The second in our series of articles on employment issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, this article looks at the Federal Government’s JobKeeper Scheme.

Under the provisions of the JobKeeper Wage Subsidy Scheme (‘JobKeeper Scheme’), a business adversely affected by Coronavirus may qualify for a subsidy from the Australian Government so that they can continue to pay their employees.

From the 30 March 2020 until the 27 September 2020, qualifying employers are able to claim $1500 per fortnight for any employee who was employed as of 1 March 2020 and remains employed by the business (‘JobKeeper Payment’).

Employers will be eligible for the JobKeeper Scheme if:

  1. their business has an aggregated turnover of less than $1 billion and they estimate their turnover has fallen or will likely fall by 30 per cent or more; or
  2. their business has an annual turnover of $1 billion or more (or is part of a consolidated group for income tax purposes with a turnover of $1 billion or more) and they estimate their turnover has fallen or will likely fall by 50 per cent or more; or
  3. they are a charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (other than a pre-school, school or university) and they estimate their turnover has or will likely fall by 15 per cent or more.

Self-employed individuals will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment where they meet the relevant turnover test (see above) and are not a permanent employee of another employer. Where a small business operates through a trust, partnership or director operated company, the business may be eligible to claim payment for one eligible business participant – for example, one director or partner, as well as eligible employees.

There are exclusions from the Scheme, such as local councils, businesses subject to the Major Bank Levy, and companies in liquidation.

Broadly, employees will be eligible for the JobKeeper Scheme if:

  1. they are currently employed (this includes employees currently stood down);
  2. they are full-time or part-time employees or long-term casual employees (employed on a regular and systematic basis for at least  12 months) as at 1 March 2020; and
  3. not receiving a JobKeeper Payment from another employer.

There are other eligibility requirements in terms of the employee’s age and residency status.

It is important to note that employers cannot select which employees will participate in the scheme. Furthermore, employers must pay eligible employees under the scheme at least $1,500 per fortnight, even if the employee earns less than that amount per fortnight.

The Australian Treasury has produced a helpful fact sheet with detailed information about which employers and employees qualify for the JobKeeper Payment that can be accessed here.

Employers looking to register for the JobKeeper Scheme can do so by heading to the ATO website here.

As part of the JobKeeper Scheme, temporary amendments have been made to the Fair Work Act 2009 including provisions which grant employers the ability to stand down employees or make changes to their work hours, work location and work duties temporarily and without consent.

You can read about these changes in our next article: JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act.

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