business Commissioner’s role is to advocate for small business and speak up you at the highest levels. If you’re facing obstacles such as unfair treatment, red tape or issues with insurance or telecommunication providers we can help. Contact our team.
I need mental health support.
If you need support during this stressful time, please visit Lifeline for specific advice on managing mental health during COVID-19.
My Business Health website has financial and mental health resources and advice for small business owners impacted by COVID-19.
The following are free services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week:
- Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511
- Mensline - 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
- Beyondblue - 1300 22 4636
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000.
Access to free online events and training.
Register for free online workshops and webinars with Business Connect, to help you with managing cash flow, emergency planning, pivoting your business model and setting up ecommerce.
Other useful business resources.
Go to the Service NSW website for a list of free and helpful tools and resources for your small business.