As a bloke I can only comment on women who run their own businesses based on observation and what I have been told by my female friends and colleagues. So here goes …
We normally state that about a third of our small business operators are women. That appears to be based on ownership data but I don’t believe that reflects the real situation. There are many, hundreds of thousands, of businesses that may be listed as owned by a male but in the business is that man’s partner, working alongside them to grow the business, including by doing behind-the-scenes work. I also see more and more the opposite happening where a woman owns and operates the business and with her male partner is doing the administration at night or on weekends — nice!
But that means if we are honest, women are operators in a true business sense of at least 50% of our small businesses. We should acknowledge that.
So to celebrate International Women’s Day (#IWB2017), let’s look at what I see and hear as the issues, current and potential, that can unfairly affect women who are running their own small business.
Firstly, the fact that a small business is forced to be the pay-clerk for the federal government’s paid parental scheme is not just inefficient and time wasting, but it also has an extra impact on a woman business operators. A woman who employs people and also has children will be asked to spend time away from her family doing paperwork so another woman (her employee) can spend more time with their families. How odd and wrong. Let’s take small business out of the pay-clerk role for paid parental leave (PPL) payments and just send the money straight to the eligible employee. And it gets worse as self-employed women are basically not eligible for the government’s PPL scheme. That should change as well.
Next is the current debate around domestic violence leave (DVL). If this leave was to be introduced it would mean that a woman who is both a victim and an employer could be forced to ignore her own situation to manage the exact same situation for an employee caught in that awful circumstance. There are better ways of managing the effects of domestic leave in workplaces than by putting more pressure on other victims.
Next is the tax treatment of child care provisions. Currently a large business can claim costs associated with running a crèche and not pay fringe benefits tax on the use of the crèche. Most small business are not in a position to have a crèche, but if we provide child care support for employees we have to pay fringe benefits tax. That’s also wrong because a woman running her own business can’t get support for her own childcare. Change it.
I know there are many more particular issues that unfairly affect women in business. Please let us know what they are and we shall do what we can to fix the problem or at least let those who make up the rules know about the problem. Tell us in the comments area of this article or by contacting the Council of Small Business of Australia.
Peter Strong is the chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia.