Business owners that are experiencing mental health issues are being urged to contact the Australian Tax Office for assistance.
Leanne Faulkner, who was named small business champion by the Council of Small Business of Australia in 2015 for her work advocating for mental health resources for sole traders, has been working with the ATO to develop resources for small business owners.
Faulkner told SmartCompany the ATO has come a long way when it comes to supporting small business people who may be going through a tough time.
When completing their tax return in 2016, small business owners are able to defer payments or enter into a tailored payment plan if experiencing mental health issues.
The aim is to provide SMEs with more flexibility during times of need, as well as direct people towards appropriate support if necessary.
The ATO has also released a video educating business owners about the options available to them at tax time, should they be stressed or living with anxiety or depression.
“I wish more small business people knew the types of initiatives the ATO are putting place,” Faulkner says.
“It’s a pretty daunting thing to call the ATO. It’s pretty scary. But if they [small business owners] knew about this initiative and [the ATO] are here, they do care and they want to help, I think it will help an awful lot of people.”
While Faulkner praised the ATO, she says it’s time all government agencies and big businesses reviewed how their practises might negatively affect small business owners who are stressed or facing mental health issues.
“We need to go to the next step now and call out to every department and big business to do everything they can to support mental health,” she says.
“So that’s in policy-making, debt collecting, any process aimed at helping ensure small business is sustainable. Government agencies and big business need to think about how they interact with us.
“Do their policies and procedures support our mental health? It’s tough enough when you’re in business alone.”