COVID-19 (Coronavirus): information for small business owners
Density limits and QR codes were abolished for most businesses on 18 February 2022, with a further easing of restrictions to take place on 25 February.
From Friday 18 February 2022:
- No density limits (previously one person per 2sqm for hospitality venues).
- QR check-ins scrapped apart from nightclubs and music festivals of more than 1,000 people. Hospitals can use their existing systems.
- Singing and dancing permitted at all venues except musical festivals.
- The recommendation to work from home will change and be returned to the employer’s discretion.
From Friday 25 February 2022:
- Masks will only be mandatory on public transport, planes and indoors at airports, hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, corrections facilities and indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people.
- Masks are encouraged indoor where you cannot safely distance from others and for customer-facing retail staff.
- Singing and dancing is permitted at music festivals.
- Attendees of music festivals of more than 1,000 people must have at least two doses of the COVID vaccine.
From Friday 22 April 2022:
Close contacts (defined as a household contact or an individual deemed by NSW Health to be a close contact) will not have to isolate, as long as they have no symptoms and comply with the following guidelines:
- Do not visit aged care, hospitals, disability, and correctional facilities unless a special exemption applies;
- Wear a face mask in indoor settings outside the home;
- Undertake daily RAT tests before coming into close contact with people outside their household, where practicable;
- Avoid contact with elderly and immunocompromised persons where possible;
- Work from home where practical;
- Notify their employer/educational facility that they are a close contact, and that they are not required to isolate as long as they comply with the above.
Close contacts will need to comply with the above guidelines for 7 days from the time a person in their household tested positive for COVID-19.
Read more about the current restrictions and the different rules for each business sector at Business Rules in NSW.
If you’re having concerns about your 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 dealing with financial hardship.
If you are having trouble paying your rent, you may be able to obtain rent relief from your landlord.
Business loan repayments
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.
The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has announced a national support package - which is subject to ACCC approval - for small businesses significantly impacted by 2021 COVID-19 lockdowns or recovery from recent lockdowns. The support includes repayment deferrals with loan terms extended accordingly. For more information, see Australian Banking Association.
Business owners and operators should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice that relates to your unique circumstances.
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. COVID-impacted small businesses may be eligible for rent relief and smaller landlords may be eligible for a grant if they provide relief.
Temporary changes to commercial leasing
Small businesses affected by the COVID lockdown will be able to seek rent relief until 13 January 2022, to help support them over the Christmas and New Year’s Period.
The Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2021 rent relief provisions will continue for eligible businesses with a turnover of less than $5 million, a reduction of the previous turnover threshold of $50 million.
The regulations require landlords to negotiate rent relief with eligible commercial and retail tenants that are experiencing a turnover decline of 30 per cent or more.
For more information, see Commercial leases and COVID-19 FAQs.
Contact the NSW Small Business Commission to speak with a Customer Service team member about your obligations under retail or commercial leases, and get advice on dealing with any landlord and tenant issues.
If you're having a dispute, you can apply for a mediation.
If you need advice on your consumer rights and business obligations in relation to cancelled events, refunds, delayed orders or supply chain issues, you can find relevant information for businesses on the ACCC website.
It’s important to be prepared in case you cannot be there to run your business. Having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) prepared is essential to ensure that your business can remain operating or viable should a disaster strike. Download your free, step-by-step guide to creating a Business Continuity Plan for your business.
Standing down or terminating staff
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 the 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.
For information on insurance and workers' compensation claims, including those related to employees contracting COVID-19 and working from home issues, visit the iCare website.
The 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 asking employees to take leave.
COVID-19 Safety Plan
Protect your customers, staff and the community by completing a COVID-19 Safety Plan for your business.
Some businesses must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan under the public health orders, but you can also voluntarily complete one. Find a COVID-19 Safety Plan template for your industry.
Mandatory check-in requirements
Following the lifting of most COVID restrictions on 15 December 2021, occupiers of certain types of premises must continue to use QR code check-in. For more information, see mandatory check-in.
You may be notified by public health authorities or any employee or other contractor that your business has been linked to cases. For information on what you must do in response, including who to notify and information on cleaning your premises, see the NSW Government’s guidance.
The NSW Small Business Commission offers a confidential dispute resolution service which helps small businesses needing assistance to work through problems with other businesses or their landlord. We help parties talk about the issues, understand the different points of view and work towards a durable solution through negotiation and communication. Find out more.
If you need advice and support on topics such as managing cashflow, changing your business model and delivering services online, marketing your business in a challenging environment, reassessing your supply chain, or even accessing financial support, the NSW Government provides free advice through Business Connect.
You can arrange to meet a trusted local business advisor by video conference or 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 advisor who speaks your preferred language.
Book a session with your local Business Connect advisor or call 1300 134 359.
The NSW Small Business Commissioner’s role is to advocate for small business and speak up for you at the highest levels. If you’re facing obstacles related to unfair treatment, red tape, getting insurance or a dispute with your telecommunications provider, we may be able to help. Contact our team.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a highly stressful time for many small business owners and operators, as well as their employees and families.
The Commission has compiled a comprehensive list of mental health resources to help.
You may also like to listen to our podcast on creating a mentally healthy workplace.