How to implement social distancing in the workplace

Posted on 27 March '20, under people.

With COVID-19 threatening the health and safety of all communities around the world, it is now more important than ever to practise social distancing in the workplace. Social distancing includes ways to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases and as the name implies, lessens the amount of contact between you and other people.

It is important to apply social distancing wherever possible within your workplace to minimise the risks of person-to-person infection and fulfil the responsibility you have to the safety and health of your colleagues and clients.

In the context of a workplace, social distancing means avoiding direct contact with your colleagues through a number of effective methods, including:

  • Staying at home if you feel unwell or are sick
  • Implementing work-from-home measures wherever possible
  • Dividing in-office work hours between employees to reduce the number of people in an indoor space at any given time
  • Stopping handshaking as a greeting – emerging alternatives include the “elbow bump” or a pat on the back
  • Moving office meetings to online video or phone calls
  • Limiting food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
  • Having employees take lunch at their desk rather than in a communal lunchroom
  • Cancelling non-essential business travels
  • Promoting good hygiene practice such as coughing/sneezing into elbows
  • Providing disinfectants and hand sanitisers for all staff to use during working hours
  • Opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for better ventilation

As COVID-19 grows in severity, consider how you can enforce any of the above social distancing measures in your workplace and how you can encourage others to do the same.

Government increases cash flow support for businesses

Posted on 27 March '20, under business.

The Australian Government has increased support for businesses to manage cash flow challenges under the ongoing COVID-19 circumstances.

The Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure announced on 12 March 2020 will be increased to provide up to $100,000 for eligible small and medium-sized businesses. To be eligible employers must have been established prior to 12 March 2020 and have an aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million and employ workers.

The measure will provide employers with a payment equal to 100% of the tax withheld from wages and salaries. This is a rise from the original 50%, with maximum payments being increased from $25,000 to $50,000 and minimum payments being increased from $2,000 to $10,000.

Employers will receive payments from 28 April 2020 from the ATO as automatic credit in the activity statement system upon lodging eligible upcoming activity statements.

Eligible businesses will be provided with an additional payment during July – October 2020. The payment will be equal to the total amount received under the Boosting Cash Flow for Businesses scheme. For monthly and quarterly activity statement lodgers, these payments will be provided as automatic credit in the activity statement system for each lodgement up until October 2020.

The Government has also introduced the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme to support the flow of credit for small and medium enterprises (SME) by providing a guarantee of 50% to participating SME lenders for new unsecured loans that will be used for working capital. To be eligible, SMEs will have a turnover of up to $50 million and the loans must comply with the following terms:

  • The loan is a maximum of $250,000 per borrower.
  • The loans will be up to three years, with an initial six month repayment holiday.
  • The loans will be in the form of unsecured finance.

The SME Guarantee Scheme will still require businesses to repay these loans and approval is subject to regular lending requirements. The Scheme will commence by early April 2020 and be available until 30 September 2020.

COVID-19: cybersecurity considerations when working from home

Posted on 18 March '20, under web.

With COVID-19 motivating many businesses to have employees work from home, the change may be difficult for some teams, especially if they haven’t worked remotely before. The focus is often on your team’s productivity, communication, equipment and ability, however, cybersecurity is a crucial element that should not be overlooked.

Most home networks are not secure. Employees working from home may unintentionally put business assets at risk when they access work-related files on their personal devices and through personal wifi connections. Employers should inform workers that their personal devices probably don’t have the security systems that workplace devices have in place, such as anti-virus software, secure network connections and automatic online backup systems. They should, therefore, avoid downloading business materials onto their personal devices, hard drives, desktops or their own cloud system.

Here are some measures you can consider to strengthen your cybersecurity:

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN).
  • Make sure home routers are secured by changing passwords, installing firmware updates, restricting inbound and outbound traffic, using a high level of encryption and switching off WPS.
  • Don’t use public wifi, such as libraries or shopping centres.
  • Equip employees with up to date security software and manufacturer software updates.
  • Setting up multi-factor authentication.
  • Prohibit employees from working in public spaces where others can see their screen.
  • Use encrypted communications.
  • Backup data regularly.

What to consider before taking out a business bank loan

Posted on 18 March '20, under money.

Many businesses, whether they are only just starting up or have been in the market for a number of years, will need a bank loan at one time or another. However, before you apply for a bank loan, it is important to think things through to ensure that you know if you should get one, if you are getting it at the right time and how you can make the most out of a loan.

Here are some questions business owners should ask themselves before beginning their bank loan application:

How likely is it that I qualify for the loan?
If you believe that your business won’t qualify for a bank loan, then you will only hurt your credit rating if you apply for a loan you won’t get. Being rejected for a loan can also make it more difficult for a business to borrow in the future.

Will the loan help the business grow?
Instead of using the loan for aspects like routine operating expenses that don’t generate much revenue, owners should consider putting the borrowed money into parts of the business that will generate more revenue and help reduce future borrowing needs.

How much do I need?
Before making requests of the bank, try to make an accurate estimate of how much cash you’ll really need. You can do this by creating a cash flow forecast with projections of your monthly income and expenses.

Are my personal finances in order?
Until a business reaches a substantial size, many banks will rely heavily on the owner’s personal financial statements and credit scores to determine the business’s creditworthiness. This may involve bankers looking at your personal information like student loans, personal credit card debt and mortgage payments.

Do I have adequate documentation for the loan?
When applying for a business loan, you will need a lot of documentation. Requesting a loan when an owner is not fully prepared makes the business look unprofessional.

Do I have adequate cash flow to repay the loan?
When a business owner applies for a loan, their banker will require the owner’s estimated financial projections for the business. It is important for owners to include their debt repayment plan in those projections.

Business loan vs business credit card

Posted on 18 March '20, under business.

Business loans and business credit cards are the most popular financing options, but there are key differences between the two that you should consider to help you make the right choice for your business.

Business loan
A business loan is a lump sum of money that you borrow. They can be a good option for your business if you require funding for a larger one-off purchase, such as buying new equipment or machinery, real estate, business acquisition, capital investment or refinancing existing debts.

Business loans typically range from $5,000 to $50,000 and can be paid as a lump sum or through multiple set payments. Depending on your bank, you can generally make repayments in monthly or quarterly instalments that are tailored to you and your cash flow.

To get your business loan approved, there is usually a strict approval process you must pass, which can include details such as your business’s financial position and a financial spending plan.

In terms of extra costs, a business loan generally comes with signup fees and late repayment fees. The interest rate for a loan is often lower than a credit card and can be a monthly or annual rate, which typically ranges between 3-10% p.a for secured loans.

Business credit card:
A business credit card is a suitable option if you want funds for short-term needs. Business credit cards are also generally more flexible than a business loan. They usually allow for a limit of up to $50,000 and are often used for working capital, emergency money and smaller ongoing expenses.

In terms of fees, business credit cards typically have a higher interest rate than personal credit cards, however, you only need to pay interest on each month’s expenses. The interest rates are higher than a business loan and can vary between 10-20% p.a. Fees such as annual fees and late repayment fees will apply to business credit cards.

A business credit card also comes with bonus features, such as bonus points for spending, free deliveries, frequent flyer points, complimentary insurance and a reputable company credit score with good use.

Business credit cards can be beneficial in the sense that it offers flexible funding and continuously available money, however business owners should be confident that they will be able to manage the minimum monthly repayments to avoid overdue fees.

Investing in shares vs property in SMSFs

Posted on 18 March '20, under super.

Shares and property are two popular investment options for those with a self-managed super fund (SMSF). However, they both have very different attributes and choosing the one that will achieve the best outcome for an SMSF depends on your personal goals and situation.

While the price of shares can vary drastically, property is a relatively stable asset, making it appealing to those who want more security and predictability. Property prices are also negotiable unlike shares, and you can generally borrow money at a lower rate for property purchases.

It may seem hard to find the perfect investment property, but older and undercapitalised properties can be renovated for profit. However, returns from property rentals can be dented due to factors such as land tax, utilities and rates, maintenance and tenancy vacancies.

Shares are more dynamic and volatile than property. One advantage is the accessibility of investing in shares, as you can enter the share market with a few thousand dollars – much less than what you need to invest in a property.

Maintaining a portfolio of quality shares that pay tax-effective dividends may be a good way to fund retirement. With the right portfolio allocation, shares also have the potential to provide a better, stronger income than property rentals, as long as that income is sustainable and increasing.

Property can generally be used as a wealth-creation tool, while shares can create a reliable retirement income. For those who can afford to put more money into investments, it may be a good idea to consider investing and diversifying in both. If you’re unsure about which investment option is right for you, seeking financial advice may be the best option.

CGT exemptions have been scrapped. What does that mean for you?

Posted on 18 March '20, under tax.

Are you an Australian living or working overseas with a family home in Australia? Or you know someone who is? If so, be sure to consider the impacts of the capital gains tax (CGT) on you from 30 June 2020.

Since 1985, the exemption of Australian expatriates from the CGT tax has been available for homes which have never been rented out for more than six years at a time. However, following the scrapping of the CGT exemption under the A$581m federal government plan, Australians working overseas will have to sell their property before the 30th of June 2020 to avoid CGT and still be eligible for CGT main residence exemption.

With the removal of CGT exemption past June 2020, Australian ex-pats who own property in Australia will be required to pay CGT dating all the way back to when they first bought the property. That is, if an ex-pat was to have bought their property in 1985, they would have to pay an accumulation of their tax owing in CGT from 1985 to 2020. The only way to avoid such hefty tax payments would be to sell your property on or before the 30th of June or to re-establish Australian residency before selling the property.

Understandably, the new change will impose a sizable cost on Australian ex-pats and has come as a result of the influx of speculative foreign investors as well.

As every situation is unique, taxation planning customised to every taxpayer’s specific circumstances are advised. In order to avoid the accumulated CGT payments, Australian expats need to be aware of their financial standings and be ready to make a quick decision regarding the selling or keeping of their Australian property.

Seeking out tax advice from knowledgeable tax specialists, employing organised bookkeeping services and detailed financial statements written up by accountants in preparation for making such an important decision regarding your Australian property is heavily recommended to ensure the new CGT laws don’t cause you financial problems.

All about diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Posted on 28 February '20, under people.

Diversity and Inclusion is a growing concept that many businesses – from SMEs to MNCs – all around the world are grappling to understand and implement into their workplace. But what exactly does D&I entail and why is it becoming so important for businesses and employees?

Social inequality has long been a complex global problem and to this day, stakeholders from individuals to governments and businesses are working towards resolving the unfair distribution of opportunities due to individual differences. In the business world, this means accepting, hiring and including employees of all ethnicities, cultures, sexualities and with physical or mental disabilities.

Harmonious workplace culture has always been an integral aspect to business success and D&I is evolving into a necessary addition to all internal workplace procedures. In Australia, D&I mostly consists of diverse cultural recognition and free expression of sexuality, through employee programs and services. While difficult to implement and even harder to enforce, D&I has become vital to businesses and employees because of a couple of reasons:

  • Employee Engagement:
    A company which stands for cultural, ethnical, sexual and more types of diversity and protects the freedoms and social rights of its employees is bound to earn the favour of its workers. Not only do employees feel safe to express themselves at work, but they also learn to accept the different circumstances of their peers.
  • Company Confidence:
    With happy employees comes a happy and successful business. With workers feeling safe and appreciated at their workplace, productivity naturally increases and workflow also becomes smoother. Business operations automatically become more efficient and profitable, adding positively to the company’s image and confidence.
  • Attracting Potential Talent:
    Similar to employee engagement, a harmonious and safe workplace will attract potential employees and talents. For example, if a company was to have a disability-inclusive program for its employees, disabled and capable talents are more likely to reach out and work with the business.

Currently, D&I is still a relatively new concept to businesses and it has been difficult for businesses to implement D&I strategies effectively considering there are not many earlier examples to follow. However, it is never too late to learn more about D&I and consider implementing the idea into your workplace culture.

Tips for incorporating career mentoring into your business

Posted on 28 February '20, under business.

A career mentorship program involves partnerships between employees to develop professional skills and gain industry knowledge. Due to their requirement for a collaborative effort, career mentoring programs are often seen as powerful development tools for cultivating both leaders and employees within a business.

Whether you are a small business owner or a multinational corporate leader, the implementation of a mentorship program will always be profitable for businesses as not only does it create a harmonious workplace culture, it also helps to attract and retain employees.

As straight-forward as career mentoring sounds, there are a few key tips to keep in mind when building a mentorship program for your business:

Make sure your mentoring program is clearly defined:
To create a successful mentoring program, both mentors and mentees should have a concise understanding of their roles and what they would like to gain from the mentorship. By succinctly outlining the purpose of the mentoring program, mentors and mentees are more likely to keep organised and communicate respectfully with the guarantee of mutual rewards.

There should also be short-term and long-term goals established for all parties involved, including the business. These goals could be the narrowing of particular skill gaps or creating a more open workplace culture. By having these goals set in stone, both mentors and mentees and have a clear direction to work towards.

Personalise the match-making process:
Often times, businesses will match a mentor and mentee together depending on their skill-set and position within the company. While on paper, this may appear to be an efficient process, but the lack of chemistry between a mentor and mentee may prove to be devastating for the workplace environment.

As a result, be sure to involve both mentors and mentees in the match-making process and take into account personality traits. You could do this by asking employees to take a personality test to ensure compatibility in career goals, personal interests and preferred communication methods.

Be involved as a third-party:
Lastly, it is the responsibility of the business to check-in on the progress of mentorship programs in order to understand how mentors and mentees can grow together and what improvements can be made to the program. Remember to always refer back to the long-term goals established and consider the feedback provided by mentors and mentees from the program.

Employer jury duty responsibilities

Posted on 28 February '20, under legal.

When an employee gets summoned for jury duty, it can put added stress on the workplace with other staff having to take on extra work. As an employer, you’ll likely want to avoid the inconvenience of releasing an employee for jury duty, however, this may prove to be difficult.

Employers must comply with the legal responsibilities outlined when dealing with an employee who has been summoned for jury duty. Employers who don’t adhere to these responsibilities can face penalties of up to $50,000.

Can you refuse to release an employee for jury duty?
As an employer, you are required to release any employee for jury duty if they have been summoned. It is an offence to act prejudicial to an employee if they have been summoned for jury duty, including threatening their employment or wages.

If your business will face significant hardship with an employee at jury service, then you may be able to request for the employee to be excused. This will require an explanation of the impact jury service will have on your business. A request must be communicated before empanelment (when the jurors have been selected), and making a request does not guarantee that your employee will be excused.

What are the employee’s rights?
When your employee is away on jury duty, this cannot be counted as any other leave other than jury duty leave. An employee’s annual leave and sick leave will be unaffected.

Employers also cannot dismiss their employees for attending jury duty. Most Australian states restrict employers from terminating an employee or detrimentally changing or threatening employment terms because an employee is on jury duty. NSW, for example, considers this a criminal offence where a company can be penalised up to $22,000 and an individual employer can be penalised $5,500 or face 12 months of imprisonment.

Employers also cannot ask an employee to work on a day they are serving as a juror in court or ask them to work additional hours to make up for the time they missed whilst on jury duty.

When an employee is serving jury duty, employers generally must pay permanent employees their usual wages for the first 10 days of service, or pay what is often referred to as ‘make-up pay’. This is the difference between the jury service payment and the employee’s base rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked.