JobKeeper Scheme – What You Need To Know As A Business Owner
Are you finding it difficult to keep up with all the COVID-19 information and the changes that are occurring almost daily? We’re here to clarify this from an employer’s perspective – what you need to know as a business owner.
On the 9th April 2020, the Australian government passed legislation for the JobKeeper scheme, which starts on 30th March 2020 and ends on 27th September 2020.
The JobKeeper scheme has been developed to help businesses, who have been affected by the coronavirus, to cover the costs of their wages, and so that employees, even if not currently working as normal, will still get paid and will be able to return to their jobs once the pandemic is over.
Is your business eligible for JobKeepers?
- Businesses turning over less than $1 billion per annum:
- The business turnover has reduced or will more than likely reduce by 30% or more comparative to their turnover in a corresponding period (of at least a month) a year earlier.
- Businesses turning over more than $1 billion per annum:
- The business turnover has reduced or will more than likely reduce by 50% or more comparative to their turnover in a corresponding period (of at least a month) a year earlier.
- Registered charity:
- The business turnover has reduced or will more than likely reduce by 15% or more comparative to their turnover in a corresponding period (of at least a month) a year earlier.
- Self-employed individuals:
- The same turnover test for businesses applies for self-employed individuals.
Are your employees eligible?
The following criteria must be met for employees to be eligible for inclusion in the JobKeeper scheme:
- permanent employees (either full-time or part-time)
- long term casuals (a casual employed on a regular basis for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020)
- employed as at 1 March 2020 (including those stood down or re-hired)
- are employed at the time payments are to be made
- Australian citizens
- The holder of:
- Permanent Visa
- Protected Special Category Visa
- a non-protected Special Category Visa who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more
- a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa
- are not in receipt of a JobKeeper payment from another employer
- are over 16 years of age.
What is the subsidy amount?
- A JobKeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible employee
- A business can also be entitled to a JobKeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight for one business participant who is actively engaged in operating the business (if they meet the eligibility criteria)
What do I need to do as an Employer?
- assess your business’ eligibility by determining if turnover has or will reduce by the prescribed amount
- register your intent to apply with the ATO: https://www.ato.gov.au/Job-keeper-payment/
- The ATO will communicate with those businesses who have registered their intent to apply (estimated due date for ability to register is 20th April)
- provide required information on all eligible employees to the ATO
- pay each eligible employee a minimum of $1500 per fortnight (before tax)
- add-on pay to that level ($1,500 per fortnight) if income is below that level
- eligible employees must be informed that they are receiving the JobKeeper payment
Fair Work Act Amendments
On 9th April 2020, the Fair Work Act was temporarily amended to support the implementation and operation of the JobKeeper scheme. These changes allow for lawful flexibilities within an employee’s working arrangements.
JobKeeper enabling directions
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was specific constrictions on the obligations of employers to lawfully “stand down” their employees. However, JobKeeper qualifying employers can now officially provide JobKeeper enabling directions to their employees.
Please note, any JobKeeper enabling directions:
- must be in writing
- must be reasonable (i.e. takes into account all of the circumstances relating to the employee, e.g. caring responsibilities)
- must be implemented safely including having regard to the nature and spread of the coronavirus
- must be notified to the employee and consulted with the employee at least 3 days before issuing the direction
- a written record of the consultation must be kept
These directions include:
- Standing down employees without pay:
- Includes reducing their hours or days of work (completely or partially)
- Employees must reasonably consider and believe that “but for” the directed stand down the employee would otherwise be redundant
- The consultation process as per the Fair Work Act must be followed
- Stand down does not apply to employees during a period that they are on paid or unpaid leave
- The employee must consider and not unreasonably refuse the direction
- Change an employee’s usual duties:
- The employee can perform other lesser duties that are within their skill set and competencies regardless of their Award classification (note, if an employee is asked to perform “higher” duties, they must be paid as per the Award for those hours worked during the higher position)
- The employee’s base rate of pay when performing lesser duties must not be less than the rate of pay that would have been applicable if the direction had not been given
- Change an employee’s location of work:
- Includes working from home (refer to our Working From Home blog found here: https://www.bramwellpartners.com.au/working-from-home/)
- Ensure that the changed location meets WHS requirements
- Consideration must be given to ensure that the distance required to travel to the changed location is reasonable
2. Requests and Agreements
The new provisions under the Fair Work Act also enable JobKeeper eligible employers to make requests and/or agreements with their employees to:
- Work different days and times:
- Performance of the duties on different days or different times compared with the employee’s ordinary days or times of work
- Ensuring that the employee’s usual work hours aren’t reduced (which would require a stand down direction)
- Employees must consider and not unreasonably refuse the request
- Take paid annual leave:
- Take paid annual leave provided that the employee will maintain a balance of at least 2 weeks of annual leave
- Take twice as much paid leave at half pay
- Employees must consider and not unreasonably refuse the request
To discuss your options and how your business can utilise the amendments to the Fair Work Act, taking into consideration the intent to maintain the sustainability of your business throughout and following the pandemic, please contact us at Bramwell Partners your HR Consultant.
P: 07 3630 5695
* Please note, this information is current today, 17th April 2020. There are amendments to the Fair Work Act that are occurring almost daily. We encourage all employers to remain up-to-date, transparent, flexible and reasonable and by doing this we will all get through this together.
** Directions and agreements under the new provisions are temporary connected to the impacts of COVID-19. It is anticipated that when the provisions end on 28 September 2020, employee’s terms and conditions will revert back to what they were before the pandemic