Support for Small Business
Please find below a summary of the small business stimulus measures and how they can be accessed. There is genuine support already available for those immediately impacted, and more assistance is expected to come.
A broad summary of the first and second set of the stimulus measures include:
Business Investment Support: The instant asset write-off will be lifted from $30,000 to $150,000 per asset for eligible businesses with an annual turnover of up to $500 million (up from $50 million) and providing a 5month accelerated depreciation deduction incentive (50%).
Business Cash Flow Assistance: 700,000 businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million will receive a tax-free cash flow boost worth between $10,000 and $50,000 for PAYG Withholding relief (Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payment) plus an additional payment between $10,000 and $50,000. This results in a maximum cash flow benefit of between $20,000 to $100,000 for eligible taxpayers and is implemented by a credit to your activity statement, with any refunds payable within 14 days.
Insolvency measures: Relaxation of insolvency laws including an extension from 21 days to six(6) months to action a statutory demand, increase in the threshold to which a statutory demand can be issued, temporary relief for directors for any personal liability for trading whilst insolvent, and relaxation of ASIC enforcement on certain procedures and policies.
Early access to superannuation: The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. This will be eligible for those unemployed, welfare recipients, employees who have had their hours reduced by 20% or more, and sole traders that have had their business suspended or turnover reduced by 20% or more.
Support for retirees: The Government has announced a temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown requirements (by 50%) for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years. There have also been changes to the social security deeming rate.
ATO Administrative Relief: The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will provide administrative relief for certain tax obligations on a case-by-case basis. This includes the ability to defer payment of certain taxes up to six(6) months and allowing businesses to vary PAYGI amounts to nil for the March 2020 quarter with an ability to claim a refund for any installments made for the September 2019 and December 2019 quarters. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will provide administrative relief for certain tax obligations on a case-by-case basis. This includes the ability to defer payment of certain taxes up to six(6) months and allowing businesses to vary PAYGI amounts to nil for the March 2020 quarter with an ability to claim a refund for any installments made for the September 2019 and December 2019 quarters.
Supporting the Flow of Credit: The Government has announced a Coronavirus SMS Guarantee Scheme where they will provide to SME lenders a guarantee of 50% of new unsecured loans used for working capital purposes. This will apply for loans up to $250,000 in terms of three(3) years with an initial six(6) month repayment holiday. In addition to this measure, the Government is initiating for small business quick and efficient access to credit by providing a temporary (6 month) exemption for SME lenders from responsible lending obligations.
Apprentice and Trainee Support: For small businesses with fewer than 20 full-time employees to receive up to $7,000 in wage assistance per apprentice or trainee per quarter over the next six months (up to a maximum of $21,000 per apprentice or trainee). Read more about the assistance to help pay for the wages of your apprentices or trainees.
Regional Assistance: $1 billion has been allocated to sectors, regions, and communities that have been abnormally affected by the economic impacts of the coronavirus, including those heavily reliant on tourism, agriculture, and education.
Household Assistance: For those currently receiving welfare payments (pensioners, family tax benefit recipients, etc.) will receive an initial cash payment of $750 (12 Mar-13 Apr 2020) plus an additional $750 (10 Jul 2020). There is also income support measures for eligible individuals comprising a payment of $550 per fortnight.
Payroll tax relief: Most Australian States and Territories have initiated relief measures relating to payroll tax. In Victoria, eligible businesses with annual taxable wages up to $3m will have their payroll tax waived for the 2019-20 financial year.
How do I claim for the Small Business support of up to $100k?
Eligibility - Additional payment - To qualify for the additional payment, the entity must continue to be active.
For monthly activity statement lodgers, the additional payments will be delivered as an automatic credit in the activity statement system. This will be equal to a quarter of their total initial Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payment following the lodgment of their June 2020, July 2020, August 2020 and September 2020 activity statements (up to a total of $50,000).
For quarterly activity statement lodgers, the additional payments will be delivered as an automatic credit in the activity statement system. This will be equal to half of their total initial Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payment following the lodgment of their June 2020 and September 2020 activity statements (up to a total of $50,000). This measure will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people, and around 30,000 NFPs (including charities).
Timing -Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments
The Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payment will be applied to a limited number of activity statement lodgments. The ATO will deliver the payment as a credit to the entity upon lodgment of their activity statements.
Where this places the entity in a refund position, the ATO will deliver the refund within 14 days.
If you employ a casual employee and they can't work because they become sick or need to self-isolate, or their income has been otherwise impacted by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, they may be eligible for income support payments.
The Government is making these payments quicker to access by waiving the usual waiting period in certain circumstances. Information on income support is available on the Services Australia website.
Super guarantee payments
As an employer, you still need to meet your super guarantee obligations for your employees. Read more information for employers affected by disaster on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.
Most of the large banks are taking guidance from the ABA (Australian Banking Association) in respect to the definition and eligibility of 'small business' and therefore the support they provide for these businesses
1. Should an employer provide information to employees?
It is expected that employees may be anxious about the risk of a pandemic and will likely have questions about their working arrangements. In this regard, employers should be providing information to employees about health and safety in the workplace as this is an obligation under WHS legislation.
Employers should provide regular updates to employees about the status of coronavirus, advice on hygiene practices and information available through the Department of Health.
2. What other practical measures should a business be taking in the circumstances?
In addition to implementing clear guidance concerning the coronavirus pandemic and personal hygiene, other steps a business may take in response to the coronavirus include:
Implementing guidelines concerning employees having to report, and potentially remain absent from the workplace, where they exhibit any of the symptoms of the coronavirus (fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath);
Altering annual leave request processes so employees are required to disclose if they intend to travel overseas. While an employer is unable to unreasonably refuse an annual leave request, the disclosure will facilitate a further conversation and may give rise to an employer being able to refuse the request in the event that the employee refuses to accept any reasonable health and safety measures suggested by the employer, and
For those who indicate that they intend to travel overseas, discuss that the leave request is approved upon the basis that they must fully observe any and all recommendations of the Australian Government upon their return, including but not limited to, the condition that any mandatory period of self-quarantine is to be treated as a period of authorised unpaid leave unless specifically agreed.
3. What if there is no work for employees to perform? Or what happens in the event of a temporary closure?
In the unfortunate circumstance in which a business may be required close due to circumstances beyond its control, employees may be stood down without pay. This is on the basis employees cannot usefully perform work.
Employers should not enact a stand down prematurely or arbitrarily as to do so may expose the business to dispute or risk.
While it is not a requirement, it is recommended employers should explore all available options with employees which would avoid, or minimise, the impact of a stand down.
If a stand-down is to be implemented the employer should:
- Seek specific advice in all circumstances to ensure that the risks with such an approach are understood.
- Engage with impacted employees as soon as possible and provide employees with a reasonable opportunity to present ideas or proposals which may avoid the stand down.
- Confirm the stand down in a meeting and later confirmed in writing.
- Maintain constant contact with employees during the stand-down period and provide updates and information which will assist with their ongoing understanding of the matter;
- The continuation, or cancelation, of a stand-down, should be confirmed in writing.
NOTE: This FAQ should not be taken as advice that employers are able to impose a stand down and specific advice should be taken in all the circumstances before stand-down is taken.
Health and safety
As an employer, you're required to ensure the health and safety of your workers. If an employee is at risk of infection from coronavirus, you should request the employee seek medical clearance from a doctor, work from home or not work during the risk period.
You need to provide information and procedures to all employees and contract staff. Inform staff who meet the isolation criteria that they should remain isolated in their home.
Suggested Hygiene and Business Practices
What can employers do to minimise the spread of COVID-19 amongst the workforce?
- Consider split rosters to avoid cross-pollination eg. have one group of staff members work Monday to Thursday and then a different group work Friday to Sunday. This minimises total staff infection if one person gets sick.
- Provide hand washing facilities and make sure these are kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser, tissues and cleaning supplies.
- Promote good hygiene practices, e.g. display posters on hand washing and respiratory hygiene.
- Keep the workplace clean and hygienic. Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces such as door handles and workstations helps prevent contamination.
- Regularly clean keyboards and phones, particularly where they are shared by more than one staff member.
- Ensure all cleaning products such as tissues or alcohol-based cloth are disposed of effectively after use.
- Throw away thermometers if taking the temperature of staff not feeling well.
- Encourage workers who are sick with respiratory illness to stay home until they are recovered. until they are recovered.
- If someone becomes ill with respiratory symptoms at work, isolate them by placing them in a room or an area away from others.
- Arrange for the person to be sent home and advise them to seek medical advice. If they are very unwell, call an ambulance.
- Consider staff working from home if possible and practicable.
If a worker is confirmed to have COVID-19, call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice. Inform co-workers about possible exposure to COVID-19 but maintain confidentiality. Advise workers to seek immediate medical advice if they develop symptoms or are concerned about their health.
More information on isolation guidance can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website.
Contact with Others
What do I do if a staff member has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
They will fall within the Department of Health's advice of requiring isolation for 14 days. In these circumstances, if the employee is not unwell, has no symptoms and is not otherwise sick there is no obligation to pay personal leave.
- This period of absence would be a period of authorised unpaid leave unless the employer agrees to treat this period as paid leave, such as annual leave, long service leave or personal/carer's leave.
- However, if the employee develops symptoms, becomes sick or is confirmed to have coronavirus there would be a requirement to treat the absence as personal leave.
- This does NOT intend to address the clinical or health-related requirements arising from close contact with a confirmed case.
- A person who has been in contact with a confirmed case should look to the Department of Health resources and telephone their health clinic or hospital to arrange for urgent assessment.
What if a staff member has flu-like symptoms and I suspect they have coronavirus?
- Whilst we understand the coronavirus is the emergence of a new risk, it is important not to make assumptions. Additionally, whilst an employer has a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workers, so far as reasonably practicable, an employer does NOT have a right to direct an employee to take personal leave.assumptions. Additionally, whilst an employer has a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workers, so far as reasonably practicable, an employer does NOT have a right to direct an employee to take personal leave.
- If there are reasonable concerns for the safety of the employee, and other staff, an employer could encourage the employee to take a period of personal leave and may, if reasonable, direct the employee to obtain a medical clearance of their fitness to work.
What if an employee wants to stay home as a precaution?
- If the employee wishes to self-isolate or stay at home as a precautionary measure but is not otherwise unwell or injured any period of absence would NOT ordinarily be covered by personal leave. In these circumstances, there is no obligation to pay the employee.
- An employer and employee may reach an agreement to take annual leave or a period of long service leave (if available) for the period available. Under the Act, an employee's requirement for annual leave cannot be unreasonably refused. Given the unique circumstances we face the COVID-19 if an employee wishes to self-isolate due to genuine concerns for their health and safety, or the health and safety of others (for example due to potential exposure to a confirmed case) then it may be unreasonable to refuse any request for annual leave.
- Employees should discuss their level of risk of contracting coronavirus with their doctor, workplace health and safety representative or the appropriate State or Territory workplace health and safety body.
What if an employee refuses to serve a customer due to the concern of coronavirus?
- If an employee is refusing to work or refusing to serve a customer, at first instance it is important for the employer to genuinely discuss the concerns with the employee to try and understand the basis for the refusal and any health and safety matters arising.
- If on a reasonable assessment the employee's refusal is unreasonable in the circumstances, the likelihood of infection is low and the employer has taken all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of injury or illness, then the employer may provide a reasonable direction for the employee to perform the work.
Cashflow Assistance For Small Business
The Australian Government is providing cashflow assistance for small business and more information can be found at HERE
COVID-19 Employer Guide
The outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) is causing economic disruption in many sectors including tourism and hospitality, education, property, resources, and international supply chains.
Download the COVID-19 EMPLOYER GUIDE to help you manage your workplace in the face of the outbreak
For Staff - Where can I get financial assistance if I have been stood down or I lose my job?
Income support for individuals
Over the next six months, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.
The Government will temporarily expand eligibility for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance for job seekers.
They will give you access if you're:
- a permanent employee who has been stood down or lost your job
- a sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contract worker whose income has reduced
- caring for someone who's affected by coronavirus.
They'll waive asset testing from 27 April for 6 months, except for Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.
Income testing will still apply.
On 12 March 2020, they started a 3-month waiving of the Ordinary Waiting Period. This will continue while these temporary arrangements are in place.
If you're eligible to get the Coronavirus Supplement they'll also waive the liquid asset test waiting period, newly arrived residents waiting period and seasonal work preclusion period.
Income maintenance and compensation preclusion periods will continue to apply.
You can't access employer entitlements, such as annual leave or sick leave, or income protection insurance at the same time as getting JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance for job seekers.
If you can't work because you're isolated at home due to coronavirus and don't have any leave entitlements, you may get Crisis Payment. They may pay you Crisis Payment if you're in severe financial hardship and you get an income support payment like JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance for job seekers.
Crisis Payment is a one-off payment equal to a week's pay of your existing income support payment rate.
Suggested Hygiene Practices
How can staff practice good hygiene to minimise the spread of COVID-19?
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing, dispose of tissues immediately after use and wash your hands or apply hand sanitiser.
- Regularly wipe down and sterilise surfaces if you are sharing a common workspace with colleagues or customers, including keyboard/phones, etc.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Stay home if you are unwell.
DISCLAIMER: The materials and information have been complied and are intended for informational purposes only and any opinions expressed are the opinions of the individual authors and may not reflect the opinions of Vow Financial or any other companies or individuals associated with Vow Financial.