A voice for franchising and small business in unprecedented times | Business Franchise Australia

A voice for franchising and small business in unprecedented times

Mary Aldred | Franchise Council of Australia

A lot has changed over the past months and our businesses and community have had to face the massive challenges created by restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

For the FCA, it has meant stepping up our advocacy and activity to represent members’ interests and concerns to government while delivering timely information, business advice and practical support to help meet the trading and workplace challenges.

The response from our members has been terrific, including more than a hundred emails and messages of thanks and congratulations, as well as significant positive feedback from government and media.

We have taken a strong public stance on the key issues which have impacted on the sustainability of franchising and small business, and the wellbeing of owners, managers and staff.

Some of the key platforms have been:

  • The need for rental relief and government intervention as some landlords refused to negotiate despite the plight of their tenants, especially in retailing;
  • The need for tangible government support for businesses to help maintain staff and supplement their income as trading revenue evaporated;
  • Assisting with expert advice on managing staff working from home, including maintaining their commitment, morale and mental health; and
  • Calling on the big food delivery networks experiencing a huge lift in volumes to help the struggling food retail and hospitality groups rather than profiteer.
  • Currently making strong representations to the Federal Government on the issue of redefining casual workers, and we are hopeful of an improved result.

The definition of casual workers

IR is at crunch point, and last week’s court decision to redefine casual workers means we can’t put this conversation off any longer. There are thousands of small businesses and hundreds of thousands of casual workers this decision is going to hurt, if left unanswered.

Casual workers are paid a higher base wage, trading off sick leave and annual leave permanent workers receive for a lower base wage.  Putting casual workers on the same leave loadings as permanent workers will make it simply untenable for many businesses to keep them employed. Businesses will hit the wall, and employees will ultimately lose out. 

The FCA is hopeful of an improved outcome as a result of its strong representations to the Federal Government on this issue.

Calling for food delivery platforms to cut fees

Most of Australia’s 90,000-plus individual franchised outlets are small businesses employing 598,500 Australians and many are in the food and hospitality sector, so when they struggle, there’s massive impact on the national economy.

The FCA argued that unless the food delivery platforms reduced commissions to help sustain restaurants and food franchises, there was a risk that many would not be able to continue operation, with the threat of further major job losses.

Relief for commercial tenants

The FCA also welcomed the ACCC decision to allow tenants and landlords to get together and collectively negotiate outcomes that optimise businesses’ ability to meet rental obligations will support their ongoing sustainability as a result of COVID-19 trading impacts.

The decision recognised the urgency for retailers and landlords to collectively negotiate rent relief was an excellent outcome following a joint application to the ACCC by the FCA with the National Retail Association, Australian Hotels Association and the Pharmacy Guild.

Looking to the future

Small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19 and although restrictions are starting to be eased, the impacts on individual businesses and the economy nationally will be felt for some time.

The FCA is continuing to work closely with government and other industry peak bodies to ensure that the voice of franchising and small business is heard by government as we head down the path to economic recovery.