17 February 2020

Business Chamber says fires will affect region's economy, offers support for business owners

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Dr Michael Shaper says Canberra region businesses will need support as the economic impact of the fire disaster is felt. Photo: File.

“Our region has been devastated by these fires and it’s bound to have an impact on business and our economy as a whole.

“We’re not sure what the level of impact will be, but we know it’s there and we need to be prepared for the effect on the territory economy as a whole as well as individual businesses”, Canberra Business Chamber CEO Dr Michael Schaper said this week.

The Chamber believes that businesses across the Territory will need information and support about the bushfire disaster’s immediate and longer-term consequences for the Territory and regional economy over the next months and into the future.

“Apart from the obvious that this is unprecedented for Canberra and regional businesses in general, there are a couple of sectors that are especially affected. They include seasonal businesses like tourism, businesses like restaurants, catering and food in general, especially where it involves people sitting outside”, Dr Schaper said.

“The third is the construction sector which is right in the headlights with worker safety. Then there are consequential flows right across the board from a slowdown in consumer activity locally and from regional areas because people are not shopping”

Dr Schaper said that the Chamber sends its deepest condolences to all who have been affected by the bushfire crisis. If your business is in an impacted area, the Chamber is able to offer its members desk space to work from, free of charge. Call on 02 6247 4199 to arrange.

If any members are able to offer support for fellow members, please contact the Chamber and they will help facilitate the assistance.

The Chamber has also compiled a factsheet of answers to a list of questions you may be asking in relation to your business, including:

Q: What are my obligations as an employer during this period?
A: Employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

Q: Can employees access personal/carer’s leave during this time?
A: Yes.

Q: I don’t have any safe, alternative work for my staff to do/my business cannot operate during these conditions. What do I do?
A: An employer may stand down an employee during a period in which the employee cannot usefully be employed in a case where the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible.

Q: Do I need to pay my staff during this time?
A: In most cases, the right thing to do is to keep paying your staff, however, there is no legal obligation to pay staff during periods where they cannot be gainfully employed AND the circumstances are outside the employer’s control.

Q: Do I have to give customers a refund if I have to cancel an event?
A: It depends, according to consumer law.

There’s further information available regarding all these questions and more on the Chamber’s website.

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