Business guide to Coronavirus

How to keep your sole business operating during COVID-19

Sole traders and other businesses operating with no employees are not alone in the current challenges presented by COVID-19. They are struggling to maintain their business amid many temporarily closing or are being impacted by restricted operations in some states.

Sole traders and other non-employing businesses operate across multiple professions, ranging from professional to trades services, beauty services, health care and more. They may operate from a variety of locations including their home, a shared premise or a shop front.  

Regardless, all sole traders need to follow the government health guidelines themselves and assess and address health hazards in conducting their business.

Staying healthy as a sole trader

Every individual must take reasonable care for their own health, including: 

  • practising good personal hygiene, including good hand and respiratory hygiene
  • staying home (and not accepting clients if you operate out of home) if unwell – even if any of the following symptoms are mild:
    • fever
    • dry cough
    • sore throat
    • fatigue
    • shortness of breath
    • headaches
    • aches and pains
    • fatigue
  • seeking immediate medical assistance if sick.

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How to maintain your business safely?

Ultimately, every business owner must take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of others, in this case mainly customers, suppliers or anyone else interacting with the business. 

The type of business in operation – such as store front, office environments or customer’s home environments – will impact the types of hazards and mitigation plans necessary to maintain the business safely.

Sole traders, in line with government health guidelines, must: 

  • Reinforce and support customer’s good personal hygiene, including good hand and respiratory hygiene, ensuring soap and/or hand sanitiser is readily available. 
  • Identify and assess the likely risks in how the business operates and how the work is performed. For example, are customers more than 1.5 metres away from each other and do the work activities meet social distancing requirements?
  • Reduce non-essential face-to-face meetings and gatherings.
  • Continually evaluate the safe practices in place are effective and in line with government health guidelines. 
  • Update and communicate any changes as necessary.

Other options to consider implementing, dependent on the type of business and environment include: 

  • Promoting and leveraging the use of virtual communication channels, like phone, video conferencing and webinars.
  • Talk to neighbouring businesses about what you are doing to manage risk, as well as what they are doing.
  • Increasing cleaning and disinfecting of high touch surfaces – particularly in shop fronts or office premises – and ensuring infection control procedures are implemented for personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Communicate and reassure customers of the steps your business is taking to ensure safe practices.
  • Call ahead of appointments to verify the customer’s health condition as well as anyone else in that environment, particularly for trades people or other professions entering customers’ homes that may have other people living with them. 
  • Expert advice may be required for high risk work environments or tasks

Example: the chiropractic industry

Tina Rankovic, CEO Chiropractic Australia said: “just like the broader community, no group is immune, many are sole traders. Delivering chiropractic treatment has to be hands on, which is entirely inconsistent with the messaging to maintain 1.5 metre while social distancing. 

“They can talk to a patient across a desk but there is typically a treatment involved. They’re doing all of the things that are being broadly recommended, enhanced use of sanitisers in the reception room, changing linen and disinfecting couches.”

In addition, it is ambiguous whether a chiropractor is essential or a non-essential business. Chiropractic Australia are doing their “best to support members with timely up to date communications” and “supportive with health care messages, resources and links to general infection control, hand washing and a Department of Health program which is available for professional recognition.”

The bottom line is all sole traders need to maintain their own health and safety as well as their customers and continually assess and address coronavirus health risks in line with the government health guidelines.

Business Australia is on hand with a range of resources to help sole traders and non-employing businesses navigate this difficult time, with practical advice and information to help businesses develop strategies to maintain and sustain. Visit our resource hub to find out more.

Siobhann Provost

Senior Writer, Business Australia

Siobhann has over 18 years human resources business partnering experience in large organisations. She more recently established and led a people advice team of senior workplace advisors before moving into content writing.