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Making jobs?
Welcome to this week’s handbook for managing through the COVID-19 crisis. 

We’ve had JobSeeker, JobKeeper, and now, JobMaker. 

Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled his plan for bringing the Australian economy out of intensive care, and the implications for small and medium businesses are wide-ranging. Industrial relations reform is at the top of the priority list, as is a shake-up of funding for Australia’s vocational education and training sector

Our news editor Matthew has gone through the details and pulled together everything you need to know. 

Meanwhile, here are five other things to check off your list this week:
Keep reading below for all the latest information about JobMaker and casual employment, examples of businesses making accessibility a priority, and insights into how other entrepreneurs are managing through the crisis.

Please get in touch If there are specific questions you’d like answered, or experiences you’d like to share with the SmartCompany community.

Stay safe,

Eloise Keating
SmartCompany editor


The federal government wants to overhaul vocational training, but won’t commit another cent of funding until it strikes a new agreement with states about how the money should be used.

It’s not the first time the government has tried its hand at skills and training reform, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s JobMaker plan has given business advocates reason to be hopeful.

Find out why

Employer groups and the union movement will come together over the next four months for a wide-ranging industrial relations pow-wow that could chart a new path for workplace laws in Australia.

Or it won’t — in which case the federal government has left the door open to making its own changes anyway.

Read more

As the small business sector prepares to participate in the forthcoming discussions about the modern awards system, enterprise agreements and wage theft, small business ombudsman Kate Carnell has released a new report calling for structural change to workplace laws.

Among the recommendations is a new Small Business Award, which would give SMEs an option outside of the existing system, tailored to the needs of small firms.

Keep reading

Casual, or not?

Do you employ long-term casuals on a regular basis? Is there “firm advance commitment” they will come in?

You might want to consider whether to convert these workers from being casuals, after a Federal Court decision re-ignited fears these workers might be able to claim leave entitlements, without sacrificing casual loadings.

Find out what lawyers are saying

Recent case law, and the prospect of wide-ranging industrial relations reform in September, have raised enduring questions about casual work and its place in the Australian economy.

Many small businesses rely on casual workers, but there’s widespread disagreement about what such labour should entail, and what the relevant conditions should be.

Learn more

Target: What went wrong?

Target is slated to close more than 100 stores over the next 18 months as Wesfarmers does its best to cauterise the financial burden associated with the department store chain.

Many of the stores will be converted to sister-brand Kmart, others will be junked entirely, depending on what landlords agree to.

Keep reading

While the Target closures were announced against a backdrop of retailers feeling the pressure of COVID-19, there’s something more to this story: how sister-brand Kmart has cannibalised Target (despite persistent claims from management this isn’t the case). 

Kmart has emerged as the most successful department store in Australia over the past decade, but those wins have come at a cost.

Here’s how

Poring over what has gone wrong at Target is a lengthy task, but there’s some consensus that the retailer lost sight of its customer proposition, first disappearing into the bleak-middle ground of the apparel market, before trying to look like something closer to Kmart in recent years without success. 

What can businesses learn from Wesfarmers’ mistakes?

Quick links
“I understand the rage that people have at the moment”: Restaurant owners slam no-shows, but there’s steps they can take
“We’ve been completely left out”: Tattooists call on NSW Government for re-opening timeline as states ease restrictions
Meet you at the drive-in: The retro date night hot-spot is set for a revival
The cost of COVID-19? It adds up to bad news for women in STEM
Healthy Mind, Healthy Business

At the beginning of lockdown, Aussie tech giant Atlassian sent out an employee survey to figure out whether staff had all the equipment they needed to work from home. As it turned out, they did not. So the business offered a $500 stipend for them to get what they needed.

As the pandemic has dragged on, Atlassian has continued to take “pulse checks” of how staff are doing. And that initial survey has evolved into something more focused on employee wellbeing.

Now, the tech unicorn is making that survey open-source, and encouraging other businesses to reach out to their employees, with specific questions about how they’re doing, mentally as well as practically. 

Read more, and access the survey, here.

Angela Henderson is a small business consultant and an expert on mental health for small business owners. In this sponsored article, Henderson shares four tips for protecting and reinforcing your mental health that you can apply today.

Read on

The COVID-19 pandemic is demanding that we all quickly transition to a new way of living and working. And therefore, as organisational psychologist Rachael Palmer writes, we need ways to harness our strengths to find our new normal.

Here are her top tips for doing so

If you’re suffering from sleepless nights and cluttered thoughts — you’re not the only one. In this sponsored article, Smiling Mind founder Jane Martino and MYOB chief employee experience officer Helen Lea share mindfulness tips for small business owners.

Read more


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the initial panic-buying set in, Push Mobility founder Shane Hryhorec, a wheelchair user, was frustrated to find a lack of hand sanitiser on the shelves, and set out to do something about it.

Hryhorec quickly launched a new arm to his business, reselling a range of Zoono sanitiser products that are designed to be suitable for wheelchair users, and that have proven effective against other strains of coronavirus.

Within a week, his new product line had taken off.

Learn more here.

Elsewhere, accessibility startup BindiMaps could provide a solution for the shopping centres of the future, replacing wayfinding kiosks with a contactless alternative.

Originally designed as a tool to help people with visual impairments navigate public spaces with ease, the startup was in the process of a national rollout when COVID-19 struck, and everything ground to a halt.

But, post-pandemic, co-founder Mladen Jovanovic says he anticipates an uptick in demand.

“We understand the urgency of this situation, and that shopping centres are looking for innovative ways to get people through the doors,” he says.

Read more.


Annual leave arrangements for workers receiving JobKeeper payments has emerged as one of the most contentious aspects of the $70 billion wage subsidy scheme.

A recent Fair Work Commission hearing provides some insight into what employers should and shouldn’t do when it comes to talking to workers about taking their leave while on JobKeeper. 

Read more

Tempted to ask one of your suppliers for a discount, or special treatment, during the pandemic? Hold up; what you’re doing is essentially looting.

“It’s walking past stores that have been torn apart by the virus shutdown hurricane, noticing that their front door is swinging open, and helping yourself to a free television from their front window,” writes Ian Whitworth.

And the same thing applies for how you treat your staff

It’s also not the time to offer up your services for free, says Sue Parker.

Social washing by offering services for free to be seen as kind and compassionate has become the new marketing tool for many SMEs and consultants, she says, but generosity and commercial discernment are not mutually exclusive.

Here’s why it’s not true that ‘free now’ will create ‘paid later’

For those startups looking for funding during the pandemic, Agersens founder Ian Reilly has an important reminder: there’s money out there waiting for a home, and it is always possible to raise capital if your company’s value proposition is strong enough.

Here’s five ways to position your startup to raise funds when lockdowns lift.

Some coronavirus restrictions are easing, but it’s likely that social distancing guidelines will remain for some time, especially in the workplace. So is now the time to appoint a social distancing officer in your business?

Austin Taylor from Meertens Chartered Accountants thinks so

In case you missed it
More than 150,000 businesses in JobKeeper limbo as ATO admits to “reporting error” and exposes $60 billion windfall
This Melbourne business owner is raising $10,000 to send care packages to nurses on the frontline, and support small businesses along the way
“Enough is enough”: 13cabs takes fight to UberEats and Deliveroo, offering meal delivery with 0% commission
Facebook and Instagram launch ‘Shops’ marketplace where retailers will sell directly to consumers
Quick, sterile and intimate: Hospitality might look a little different, but Sydney pub owner Tanya Damianakis is rejoicing nonetheless
What other entrepreneurs are doing

The latest in a swathe of fintech wins, peer-to-peer mortgage marketplace has secured $5 million for its tech disrupting both the traditional mortgage experience and mortgage investments more generally.

It’s another story of the pandemic accelerating an existing trend, according to founder Jack O’Reilly, who says it’s a perfect storm for the startup.

COVID-19 is seeing a mass move online and adoption of new tech; it’s becoming harder for investors to secure solid yields; and mortgage lenders are tightening up.

There’s a wave of change coming in financial services, and this founder plans to ride it.

Read more.

Former Qantas consultant Anthony Cohen launched ProjectDisplaced to help displaced workers find alternative work during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

But the jobs board has been so successful that Cohen says it’s here to stay. 

In the first 14 days, the platform had more than 45,000 views, and now it’s offering support to workers across Australia and in New Zealand.

And, while the founder expects demand to dip as restrictions are lifted, he says there are some jobs that will never be the same.

Learn more here.

In perhaps an unexpected pandemic success story, reusable bag business The Swag is thriving. 

The startup provides bags, food wraps, lunch bags and even reusable teabags, all designed to keep food fresh for as long as possible and minimise food waste.

With consumers reluctant to go to the shops more than they have to, the business has seen sales increase by more than 50% over the past few months, says founder Peita Pini.

“Fruit and vegetables are key to bolstering the immune system, and people are filling their [Swag bags] with confidence that [their products] will last two weeks or more,” she says.

Read more about The Swag here.

Elsewhere, the uptick in e-commerce activity has provided a boost to Preezie, which offers a tool quizzing online customers on their wants, needs and preferred price points, bringing a personal touch to the online store.

The startup has secured $575,000 in seed funding, during what’s been touted as a particularly tricky time to land early-stage capital.

But, it’s all about the sector you’re in, and the value proposition you’re offering at this time, co-founder Michael Tutek says.

Read the full story here.

And finally, with aged care homes in even stricter lockdown than the rest of us, Melbourne VR startup SilVR Adventures has seen an uptick in inquiries for its seniors-focused immersive experiences.

The business offers “reminiscence therapy”, the opportunity for remote travel all over the world, and adventures.

It’s not all sitting on benches and looking at flowers, founder Colin Pudsey says. It’s flying planes ⁠— and jumping out of them.

“There are misconceptions that seniors and technologies don’t mix, but one of the residents is 99, English is not her first language, and she absolutely loves it,” Pudsey says.

Read more.

What we're predicting and watching

As you all well know, COVID-19 has got many employees working from home, and the fact that businesses are considering making flexible and remote work permanent is well-covered ground.

But, we’re wondering whether this could be a turning point for diversity and representation within the workplace. 

Imagine if you didn’t have to pay city rents if you wanted to work at that flashy startup. Imagine if working flexible hours around your kids was standard, not frowned upon. And imagine if missing out on Friday-night drinks didn’t mean missing out on a promotion.

But, is it as simple as all that? It may well take a bit of work to make sure we end up with the right outcomes here. We’ll be keeping our eyes on this, and we would love to hear what you think too.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been considering what the effect could be on startup funding. There was some concern the money might not be there for up-and-coming tech companies.

But, while it’s still a little early to make a call, there’s room for optimism. Over the past few weeks we’ve reported raises from mortgage marketplace, e-commerce startup Preezie, edtech GO1 and fintechs Limepay and Verteva

Elsewhere, we’ve seen medtech Ferronova secure $3.5 million, and agtech The Yield bag $11 million. Gig Super is coming to the end of its Birchal equity crowdfunding campaign ⁠— at the time of writing it has secured 80% of its $100,000 goal ⁠— and Hive Gaming has secured funding for its e-sports platform, although we don’t know how much.

Does all of this point to a market moving in the right direction? Or are we being lulled into a false sense of security? If you’ve found yourself struggling to find funding please reach out, we would love to hear your story.

Ready to just get off the planet already? Over in the US, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is preparing to launch, sending a couple of veteran astronauts up to the International Space Station in what may mark the beginning of commercial space travel.

It’s the kind of historic event that would typically have drawn crowds of spectators to Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre. But, even rocket launches are now bound by social distancing rules.

According to Wired, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has urged people to stay at home and watch the launch on TV, to protect both themselves and NASA employees.

“We’re asking people not to come to Kennedy,” Bridenstine reportedly said. “It makes me sad to even say it, but we don’t want an outbreak.”

Honestly, it might be entertainment enough just to see what Elon will be tweeting.

Additional resources
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
My Business Health
Department of Health