JobKeeper 2.0 – What’s Changed?
In April 2020, the Federal Government of Australia enacted the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payment and Benefits Act) Act 2020 (Coronavirus Act) which established, among other things, the JobKeeper scheme. While the JobKeeper scheme was implemented to provide financial relief for employers, in September 2020 the Federal Government commenced the first stage of reductions in the JobKeeper payments.
Extension to the JobKeeper scheme’s operation
In September 2020, the Federal Government amended Schedule 1 of the Coronavirus Act to extend the operation of the JobKeeper scheme past its nominal expiry of 27 September 2020 until 28 March 2021. The amendment enables eligible employers who require the most assistance to still receive the subsidised wage payments provided they satisfy the eligibility criteria.
From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, the first phase of the extended JobKeeper scheme, or JobKeeper 2.0, will commence. The second phase of JobKeeper 2.0 will then commence for the period 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021. The eligibility requirements to access JobKeeper 2.0 are:
- The employer must have carried on a business in Australia on 1 March 2020;
- The employer must pass the original decline in turnover test; and
- The employer needs to pass an additional decline in turnover test.
For more information on the requirements of the original decline in turnover test, see our article here.
The employer will need to pass the original decline in turnover test as well as the additional decline in turnover test. The notable distinction in the additional decline in turnover requires employers to show that current GST turnover (as opposed to projected GST turnover under the original decline in turnover test) for a period compared with the same period in 2019 has dropped by the required amount.
Reduction in subsidised payments
Notwithstanding the extension to the JobKeeper scheme’s operation, the Federal Government has implemented a reduction in the total fortnightly amount provided for each employee receiving JobKeeper payments. Moving forward, an employee who works more than 20 hours per week and who received a full-time payment of $1,500 per fortnight will now receive a reduced amount of $1,200 per fortnight. Similarly, part-time employees who work less than 20 hours per week will now receive $750 per fortnight.
The wage subsidy payments will be tapered again on 4 January 2021 to $1000 per fortnight (for employees working more than 20 hours per week) or $650 (for part-time employees) before the scheme is withdrawn entirely on 28 March 2021.
JobKeeper Enabling Directions
Notably, an employer who qualifies for JobKeeper 2.0 will still be able to make a ‘JobKeeper enabling direction’ pursuant to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). As such, eligible employers can still reduce an employee’s hours, make a direction in relation to duties performed by an employee or direct an employee to perform duties at a place different from the employee’s normal place of work e.g. their home. As was the case prior to JobKeeper 2.0, any JobKeeper enabling direction must be reasonable and provide consultation and notice to the employee.
However, if an employer no longer qualifies for JobKeeper 2.0, all JobKeeper enabling directions given before 28 September 2020 cease to have effect unless the employer can satisfy the ’10% decline in turnover test’ and holds a ‘10% decline in turnover certificate’. The test requires the employer to demonstrate a minimum 10% decline in actual GST turnover for a designated quarter compared to the same quarter in the previous year, which a ‘eligible financial service provider’ will confirm.
Should an employer satisfy the test and be issued the relevant certificate from an eligible financial service provider, they can then give JobKeeper enabling directions to employees and also make agreements with employees (previously entitled to JobKeeper payments) to vary days, hours of work, etc. subject to greater restrictions than employers who qualify for JobKeeper 2.0.
Take Home Messages
While the national economic landscape continues to manage the effects of Coronavirus, JobKeeper 2.0 will continue to provide financial relief to employers albeit at a reduced level. The effects of the payment reductions are yet to be seen, however it is our view that employers familiarise themselves with the changes to the legislation to ensure they are (or continue to be) eligible to receive payments and are not left in a position where they cannot pay their employees.
For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article please contact Sathish Dasan on +61 8 8210 1253 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Ganesh Krishnan on +61 8 8217 1395 or email@example.com or Thomas Tagirara on +61 8 8217 1337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.