We hosted a webinar on Wednesday 22 April with Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell about the impacts of COVID-19 on small business.
Here are some key takeaways from our conversation with Kate.
Caring for your mental health is a balancing act
There’s never been a tougher time to be in business. COVID-19 has forced many small businesses to close their doors, while many more are fighting to survive.
Small businesses are under enormous pressure in this rapidly changing environment, with many working 24/7 to keep their businesses afloat, communicate with staff and stay on top of legislative developments.
Kate’s message is that looking after your mental health is more important now than ever.
“If you crash and burn, you’re not going to be in much of a state to pull your business out the other end”, says Kate.
“There’s a very real understanding that this has got to be the most stressful thing that has ever happened to most people.
“Most small businesses as we know, their house is riding on this. They’ve put many years into this, it’s about family.”
The ASBFEO put together My Business Health, a free web portal, offering dedicated holistic support to employers and sole traders.
“What we thought was important was to bring together how to look after your business and your health in one site, and My Business Health does just that”, says Kate.
“It’s about balancing looking after your business and looking after yourself.”
For small business owners, your mental state may be deeply intertwined with the state of your small business. My Business Health acknowledges that.
“You can’t go through all this by yourself”, says Kate.
“If you can’t sleep, if you’re having trouble concentrating, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s normal to feel that way but you have to look after yourself.”
JobKeeper: cash flow, eligibility and tax commissioner discretion
Many Australian small business owners are concerned about how the requirements for JobKeeper will affect their already-damaged bottom line.
“There are some real concerns”, says Kate.
“The JobKeeper payment is a payment for the previous month, rather than a prospective payment. So businesses have to be able to pay their staff for this month.
“You have to pay your staff. Small businesses now have until May 8 to ensure those payments to eligible staff are up-to-date.”
This puts pressure on business owners who need access to JobKeeper due to reductions in revenue.
“Businesses should remember there are a range of places you can get cash from, and those are listed on the My Business Health website”, says Kate.
“There are small business guarantee loans available from banks and non-bank lenders.
“It is really overwhelming, but there are options.”
The other issue on many peoples’ minds is eligibility.
“I think we’d all like absolute confidence that we were absolutely eligible… unfortunately that’s not going to happen”, says Kate.
“It’s a self-assessment approach.
“You have to assess whether you are eligible based on the information that’s available.
“That’s a little difficult because some of the information isn’t quite there yet. Particularly for areas where the commissioner has discretion.
“If you’re a small business owner with a reduction in your revenue of around 30 per cent, then the intent of the policy is for you to be in.
“If you believe you are in, then you should go ahead and register, and get involved.”
Australia is a nation of small businesses and family enterprises. It’s a dynamic and exciting sector that allows people with an entrepreneurial spirit to pursue their dreams. The role of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) is to support small businesses and family enterprises to enable them to grow and thrive. The ASBFEO was launched on 11 March 2016 and has two key functions: to assist and to advocate for small businesses and family enterprises.