COVID-19 (Coronavirus): information for small business owners
Read the full list of restricted activities and exceptions.
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
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 NSW Government is offering a large range of support options for small businesses including grants, payroll tax deferrals, and license/fee waivers. Read more.
COVID-19 business support – 2021
The Australian and NSW Governments have announced a major economic support package aimed at supporting micro and small businesses and individuals through the NSW COVID-19 lockdown that began in June. For more information and to apply, see Service NSW COVID Support.
For information on grants and other support available for small businesses in NSW, see grants and other support.
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. In some cases, your landlord may be willing to negotiate a rental reduction.
Temporary changes to commercial leasing
On 14 July 2021, the NSW Government enacted the Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2021 (the Regulation). Amendments passed on 13 August 2021 provide greater protections to impacted tenants by reinstating National Cabinet’s Commercial Leasing Code of Conduct.
Under the Regulation, property owners must negotiate rent relief agreements with eligible tenants in financial distress due to the COVID-19 public health orders. 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, supply chain issues visit 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) 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
The NSW Government has changed the rules around check-ins. From 12 July 2021, people (including staff, contractors and customers) will need to check-in using the Service NSW app when entertaining certain premises, venues or events in NSW.
Occupiers of premises will need to have check-in set up at their premises if their business falls into one of the required categories. 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. Your local Public Health Unit will contact you and advise on the type of contact tracing needed and inform you about any infection control measures you need to take. You will be required to advise staff, visitors, contractors and customers of the situation. You will need to ensure the premises are appropriately cleaned. For further information on the requirements, including the deep cleaning standards, read the NSW Government’s guidance.
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.
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 service called Business Connect (provided by the NSW Government).
You can arrange to meet a trusted local business advisor available by video conference 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 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 such as unfair treatment, red tape or issues with insurance or telecommunication providers we can help. Contact our team.
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.
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.
Go to the Service NSW website for a list of free and helpful tools and resources for your small business.