Just like the rest of the world, Australia is facing unchartered territory as we watch the effects of COVID-19 unfold. The spread of the virus is having major impacts on people’s health, daily routines, work and business operations. Rarely do people or businesses outside of the health sector have plans in place for a pandemic, particularly as rules and regulations enforced by governments in novel times are so unpredictable.
As many people’s livelihoods are on the line, this article addresses three major concerns for businesses regarding workplace laws, new business ventures, and managing debt and creditors in these uncertain times.
Abiding by Workplace Laws
Several businesses have been forced to stand down most of their staff or shut down their workplace entirely for the sake of public health and safety. But this has made workplace laws surrounding employer and employee rights confusing to say the least.
For eligible employers that have qualified for the JobKeeper Payment Scheme but are unsure about your entitlements and obligations as an employer, the Fair Work Commission has released a guide on managing disputes.
However, if you’re a business that doesn’t qualify for the government subsidy, and you’ve been facing complex decisions such as:
- Standing down employees without pay;
- Reducing staffing costs;
- Making redundancies;
- Issuing new employment contracts; and
- Subsidising leave payments;
Then you need to exercise caution before you make any final decisions. Enforcing hasty business decisions in order to protect your business now could be the subject of litigation down the line. It’s essential to seek professional, legal advice to ensure your business operations are lawful and protecting everyone’s best interests.
Starting New Business Ventures
While it’s important to remain optimistic during hard times, now might not be an ideal time to start a new business venture or purchase a franchise. Why? There can be several drawbacks with starting your own business under ordinary circumstances including:
- High start-up costs;
- Long hours;
- High stress & responsibility;
- Unsteady revenue; and
- Great financial risk.
Not to mention the current disruptions to supply chains across Australia and the world, as well as an unpredictable economy. So instead you should consider getting all your potential business plans in order first before locking anything in. This can help you position yourself for the best possible chance of success. If you need general business advice on commercial leases (for property or equipment), franchise agreements, or contractor & employment agreements, one of the most efficient ways to assure you’re covering the necessities is by consulting an expert in business and employment law.
Managing Debt & Creditors
Whether you’re a sole trader or small business, if you’re struggling at the moment with debt amid the chaos of COVID-19, then you’re certainly not alone. While resolving debt can be one of the most stressful aspects to deal with in life, there are several ways you can manage and reduce debt over time by:
- Assessing your budgets – Take a closer look at your business’s budgets and see where your money is going to establish how you can put it to better use.
- Reworking & cutting down on costs – After you’ve identified your income versus your daily, monthly and annual costs, you can start to rework your budget and see where you can cut down on costs.
- Negotiating with creditors – Speak with creditors directly to fashion a mutually beneficial repayment agreement through a formal extension, renewal or changing an existing agreement.
- Prioritising your debt – Identify what you can afford to pay now, what you can pay later and where you need to meet in the middle.
- Contacting your bank – Talk to your bank about applying for financial hardship and what you might need to outline your business’s current financial situation.
There are also some online government resources to help you handle business debt including the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) and Support for Businesses in Australia.
At Le Brun & Associates, we can offer referrals to accountants and financial advisors alongside our Business & Employment services. As experts in business and employment law, we can offer advice and support on a range of workplace legal matters including employee leave and entitlements, business loans, debt recovery and lots more.
If you’re a business owner or an employee who is in need of urgent legal advice as a result of COVID-19, we offer a FREE one-hour initial consultation (normally only the first 30 minutes free). Contact us today.