Take a look back at the biggest business news stories of the year, as we prepare to say goodbye to 2019 and move into the ‘20s.
Most entrepreneurs will say that in business, you have to focus on running your own race, and be aware of but not fixated on what your competitors are doing.
And with that in mind, it’s interesting to take a look back at what most caught the attention of Aussie business leaders over the past year.
So, here is a countdown of the 10 most-read articles of 2019 on My Business:
10. ATO outlines penalties for STP failures – July
No one likes paying the Tax Office more than they have to. So unsurprisingly, when the ATO unveiled the penalty structure it would implement following the rollout of its new Single Touch Payroll reporting system, employers across the country wanted to know exactly what they were up for, and when.
9. Employers cautioned over McDonald’s compo case – January
Of course, a story that gets published at the very beginning of a year has a long time to attract attention, giving this story a bit of an unfair advantage over those that came later on.
Nevertheless, an unusual finding involving a workers’ compensation claim at fast food giant McDonald’s was touted as having “enormous implications” for all Australian employers.
The story also elicited a number of angry comments from frustrated business leaders, questioning why employers are held to account for prohibited actions on the part of their workers.
8. RBA announces its February cash rate call – February
Interest rates are a particular interest for the SME community, given their effective double exposure: the rates they pay on business loans, as well as on the home mortgage from which equity and security, are often sourced for the business.
While February’s verdict from the Reserve Bank was fairly unremarkable in that rates remained on hold yet again, it clearly resonated for two reasons.
Firstly, the Reserve Bank board does not meet in January, meaning that February’s meeting marks the first for a calendar year and the first in two months.
But in 2019, this meeting came just a day after the release of the banking royal commission’s final report, which contained plenty of recommendations to boost compliance and ethical conduct within the finance industry, including in the lending space.
It also marked a shift in economic sentiment, which would ultimately lead to interest rate cuts being announced later in the year.
The 2019 federal election was unlike any other in recent times. An unofficial campaign lasting around six months before the poll date was actually set; a federal government writhing in self-inflicted agony having axed yet another prime minister; a resurgent opposition throwing out policies left, right and centre; and an outcome that few if any pollsters were predicting.
Yet reaction from the My Business audience to some of the more controversial policies offered up by Labor, particularly its “living wage” idea, picked the election result hands down.
The only trouble was, no one really knew what the government’s policies were, since it had kept very tight-lipped since its budget was handed down a month earlier.
That led many to seek out exactly what would be in-store when the Coalition retained power.
It’s probably fair to say there isn’t a person or business out there that has never experienced some form of tech glitch. But when that glitch hits one of the biggest payroll software companies in the country, and sends out sensitive personal information to the wrong recipients, it clearly spikes the interest of business leaders.
According to MYOB, the problem wasn’t widespread, but the business community was interested to know more about how it happened and, perhaps, whether they had been caught up in it.
OK, so this one wasn’t a news story, but rather our webcast on the introduction of Single Touch Payroll for employers with fewer than 20 staff. We lined up a panel of experts, including the ATO’s project lead for STP, to take questions from businesses about how the new system would work.
And while penalties won’t apply for smaller employers until 1 July 2020, many are still to make the transition to the new reporting system.
The first cut to Australia’s official interest rate in three years happened in June this year. But what business owners really wanted to know was how the banks and lenders were responding.
Some were left disappointed, as not all of the banks passed on the cut in full.
3. SME owner to raffle off home and business – April
One business owner tried a novel approach to selling their home and adjoining business: by way of a raffle.
Yapper Valley Pet Resort near Townsville in Far North Queensland launched a competition in April, in which entrants would buy a digital image for $55 each as their entry into the raffle, under the tag line “win a pet lover’s dream”.
That “dream” included the pet boarding business, four-bedroom family home and 110-acre property, plus $30,000 cash — valuing the total prize package at $1.52 million.
The caveat, however, was that at least 40,000 “tickets” had to be sold for the full prize to go up for grabs. Otherwise, Yapper Valley would give the winner half of the money raised, and retain the other half.
According to its website, a cash prize was subsequently given out in the latter half of the year.
2. Jail sentence for employer over workplace death – January
Any employer being given a jail sentence for breaching their duties tends to spike the interest of business owners, who are curious to know the extent of the breach, whether they may have been involved and also what conviction means for them and their own business.
But when that sentence sets a new legal precedent, that interest goes into overdrive.
That precedent came in the form of a jail sentence given to an employer for workplace safety failures that led to the death of an employee.
“We are not aware of any other person having previously received a non-suspended custodial sentence for a breach of a WHS duty provision in any Australian jurisdiction,” a law firm said at the time.
1. And the winner is... STP: Employers to say goodbye to payment summaries – March
Clearly, Single Touch Payroll (STP) struck a nerve with employers in 2019. The ATO had a tough sell for smaller businesses in particular, many of whom did not have digital payroll systems with which to transition to the new reporting standard, ahead of its rollout to employers with fewer than 20 staff from 1 July.
The fact that payment summaries would be done away with under the new system seemed to have been overlooked by the Tax Office in its communications to businesses, making this story the most-read one for My Business in 2019.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.