Eased restrictions will provide little relief to small and medium businesses still struggling with overly complex and often unclear COVID-19 workplace rules, which have also been inconsistently applied across the States, according to Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace advisory firm for SMEs.
Employsure, which advises more than 27,000 SMEs in Australia including cafes, hair salons, retailers and tradies, says many small businesses who could now re-open are not because they aren’t sure how to apply new restrictions related to COVID-19. Over the past month, Employsure’s Advice has received 21,278 calls from employers. Of those 20% have been related to JobKeeper, while 77% relate to employee entitlements during the lockdown, indicating a consistent struggle facing small businesses.
Employsure, Founder & Managing Director, Ed Mallett, said, “SMEs account for 35% of Australia’s gross domestic product and employ 44% of the workforce so this cohort is a hugely important contributor to the economy.
“While the Government has done a remarkable job of navigating Australia through the crisis there have unfortunately been unintended consequences of unclear and inconsistent rules which have disproportionately detrimentally impacted SMEs.
“Many businesses initially closed because they were not sure how to operate during lockdown or whether doing so would be viable. Others are now saying that they are going to postpone re-opening as the rules and permissions are so unclear.
“State based differences are at the heart of the confusion, with variances seemingly illogical. There is also a growing narrative about being liable for any Covid-19 outbreaks, as well as a fear that re-opening will result in the loss of the JobKeeper subsidy. Businesses are on their knees already, they need help getting up, not more red tape.
“Business owners are confused about the real, everyday scenarios that they face in their workplaces. We’re getting questions like: can I have two employees in a car? What happens if my employee injures themselves while working from home? What if they refuse to catch public transport to the office? I have a vulnerable person in my workforce, how do I adequately protect them, and my business?
“These are very real and everyday challenges for small businesses. While JobKeeper is a great program to help pay staff wages, it isn’t the silver bullet for the myriad of other challenges business owners are still facing.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Employsure has seen a 100% increase in calls from SMEs grappling with workplace challenges and the complications of rolling out the JobKeeper package. Demand is so high for salient information that Employsure is also offering a free daily livestreaming service on its Facebook page which attracts an audience of approximately 6,000 small business owners per day.
“We’re expecting another spike in the number of calls from business owners as restrictions are eased and they try to understand if and how they can reopen under new rules, as they attempt to get Workplace Ready,” said Mr Mallett.
Employsure has built a Resource Hub, which is free to all business owners, containing workplace policies, communications, checklists and FAQs for COVID-19. The site receives 20,000 visitors per day on average.