What is an essential Business? 

An essential business can be classified as any business in the health sector – including hospitals, doctor practices, pharmacies, chiropractors and physiotherapists. 

Essential businesses also currently include parts of the hospitality industry, including restaurants and cafes (however strict takeaway only rules apply), and shopping centres.

Skilled trade services for residential are still available, including electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Although many trades have had to close where their primary work was in pubs, clubs, restaurants or RSLs. 

Essentially, businesses can stay open where they are critical to health, school, trades and some retail where:

  • Social or physical distancing can occur
  • The total number of people within an indoor or outdoor space can be managed
  • Good hygiene practices and suitable rubbish bins, with frequent cleaning and waste disposal, occur.

It is important to note that the classification of either essential or non-essential will continually change as the situation develops. For the full current situation as at 25 March, 2020 visit here.

What is a non-essental business? 

It is important to note that the classification of either essential or non-essential will continually change as the situation develops. For the full current situation, please visit our What are non-essential services? page.

The Federal Government has announced further social distancing measures to protect the community from the spread of Coronavirus. Restrictions have been placed on a number of non-essential services.


  • gyms, yoga studios, pilates studios, wellness centres and indoor sporting venues, including pools
  • cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, nightclubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues)
  • beauty, nail, waxing and tanning salons
  • spas, massage and tattoo parlours
  • galleries, libraries, community centres, youth centres and RSLs
  • auction houses, auction rooms, open houses and inspections
  • amusement parks, arcades and play centres, indoor and outdoor
  • places of worship


  • cafes and restaurants, restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery only 
  • food courts and halls in shopping centres, restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery only
  • hairdressers and barbers, strict limitations apply
  • personal trainers, restricted to a maximum of 2 people 
  • hotels, room and accommodation only, all other services (e.g. bars and restaurants) to close  
  • private house inspections with pre-booked appointments
  • individual states will address restrictions places on outdoor food markets 
  • funerals – states and territories can provide exemptions in relation to attendance and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies.
  • weddings with a maximum attendance of no more than 5 people and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies


  • supermarkets, including convenience stores
  • pharmacies
  • banks
  • petrol stations
  • freight and logistics
  • shopping centres will remain open (retail premises will need to restrict the number of people in the store at the one time)

For further information on Government restrictions, click here.

How can I overcome the disruption to my supply chain? 
There has never been a greater test put on manufacturing and supply chains around the world than today. It shows an urgent need and push for better agility, accessibility, and digitisation in the supply chain and manufacturing operations. Here are five tips on how to overcome this disruption to get your business up and running as smoothly as possible. Click here to read more... 

Should I temporarily shut down part or all of my business? 

Where an employee or group of employees cannot be usefully employed for a period because of a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible, then you may ‘stand down’ that employee or group of employees for that period without pay. This is usually seen as a last resort. Employers usually exhaust employees taking available paid leave such as annual leave before considering standing down without pay and as with many other COVID-19 related decisions you should consider balancing affordability, culture and engagement with the law before deciding what to do. 

Australian Business Lawyers & Advisers (ABLA) has prepared this update on what to think about when considering temporarily shutting down a business. Click here to read more................ 

Will there be any disruption to my energy supply? 

No, the big three energy suppliers (AGL, Energy Australia and Origin) are currently operating business as usual with fully-staffed call centres. There are no reports of disruption. 

What if I can't pay my businesses energy bill due to Coronavirus and the associated economic downturn? 
Most retailers will offer some form of Financial Hardship Support that can involve deferred billing and partial payment plans. We advise you to contact your supplier to discuss alternative payment options. 
Some retailers (Red Energy and Lumo Energy) have committed to “not foreclose on anyone, particularly small business” concerned about their ability to pay energy bills. 

Are telecommunications providers putting in any measures to help manage an increase in demand? 
Telecommunications providers are looking at all measures available to improve access in a mass work from home/ self-isolation scenario. A number of providers have already granted their customers extra data for no cost. 
NBN Co has also announced they will limit non-essential maintenance to minimise scheduled, planned outages in the weeks ahead to maintain network availability as much as possible. 
More measures are likely to be announced in the coming days. We will continue to update this page as information becomes available. 

Will my businesses water supply be affected? 

Water supplies are unaffected by Coronavirus. Although, keep in mind that water restrictions are still in force in many drought-affected communities across the country.

Can landlords restrict or close trade on the premises? 

Landlords may not have any explicit obligations under their lease(s) or at law to take appropriate measures to prevent or contain COVID-19 in their premises or to provide additional services, such as cleaning. They may, however (and probably do) owe a duty of care to notify tenants when they become aware of a confirmed case within their building and/or of any reported cases of confirmed infected persons who may have been in occupation of, or visiting, their building.

Many leases contain provisions which allow landlords (acting reasonably) to close their buildings, individual premises and/or common areas in the event of an emergency, either temporarily or for the duration of the emergency.  

A confirmed COVID-19 case would probably, in the current circumstances, constitute an emergency. It could then be considered reasonable for a landlord to close the building for so long as it takes to deep clean and thoroughly disinfect the premises. 

What can landlords do if a tenant elects or is directed to restrict trade? 

Given the unforeseen nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, leases do not generally contain provisions which deal with events of this type and lease obligations will apply regardless of any external circumstances.  

Pending any direction provided by Federal or State Governments on this matter, landlords and tenants will need to engage openly and honestly with one another to try to reach mutually agreeable (and hopefully temporary) outcomes.

How does this impact your rental income? 

A tenant’s capacity to pay rent, outgoings and other amounts payable under a lease during these times may be limited and, in some cases, non-existent. 

Whilst landlords are of course facing their own pressures, it is probably advisable that they, so far as they are able, adopt a reasonable approach which may be commercially preferable to terminating a lease and ending up with empty premises.

In more ‘normal’ circumstances, a tenant does not become a ‘bad tenant’ overnight. If, for example, under the new COVID-19 restrictions a tenant is forced to close, or is limited in what it can sell, this is bound to impact upon its ability to make payments under the lease through no fault of its own.  

If the landlord can accommodate temporary ‘respite’ arrangements with its tenants, such as rent holidays or rent abatement, and the tenant is able to weather the COVID-19 storm, this is beneficial to both parties in reinforcing a good commercial relationship between them. 

At the same time ensuring the landlord retains tenants in place, who will recommence rental and other payments in full once we reach calmer waters. 

The alternative is for a landlord to strictly enforce its lease and to terminate and re-enter the premises in the event of non-payment of rent, outgoings, etc.

This risks not only causing damage to its reputation as a landlord given the current situation, but also being left with empty premises which it is unable to rent for the foreseeable future.

An open and honest dialogue is the best way forward for both landlords and tenants.

Source: Business Australia 

It is important to note this information does not represent legal advice and you should seek specific legal advice for your circumstances. 

This article is intended to help you understand your options and decide what is right as a commercial landlord. If you need legal advice on the specific issues facing your business as a result of COVID-19, we recommended contacting Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors.

6:54pm 29 March 2020 - PM addresses nation: Scott Morrison asks landlords and tenants, both residential and commercial, to work together as the government work through the next phase of economic support. Public gatherings is now limited to 2 people. Click here for more information.

9:48pm 24 March 2020 - Australia moves into Stage 2: The Federal government announced a further crackdown on social gathering, and has expanded the shutdown of nonessential services

9:30pm 22 March 2020 – PM shuts down of 'non-essential' services: Pubs, Clubs and Casinos will be shut down from midday 23rd March. Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only. Schools will remain open. Click here to read the full media statement

Updated Restrictions 

Friday 03 April 2020 - The latest advice is that an essential business, activity or undertaking
 means a business, activity or undertaking that is not prohibited by the Non-essential business, activity and undertaking Closure Direction (No.) or another Public Health Direction. 

The Chief Health Officer’s Direction on non-essential business, activity and undertaking closure identifies a number of businesses or activities that must cease operations accordingly.  

Businesses or activities not identified in this order can continue operations provided appropriate social distancing measures are adopted.  

Please note that these orders may change in the future as the response to COVID-19 escalates.  
For a full list of the Chief Health Officer’s lastest directions please visit click here

Queensland Borders Closed

25 March 2020 -
To slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Queensland Government is implementing restricted entry to QueesnlAnd from 12:01am on Thursday 26th March 2020, to find out more click here

  Queensland border restrictions fact sheet 

7:14am 30 March 2020 – NSW Government to start enforcing tougher Coronavirus restrictions: The introduction of legislation to reduce spread will come into place from midnight today. Read more.

Restricted Entry

10:44am 23 March 2020 – The SA Government has restricted entry into South Australia with exemptions for “essential travel to maintain health, the food supply chain, and the state’s economic needs”. To find out what this means for your business, click here.

8:59am 30 March 2020 – Victoria moves to stage three Coronavirus restrictions: Victorians face on-the-spot fines of more than $1,600 if they breach Coronavirus restrictions that limit gatherings to just two people. Click here for further details.

WA Border Closure

Strict border controls are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 in WA. 

You will no longer be able to enter Western Australia after 11.59pm, on Sunday, 5 April 2020 unless an exemption has been granted. 

Anyone who thinks they meet the criteria outlined in the ‘Quarantine (Closing the Border) Directions’ may apply for an exemption. To find out more click here

9:05pm 5 April 2020 - WA Declaration of State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency. This includes border restrictions. 

11:07pm 18 March 2020 - WA Government encourages people to still go out and support their local businesses despite some of Perth’s largest bars and nightclubs closing due to Covid-19. Find out more here.

11:19am 19 March 2020 - TAS Government introduces state of emergency with non-essential travel being ruled out, as tourism Tasmania encourages businesses to familiarise themselves with what assistance is available. Read more to find out how this impacts you.

National trading restrictions in place


NT Borders Closed

7:51am 23 March 2020 – The NT Government’s new regulations impose tougher measures on those arriving in the NT from interstate or overseas. To find out what this means for businesses, click here.