COVID-19 (Coronavirus): information for small business owners
What businesses are restricted from trading?
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.
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 a large range of support options for small businesses including grants, payroll tax deferrals, and license/fee waivers. Read more.
I’m struggling with my rent.
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.
Speak with an expert about your obligations under retail or commercial leases, and get advice on dealing with any landlord and tenant issues. Apply for a mediation.
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.
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.
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.