THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s COVID-19 business hibernation plan, flagged today.
“The only way for small businesses to survive the coming months is if they can effectively hit pause for the time being,” Ms Carnell said.
“For businesses to bounce back when this health crisis is over, they need a holiday from all costs that they incur during this extremely difficult period.
“Small businesses – including those that are forced to shut their doors as well as those who suffer a significant loss of income – should be able to go into business hibernation.
“Understandably, the details of the government’s business hibernation plan are still being considered. It’s a mammoth effort that requires everyone to come together and be a part of the solution," Ms Carnell said.
“Landlords, utility and service providers, telecommunications and all levels of government will need to put their fees and charges on hold or face losing that customer altogether if there is a tidal wave of insolvencies.
“Part of this needs to be a wage subsidy for staff that remain attached to the business. Those staff would need to be paid at least 60 percent of their wage up to a maximum monthly amount. This of course would need a minimum safety net built in.
“My office, as always, is working with the small business community to ensure we are advocating for the best way forward.
“Small businesses are the engine room of the Australian economy and need our support more than ever right now.
“We are at a critical tipping point, but we can get through this if we work together.”
THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, requesting support for Australia’s small business sector, including the nation’s 1.4 million sole traders.
“The COVID-19 driven downturn is already taking an unprecedented toll on the Australian small business community,” Ms Carnell said..
“Sole traders, which account for more than 60 percent of Australian businesses, are currently ineligible for cash flow assistance of up to $25,000 because it is only available to businesses that directly employ staff.
“Our view is that government support should be extended to small businesses, including sole traders who are facing dire circumstances amid this COVID-19 health crisis.”
The Ombudsman has suggested a suite of measures that could be implemented by the Federal Government that could help sole traders, independent contractors and small businesses – particularly those operating in tourism, events, training, catering and hospitality industries – in the short term.
“Sole traders and independent contractors need income support right now without the administrative burden of asset testing,” Ms Carnell said.
“New Zealand’s recently announced wage subsidy scheme providing eligible businesses, including sole traders and self-employed people with $585 per week (employers can receive a maximum of $150,000), for each full-time employee for a period of 12 weeks, is a model the government should consider.
“We also believe New Zealand’s COVID-19 leave and self-isolation support package providing all small business employees, including sole traders, who are unable to work or are caring for others with weekly payments of up to $585 for a period of up to eight weeks is worthy of government consideration," she said.
“Sole traders should be eligible for immediate rebates of PAYG quarterly instalment payments paid during the 2019/2020 financial year and PAYG payments on income drawn from the business.
“Cash flow is absolutely vital for all small businesses, including sole traders, who should be given one-off access to their superannuation at this critical time," Ms Carnell said.
“Low interest loans should also be extended to those small businesses and sole traders impacted by a loss of trade due to COVID-19, similar to what has been offered to bushfire affected small businesses.
“Finally, a national small business recovery program, including fast-tracked regional infrastructure projects and mandated small business supplier quotas in all government procurement is required for the nation to get back to business.”
The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) has issued a warning to employers that a loophole, which has seen wage theft in relation to superannuation guarantee (SG) rules in the past, is no longer.
“The IPA had originally advocated for the measure to be brought forward from its proposed start date of 1 July 2020, to the start of this financial year namely 1 July 2019,” said IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway.
“We were pleased that the Senate at least partly agreed with our position, and recommended the measure be brought forward to 1 January 2020.
“The loophole came about where an employee salary sacrificed into his or her superannuation and the employer used that contribution to form part of the employer’s obligation to pay the 9.5 percent SG," Mr Conway said.
“Those employers who were doing the wrong thing by their employees can no longer get away with it. As of 1 January 2020, employers cannot use employee salary sacrificed contributions to fulfill employer SG commitments.
“We would encourage employees to consider salary sacrificing into their superannuation if they are financially able to do so, to build their retirement nest egg.
“We also recommend that employees check to ensure they are receiving the minimum SG contribution, from their employers, which is currently 9.5 percent,” Mr Conway said.