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Top legal issues to keep in mind if you own a small business on lockdown

From figuring out how to access the right government support, handling client cancellations and managing teams remotely, small business owners in Australia – especially those in lockdown – face a lot of challenges. stress.

If you are a small business owner, it is worth keeping in mind any legal issues that may arise for your business while dealing with all of the sudden changes that come with additional COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns.

Courtney Bowie, founder of Her Lawyer, a law firm that caters specifically to businesswomen, shared with Women’s agenda some of the top things small business owners can keep in me during this time.

Labor law issues

With business goals constantly changing as different restrictions are imposed, it can be nearly impossible to determine your next move, especially when it comes to managing employees.

Bowie says it’s important to be mindful of compliance in all aspects of running the business, especially if you are asking staff to make changes to their regular work routine, for example if you are asking them to ask to take time off or change their usual hours. It is essential to respect the Award of your employees, their existing contracts, and it is also important to make sure that you document any changes that are made.

“It’s fundamentally impossible for business owners to come up with a plan, including workforce planning, right now,” Bowie said. “The key will be to ensure compliance in every action.”

“Remember your obligations to consult. Realize that people are under immense stress and are therefore more likely than not to have overly emotional reactions to bad news.

“Don’t let that stop you from doing what you need to do to make sure your business is still there on the other side, but be prepared. “

As we navigate the pandemic, the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations and how they relate to your business and your employees is likely to resurface.

Bowie says that as an employer, you should follow the Fair Work Ombudsman website and legal developments in this space to understand your occupational health and safety obligations, and how it interferes with vaccinations.

Operating rights relating to commercial leases and operating costs

There are various forms of state aid available now to help manage rent and business operating costs, including small business grants and the New South Wales JobSaver payment. So far, no relief from the federal government, such as a reinstatement of JobKeeper, has been offered.

In New South Wales, now in its eighth week of shutdown, the state government has reinstated regulations to ensure that property owners will have to negotiate rent relief agreements with eligible tenants in financial difficulty due to public health orders. Under the code of conduct, the reduction in rents must be proportional to the decrease in the tenant’s turnover.

In Victoria, commercial landlords are required to provide relief to affected tenants, and landlords will not be able to evict tenants without a decision from the Victorian Small Business Commission.

How Can Small Business Owners Use Their Time?

During the lockdown, many small businesses had to shut down or significantly reduce their regular hours. This can mean increased downtime for many homeowners.

Bowie says personal and mental health should be the top priority during this very stressful time, and that should always be the top priority. But if you find yourself with extra time, it can be an opportunity to get creative or build momentum on a business idea.

“What we’ll probably see once we move towards the end of this thing is growing confidence,” Bowie said. “And then everyone will want to implement the lessons learned, for example, the specific Covid cancellation policies. “

What support is needed for women in small businesses?

As to how small businesses run by women can be better supported during this time, Bowie says it’s imperative the federal government reinstates the JobKeeper wage subsidy, especially in New South Wales where the lockdown is expected to continue. for the foreseeable future.

“Businesses just need more support to keep going,” Bowie said. “I don’t see how the government can justify refusing to bring JobKeeper back. The NSW support package is not going to cut it.

Small business clients could also show their support by continuing to pay their bills on time, and even early, if possible, suggests Bowie. Suppliers could support their small business partners by extending their payment terms.

“People are just trying to do their part to help others. Try to be empathetic and kind to each other in words and actions, ”Bowie said.

Women’s Agenda works with Her Lawyer to provide guides and key ideas covering some of the most common legal issues facing businesswomen. You can consult his lawyer here.

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