city lights

Contact your energy retailer to get help in COVID-19

Small business struggling with power bills as a result of COVID-19 should contact their energy provider as soon as possible to get help.

The Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Statement of Expectations 2 is calling on energy retailers to extend their support to small businesses and households until at least the end of October 2020.

AER’s message is simple; they expect retailers to offer small business or residential customers who may be in financial stress a payment plan – even if they can’t afford to pay anything right now.

Any customer who is in contact with their retailer should not be disconnected.

If you are struggling to pay your energy bill help is available. Don’t ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Contact your retailer and agree a payment plan that you feel you can afford.

Preliminary data shows that the average energy debt held by households has increased by about 18 per cent between March 2020 and July 2020. With households and businesses financially struggling, and winter bills on their way, your energy provider can provide a range of support to help manage your bills.

Through the AER Statement of Expectations the AER is asking retailers to help small business and residential customers by:

  • providing information about concessions, rebates and other support
  • offering a payment plan that’s based on their capacity to pay with a no payment window if required
  • not disconnecting anyone who is in contact with them
  • immediately reconnecting anyone who may be disconnected once they make contact and waiving any associated fees
  • not referring them to debt collection agencies for recovery actions or credit default listing.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable and the situation can turn quickly. Australians who have lost their jobs or income from their business should expect some protection when it comes to an essential service like power.

It is important though that if you can pay your bill, you do pay your bill. A payment deferral is not a waiver and the AER doesn’t want to see customers taking on unnecessary energy debts.

The AER understands, for a whole range of reasons, it can be more difficult for some customers to get in touch. Retailers should make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch and with pro-active strategies to engage with their customers.

The AER recognises many networks and retailers are providing additional assistance to customers and are reaching out to their customers and encouraging them to get help. This needs to continue, particularly through the coming months.

Source: Contact your energy retailer to get help in COVID-19. (2020). Retrieved from

JobKeeper is changing

Here’s what you need to know

Many Australian small businesses say JobKeeper has been a lifesaver in these difficult times, and Xero Small Business Insights data seems to bear that out. So it’s good to hear JobKeeper has been extended, with some notable changes. We’ve tried to capture what’s new with the wage-subsidy program below.

There are some complexities, so we recommend you see your trusted bookkeeper or accountant for the fullest picture, as well as visit the ATO’s JobKeeper extension page.

Eyes on September

If you want the JobKeeper changes summarised in 15 words, the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers has captured them nicely: “Nothing changes before end-September. Then some employers become ineligible, and some receive less.

You may remember that in your original application for JobKeeper, you had to document a one-time drop in business revenue of at least 30%. It only applied to eligible employees who were with you before 1 March 2020.

After end-September 2020, you’ll need to document an ongoing actual decline of 30% or more. And the decline must be quarterly, whereas at JobKeeper’s launch, you had more flexibility in choosing a period. It will still apply only to eligible employees who were with you before 1 March.

What does this change look like in practice?

For employers to be eligible for JobKeeper payments from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, they must have recorded an actual decline in turnover of 30% or more in both:

  • the quarter ended 30 June 2020 (compared with the same quarter in 2019)
  • the quarter ended 30 September 2020 (compared with the same quarter in 2019)

In the new year, the same pattern holds. To be eligible for JobKeeper payments from 4 January to 28 March 2021, you must have also had an actual decline in turnover of 30% or more in the quarter ending 31 December 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. You can rely on the team at Notch Above Bookkeeping to help you crunch the numbers. And note the ATO does allow for alternative tests.

Smaller subsidy

If you remain eligible for JobKeeper payments after September, you’ll find that the wage subsidy is less generous. The $1,500 flat payment per employee, per fortnight, could drop by more than half. There are no changes to employee eligibility requirements. The changes are as follows.

For eligible employees who work 20 hours or more per week:

  • $1,500 per fortnight payment continues until the fortnight ended 27 September
  • $1,200 per fortnight until 3 January 2021
  • $1,000 per fortnight until 28 March 2021

It remains to be seen whether JobKeeper will extend past March 2021.

For eligible employees who work less than 20 hours per week:

  • $1,500 per fortnight payment continues until the fortnight ended 27 September
  • $750 per fortnight until 3 January 2021
  • $650 per fortnight until 28 March 2021

Remember that as an employer, you must pay your staff before claiming the reimbursement from JobKeeper. So you’ll want to take a close look at your revenue, your payroll and determine how these changes will affect your cash flow. Again, it’s advisable to speak with your bookkeeper or BAS agent to ensure you’re factoring in everything.

From builders to pharmacies, medical clinics to dental practices, Notch Above Bookkeeping has your business payroll covered. If you have questions in relation to eligibility and reporting requirements for the JobKeeper Payment scheme call our team on 1300 015 130 for specific advice regarding your business.

Source: Xero

Returning to work after COVID19

What to consider as you bring employees back to the workplace

As lockdown eases, more people are returning to work. For many, this is a significant and potentially anxiety-inducing step. As a business leader, it’s important that everyone on your team feels comfortable about the return to work.

To help make the transition as smooth as possible, Xero has put together a guide on how to bring your team back to the workplace. As well as making the workplace physically safe, supporting the mental wellbeing of staff as they return is equally important. Here are some of our tips to help you determine the right way to open your working space.

Back to work guidance

Any back-to-work plan needs to acknowledge the profound changes to ways of working as a result of COVID-19. This is likely to have a longer term impact on how we all work, with research showing that three-quarters of employees want to continue working remotely more frequently. Any plan will need to be based on the latest government guidelines, and you’ll need to be relatively flexible. As we’ve learned, circumstances may result in government guidelines changing unexpectedly.

All plans should include a robust hygiene management protocol that identifies risks and touchpoints in your working environment. You’ll likely need to have a phased return by introducing a small percentage of the team to test any new procedures. Once you’ve assessed whether these work, you can start a more formal reopening.

Empowering and managing your team

One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is clear communication with your team. They should be kept in the loop so there are no surprises and everyone feels comfortable about what’s happening. Anonymous employee surveys are a good way to collect honest feedback, which will be crucial for a smooth transition back to work.

As changes to furlough come into effect and you start bringing staff back, it’s important these changes are recorded in your accounts. We’re continuously updating Xero Payroll with new features to support changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We’re currently working on a solution that enables you to record flexi furlough, and we’ll be in touch with more updates on this soon. In the meantime, you can find out more via our FAQs on recording furlough leave in Xero Payroll.

Supporting mental wellbeing

Supporting your team’s mental wellbeing is key for a successful return-to-work plan. Our partners at Unmind have put together a handy list:

  1. Provide certainty: Provide certainty around your company’s return-to-work plans and the role each member of staff will play. This will help reduce anxiety for them in one area of their life and allow them to make plans for the future.
  2. Manage losses of freedom: Returning to the workplace ultimately means less time to spend with loved ones and on hobbies, which is something most of us have become accustomed to during lockdown. Consider whether you can offer to retain some of that freedom in your new working structure.
  3. Capitalise on the humanity we’ve gained: Work relationships will have changed during lockdown both for better or worse. Catching glimpses of each other’s personal lives help to forge open and authentic connections. Capitalise on that by identifying new working relationship dynamics.
  4. Signpost your support systems: Normalise the fact that current circumstances will impact mental health and signpost the available support to your entire workforce so that everyone knows who they can turn to.

Tips from the Xero community: Papersmiths

Papersmiths is a design-driven stationery store with five shops, including branches in Brighton and London, and online. All of the physical stores shut when lockdown began, and Founder Sidonie Warren focussed on driving online sales – with quarter two e-commerce sales up 415% on the same period last year. She’s gradually re-opened stores and started bringing back the team using the flexi furlough scheme.

“The stores are back open, but we’re taking safety very seriously and limiting customers to four at a time. It’s helpful to have stickers on the floor and plenty of signage to remind customers to keep distance and follow any guidelines. Glass screens at till points also keep our staff and shoppers safe when interacting. While takings are down in the stores, I’m thankful we’ve managed to keep online orders up and we’ve seen a big increase in local support,” says Sidonie.

Notch Above Bookkeeping is a team of Platinum Certified Xero bookkeepers and BAS Agents. Based in Brisbane we help small business clients right across Australia prepare their BAS returns and streamline their bookkeeping processes, payroll and accounting records. Call us to find out how on 1300 015 130 today.

Related reading

Visit Xero’s dedicated site for more resources, webinars and inspirational stories to help you emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

JobKeeper 2.0

Extension of the JobKeeper payment

It was welcome news that the government has announced the JobKeeper Payment scheme will be extended by six months until 28 March 2021, doubling the length of the initial scheme.

However payments have been reduced and business eligibility will be reassessed:

  • The rate will reduce from $1,500 per fortnight to $1,200 or $750 depending on the hours eligible employees worked in February 2020
  • From 4 January 2021 it will reduce again to $1,000 or $650 per fortnight, again, depending on hours worked in February 2020
  • Turnover is retested each quarter to ensure businesses remain eligible. To be eligible for the first round, a reduction in turnover will need to be shown for the June and September quarters based on prior year.

JobKeeper 2.0 is yet to be legislated but we expect it will be passed into law in late August at which time the finer details will be known.

We will be in touch with all clients currently receiving support in respect of their JobKeeper requirements to ascertain if they continue to be eligible ensuring that they do not miss out on this important stimulus measure.

Please contact your Notch Above consultant directly if you wish to discuss how this affects your business. For further details please see this Treasury factsheet and our video on this page.

From builders to pharmacies, medical clinics to dental practices, Notch Above Bookkeeping has your business bookkeeping covered. If you have questions in relation to eligibility and reporting requirements for the JobKeeper Payment scheme, read more on the ATO’s website or call our team on 1300 015 130 for specific advice regarding your business.