Last updated: 19 March 2020
We have been receiving many enquiries from small business owners who are understandably concerned about coronavirus (COVID-19) and its potential effect on their business. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we have received to date.
My business doesn’t have any employees. Is there anything in the national or state stimulus packages for me?
Both the Australian Government’s and WA Government’s recently announced coronavirus stimulus packages for business have a number of measures to assist small to medium businesses with employees, including tax rebates, wage subsidies and grants. These do not apply to non-employing businesses.
Directors of a company may be considered employees if a number of factors occur. This will depend on individual circumstances, so check with your accountant to determine whether you are classified as an employee for tax purposes.
If you do not employ any staff, the areas in the stimulus package that you may be eligible for are:
- the increased instant asset write-off measures
- the accelerated depreciation deduction arrangements
- freezes to increases on household fees and charges in WA
- potential relief from tax obligations from the ATO
NB – This information is current at 9am on 19 March 2020 and could be subject to change in light of further government announcements.
How do I apply for the grants or rebates from the government?
The Australian Government announced that businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million that employ staff, will be eligible for a rebate of 50 per cent of employees’ withheld income tax (PAYG), to a maximum of $25,000. There is no need to apply for this rebate, as eligible businesses will automatically receive the refund based on their Business Activity Statement (BAS) or instalment activity statement (PAYG) submitted from 28 April 2020, with refunds to be paid within 14 days.
If you pay payroll tax on a payroll of between $1 million and $4 million in WA, your business will receive a one-off grant of $17,500. Grants will automatically be paid by cheque from July, however you should log in to Revenue Online to ensure your postal address is up to date. There may be delays for those whose tax status changed in 2018-19 or liability for payroll tax changed in 2018-19 or 2019-20.
I have to close temporarily or permanently. What do I do about my staff?
The industrial relations system your business falls under will affect the requirements for paying your staff if you have to close your business:
- If you have a Pty Ltd company, Fair Work Australia has prepared this information about staff obligations
- If you are a sole trader, partnership or unincorporated trust, your business falls under the WA industrial relations system. This page provides information about employment obligations that may arise due to coronavirus.
If you employ casual staff in your business, you may be concerned about the financial impact on them if work slows down or stops. If you have the financial resources, you may want to consider whether you can offer these employees access to paid leave, in the event they need to care for a family member or self-isolate. While you are not obliged to provide this, having access to reliable, trained staff will help you when things turn around.
If your employees need to access government support, this information on social security payments relevant to coronavirus may apply.
I am still open for business. What do I need to do or change in light of coronavirus?
The Prime Minister has recently announced tighter measures to protect public health during the coronavirus pandemic. These include:
- A limit of 100 people at non-essential indoor gatherings and a maximum of 500 at outdoor gatherings
- Practising good hygiene (eg. frequent handwashing or sanitising, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces)
- Implementing social distancing (eg. avoiding handshaking and maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres from other people).
If any of these directives apply to your business, it is essential to follow them and stay alert for updates in this rapidly evolving situation.
Other things businesses can do is:
- implement rigorous hygiene practices and provide extra hand washing facilities/sanitiser for your staff and customers if possible
- disinfect hard surfaces regularly
- implement cash free/contactless payment methods
- offer online shopping and delivery if possible
- remove or cover any items that could pose a risk of contamination
- ensure there is space in your place of business for adequate distances between people (1.5 metres is recommended)
- reassure your customers by communicating clearly and regularly about the practical measures you are taking to ensure their safety. You can use email lists, posters, social media and other channels to reach your audience.
You should also carefully consider what you will do should you or a staff member test positive for COVID-19, both in terms of business continuity and customer communications. It is essential that you map out a plan of action about how you will respond if this occurs, so you are as prepared as possible.
Specific advice and guidance
The Australian Department of Health has put together a collection of resources for general public and industry about coronavirus.
If you need specific, confidential advice in relation to business disruption, our experienced business advisers are available to answer your questions. Call 133 140 Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.
For up-to-date information on coronavirus and implications for small business, visit smallbusiness.wa.gov.au/coronavirus