The Australian Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper Payment Scheme was passed by both sides of Parliament on Wednesday 8 April 2020.
Under the JobKeeper Payment Scheme, payments will be made to eligible employers for up to 6 months for each ‘eligible employee’ who was on their records as of 1 March 2020 and continues to be engaged by that employer.
Eligible employers will receive $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee and every eligible employee must receive $1,500 per fortnight before tax.
The payments will be paid out via the current Australian Tax Office system commencing in the first week of May 2020, with payments backdated to 30 March 2020.
Eligible employers include those with:
- More than 30% reduction in their turnover compared with the same period last year – if turnover is less than $1 billion; or
- More than 50% reduction in their turnover compared with the same period last year if turnover is $1 billion or more.
Eligible employers include business that are partnerships, trusts, sole traders and companies as well as not-for-profit entities. Charities registered with ACNC will be eligible for the subsidy if they estimate their turnover has fallen (or will likely fall) by 15% or more relative to a comparable period. Businesses subject to the Major Bank Levy will be ineligible for the payment.
Eligible employees include those who are:
- Full-time and part-time employees, including any employees who have been stood down as a result of COVID-19 (however, they will need to be reinstated by their employers to qualify for the payment);
- Casual employees who are at least 16 years of age, and have been employed on a regular and systematic basis for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020 (this 12-month qualifying period for casuals is not broken by transfers within corporate group or sale of business); and
- Self-employed individuals.
On 8 April 2020, the Federal Parliament also passed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) that will give employers eligible for JobKeeper Payments significant powers to adjust workplace arrangements to reduce labour costs and retain employees. These powers will override relevant restrictions imposed by industrial legislation, industrial instruments and/or employment contracts.
These powers allow a JobKeeper eligible employer to:
- Require an employee to not work on particular days, or to work for a lesser period or for fewer hours than the employee would ordinarily work (including nil hours);
- Direct an employee to perform different duties either in their usual workplace or at home or another location; and
- Request employees to agree to vary their ordinary days or times of work and/or to use their annual leave (down to accrual of not less than 2 weeks), and the employee cannot unreasonably refuse that request.
A number of conditions govern the exercising of these rights.