Managing a Business Under the JobKeeper Scheme

The year so far has presented significant challenges in the way we live, work, and manage a business. Due to COVID-19, many operators have experienced a decline in trade and resulting financial loss.

This has unfortunately forced some to stand down staff, and in extreme instances to close permanently. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 2.7 million people either left employment or had their hours reduced between March and April alone.

Enter the Australian Federal Government’s JobKeeper Payment Scheme, introduced to help keep struggling businesses and their staff on their feet.

Managing a business under the Scheme can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. We are here to help with these tips to set you in the right direction.

What is the JobKeeper Payment Scheme?

The JobKeeper Payment Scheme is designed to ease the burden on employers by providing a temporary subsidy that enables businesses to pay staff.

Through this, ‘eligible employers, sole traders and other entities’ can apply to receive a payment per eligible employee each fortnight. This is paid regardless of their prior minimum fortnightly earnings.

(Post publish edit: The scheme was originally set to run until the end of September 2020 but has been extended to March 2021, for now).

Who is eligible?

Employers can find the most up to date eligibility criteria here. When the scheme first launched your business must have faced a 30% fall in turnover (for an aggregated turnover of $1 billion or less) due to COVID-19.

If you operate as a sole-trader you will need to meet alternate criteria, available here. One key is that you must meet either the ‘basic’ or ‘alternative’ turnover test.

If you are having difficulty determining your eligibility despite the information provided on the ATO website, we recommend speaking with a financial advisor or accountant. They will likely have plenty of experience by now in working with businesses who are jumping through the same hoops.

If you are confirmed as an eligible employer, you then need to determine the employees capable of receiving these payments. You will find this criteria here.

Recommendation: Maintain Communication

Running a COVID-19 aware business has been a steep learning curve for many. Managing a business under JobKeeper is yet another step in this.

Your business, like thousands around Australia, has had to move with the times and adopt new ways of operating. This might have included working from home, upping the ante with PPE and disinfection, introducing social distancing rules and updating other key work practices.

More than ever, clear, thoughtful and regular team communication is essential. Especially if you are all steering clear of the office for now.

While emailing remains a productive way to check in with your team and share business updates, face-to-face conversations will be missed. Establishing communication practices that resemble a normal workplace will make connecting with your team even more productive and more meaningful – it’s a win-win.

By this we mean video calling apps. A range of high quality apps are available today, with free and paid options. Popular choices throughout COVID-19 have been Microsoft Teams (via Office 365) and Zoom (free account), with other providers like Google Duo and Skype also available.

For business, Microsoft Teams and Zoom offer terrific functionality that professionals can appreciate, including video/voice calls, screen share and calendar integration. Have your weekly team meeting coming up? Attend virtually, so you can share your PowerPoint slides and Excel figures while presenting on camera.

Recommendation: Review and Reduce Expenses

Now is a great time to get a better handle over your expenses and implement cost cutting where possible. Areas that can be reviewed are plentiful, and for you could include everything from suppliers and service providers through to subscriptions and membership costs.

Read our article about reducing business costs in this climate. It works hand in hand with this article on managing a business under JobKeeper. You might also want to read our steps to a happier and healthier new financial year.

Recommendation: Be a Proactive Leader

The last few months has in some ways redefined leadership. Business owners and managers are charged with implementing plans to build a strong team and drive the business towards success, despite the new hurdles.

One responsibility is making tough decisions. For some employers this has included reducing staff, adjusting hours and negotiating temporary deals with suppliers – along with applying for JobKeeper Payments.

It can seem challenging to be a proactive leader during this time, especially when the wellbeing of staff and business liquidity are on the line.

According to research collected for the Harvard Business Review, there are four behaviours leaders need to nurture and instil in their team to navigate any crisis.

1.Decide with speed over precision

Read and process information without delay so you are able to act with confidence and define top line priorities e.g. WH&S and finances. Appointing decision makers from within your team can help execute your priorities quickly. It allows them to have ownership over the process. Remember to have an open mind about mistakes. The best learning often comes from a ‘test and learn’ mentality.

2.Adapt boldly

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and constantly seek information from multiple sources. In particular, from experts like the ATO and Australian Federal Government. It is important to always stay up to date on developments so you can form new action plans and rule what is non-essential at any given time. This might include certain costs and business expansion projects. In this environment, external factors change constantly – flexibility is key to transitioning smoothly.

3.Reliably deliver

Conducting performance reviews against set KPIs remains valuable in maintaining accountability and focus. Especially when you’re spending less face-to-face time with staff and customers. Regularly monitoring and reporting on KPIs is vital to keeping activity on track. If you haven’t already, plan how often these targets will be reviewed and updated. Preserving a strong leadership stance can take its toll in many ways, so it is important to maintain a healthy mental and physical diet. Encourage this for your team, also.

4.Engage for impact

Good leadership is connecting with each member of your team often and committing to consistent, open communication. This allows your team to share how they’re coping, plus it provides you the opportunity to identify team structure opportunities. For example, some individuals might shine as being capable of additional responsibility. It also shows your team you are concerned about their wellbeing.

Recommendation: Upskill In Your Downtime

While thankfully property services remain ‘essential’, you might be experiencing a downturn in workload. This could be an opportune time to involve your staff in areas of the business they have yet to be involved in, or lacked the skillset to take on.

Perhaps now is the appropriate time to invest in their next qualification, or further your own knowledge. That means training.

Rapid Training takes an online approach with its courses, plus encourages professional placement to instil practical knowledge. Check out the Certificate III in Urban Pest Management or the Pest Technician Course. Both are great options for entry-level pesties.

With winter here termites will soon become dormant (phew), allowing time to gain certification in termite management if that’s a missing piece in your business puzzle. With this certification you can then apply for a professional indemnity and general liability insurance endorsement to be covered for this activity. Our Timber Pest Manager course is the best option.

Recommendation: Speak With Your Insurer

The power of professional indemnity and public liability insurance in safeguarding a business never fades. It is there to protect you in your hour of need. Now is an ideal time to touch base with your insurer. Not only to ensure your policy lists your current business activities; it’s a chance to update your insurer about how your business is going. That way you will ensure you have the most appropriate cover for your current circumstances.