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JobKeeper modified & extended for 6 months

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On 21 July 2020 the Morrison Government announced a 6 month extension to the JobKeeper payment scheme for businesses that continue to be significantly impacted by COVID-19.

The original JobKeeper Scheme, designed to help employers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, was to operate from 1 May 2020 to 27 September 2020.  Now, from 28 September 2020 a modified two tier JobKeeper scheme will be available for eligible businesses (including self employed and not-for-profits). This scheme will continue until 28 March 2021.

Payments

The Government announcement confirms the anticipated extension of JobKeeper payments while addressing a number of anomalies created by the single flat payments scheme.

The Government will introduce a two tier payment structure which will gradually taper down over a six month period.  These changes will provide ongoing support for businesses that continue to suffer serious economic impact from COVID-19.  The two tier payment structure will introduce different payments for employees who worked under 20 hours per week and those who worked 20 or more hours per week.

The payments will be phased down as follows:

  • Present day – September 28 = payment continues at $1,500 per fortnight for all employees.

For employees (full time, part time or casual) who worked an average of 20 or more hours per week in the 4 weeks of pay periods prior to 1 March 2020

  • September 28 – January 03 = payment reduced to $1,200 per fortnight.
  • January 04 – March 28 = payment reduced to $1000 per fortnight.

For employees (part time or casual) who worked an average of less than 20 hours per week in the 4 weeks of pay periods prior to 1 March 2020

  • September 28 – January 03 = payment reduced to $750 per fortnight.
  • January 04 – March 28 = payment reduced to $650 per fortnight.

The ATO will have discretion to establish alternative tests where an employee’s hours during February 2020 were not usual or typical. These alternative tests have not yet been detailed, however, it is expected that they will cover situations such as employees being on paid or unpaid leave, emergency services leave, jury service, etc.

The amended scheme still has the same eligibility requirements regarding casual employees, visa workers, local government employees and foreign owned entities. Employers will still have to meet a turnover test to continue to be eligible for the payments. The JobKeeper payment remains open for new business recipients, provided that they meet the requirements.

Business turnover requirements

There is a significant change in the current business turnover requirements under which an employer only had to suffer the required decline in turnover in one month.  For example, an employer who only suffered the required decline in turnover immediately upon the commencement of the pandemic in April but returned to close to normal turnover from May was eligible to receive JobKeeper payments until September.  This is no longer available.

From 28 September, employers are required to demonstrate that they have and are suffering ongoing significant decline in turnover.  Employers will be required to meet decline in turnover tests for the June AND September quarters 2020 to remain eligible for JobKeeper between September and January.

From 4 January 2021, employers will need to reassess their turnover to remain eligible for the JobKeeper payment until 28 March 2021. They will again need to prove that they have met the relevant decline turnover test, with regard to the June, September AND December quarters.

Business and not-for-profits will need to demonstrate that they have experienced a decline in turnover of:

  • 50% for those with a turnover of more than $1 billion
  • 30% for those with a turnover of $1 billion or less, or
  • 15% for Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission-registered charities (excluding schools and universities)

The Commissioner of Taxation does have the discretion to establish other eligibility in specific circumstances where it is not appropriate to compare turnover in 2019 and 2020.

Eligibility

The Treasury has further provided clarification on who is eligible for JobKeeper payments. From 20 July 2020, employees of a Child Care Subsidy approved service and sole traders operating a child care service will not be eligible for the Job Keeper payment. The Treasury further states that those on Workers Compensation are eligible if they are working, but generally not eligible if they are not working, and employees who are 16 and 17 may qualify if they are not undertaking full time study or are considered independent.

The other eligibility requirements for businesses, not for profits, the self employed and employees remain the same.

Employers should now consider their ongoing eligibility for the JobKeeper extension, and begin to collate the required evidence to establish satisfaction of the turnover tests.  This will also require a determination of the support available to employees based on their average hours worked immediately prior to 1 March 2020.

The Government has clearly flagged its intention to end JobKeeper following the 6 month extension.  Employers need to start planning for this outcome and preparing their businesses for phased reduction in Government subsidies.  This might necessitate organizational or structural changes requiring downsizing or redundancies.

Not sure of your obligations?

If you would like to know more about the JobKeeper Payments or need assistance in preparing your business for its eventual phasing out, please contact us and a Mapien Workplace Strategist will be in contact within 24 hours.

 

Written by:
Sophie Williams
Sophie’s methodical and pragmatic approach allow her to focus on the issue at hand and find timely, holistic solutions for her clients.