JobKeeper Package: Your questions answered by a Victorian employment lawyer

15/04/2020

By Fiona Rothville, Senior Associate, Industrial and Employment Law department, Gordon Legal

Many Australians have personally felt the impacts of COVID-19, as people face termination of employment or their working hours are reduced or asked to stand down entirely. Businesses are struggling as the economy falters, and operations are forced to change or cease entirely.

In response to this economic uncertainty, the Federal Government announced updates to the JobKeeper package this month, which will provide financial aid to businesses and their employees during these troubled times.

Gordon Legal have prepared this guide to answer some of the legal questions you might have around JobKeeper, including eligibility, how to apply and how the scheme works alongside workers’ compensation claims.

What is it?

The JobKeeper package is the Federal Government’s $130 billion wage subsidy to support businesses, sole traders and not-for-profit organisations to keep workers on the books and paid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The JobKeeper payment is $1500 per fortnight (before tax), paid from the Tax Office (ATO) to eligible employers who pass it on to eligible employees.

JobKeeper is set to benefit up to six million workers, with 770,000 businesses having registered already.

The subsidy will run for six months, from 30 March to 27 September 2020.

Employers can start distributing the JobKeeper payment from 30 March and will be reimbursed from the ATO from 1 May.

Who is eligible?

Employees:

  • Current employees (includes those who have been stood down or were terminated but have been re-hired).
  • Employed as at 1 March 2020.
  • At least 16 years of age.
  • Includes full-time and part time employees, and casual workers who have been employed on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months.
  • Must be an Australian citizen, permanent visa holder, special category visa holder (SCV holder) or a New Zealand subclass 444 visa holder.
  • You can only receive the JobKeeper payment from one employer.

Employers:

  • Businesses where turnover (for the turnover test period of one month from March-September 2020, or June or September quarters) is down (compared to the same month or quarter in 2019) by:
    • Small to medium business (less than $1 billion turnover): at least 30 per cent
    • Large business (more than $1 billion turnover): at least 50 per cent
    • Registered charities: at least 15 per cent 
  • Ineligible businesses include banks (subject to the Major Bank Levy), government entities (federal, state and local government) and companies in liquidation.

How do I apply?

  • Employees do not apply – employers must register and apply. 
  • Both you and your employer will need to be eligible for you to receive the JobKeeper payment. 

Who will miss out?

Up to two million workers will not be eligible for the payment, including:

  • Casual employees (if they have been with a business for less than 12 months)
  • Temporary visa holders, including:
    • International students
    • Sponsored workers
    • Working holiday makers
    • Asylum seekers

What will be the impact on my pay if I receive a JobKeeper payment?

Depending on your circumstances, your pay may be impacted. 

If you ordinarily receive $1500 or more in income per fortnight (before tax) and are still working, you will continue to be receive your regular income in accordance with your applicable award, enterprise agreement or contract. The JobKeeper payment will subsidise all or part of your income.

If you ordinarily receive less than $1,500 in income per fortnight (before tax), your employer must pay you, at a minimum, $1,500 per fortnight before tax.

If you have been stood down, your employer must pay you, at a minimum, $1,500 per fortnight before tax.

Can I be stood down or have my hours reduced if I receive a JobKeeper payment? What will be the impact on my pay?

Yes, your employer can stand you down (where you work no hours) or reduce your hours if you cannot be usefully employed for your normal days or hours due to the impact of COVID-19 on your employer’s business.

If you are stood down, you will receive the JobKeeper payment of $1500 per fortnight before tax.

If your hours are reduced, you will paid your ordinary hourly wage for the hours that you work, but your hours can be reduced to those that are less than or match the value of the $1500 payment. You cannot receive less than the $1500 payment.

Scenario 1

Lana received a stand down direction reducing her ordinary hours of work from 38 to 32 hours per week. Her ordinary hourly wage is $30 per hour.

Her fortnightly pay will be reduced from $2280 ($30/hr multiplied by 76 hours worked in a fortnight) to $1920 ($30/hr multiplied by 64 hours worked in a fortnight). Her pay is still higher than the JobKeeper payment, so she must be paid the higher amount.

Scenario 2

Amy received a stand down direction reducing her ordinary hours of work from 38 to 25 hours per week. Her ordinary hourly wage is $30 per hour.

Her fortnightly pay will be reduced from $2280 ($30/hr multiplied by 76 hours worked in a fortnight) to $1500 ($30/hr multiplied by 50 hours worked in a fortnight). Her pay is equal to the JobKeeper payment and she will receive that amount.   

Scenario 3

Daniel received a stand down direction reducing his ordinary hours of work from 38 to 20 hours per week. His ordinary hourly wage is $30 per hour.

While his fortnightly pay would reduce from $2280 ($30/hr multiplied by 76 hours worked in a fortnight) to $1200 ($30/hr multiplied by 40 hours worked in a fortnight), he cannot receive less than the JobKeeper payment. He will receive $1500 per fortnight before tax as a minimum. 

Will I be able to take up other work while stood down and still receive the JobKeeper Payment?

You can earn additional income without your payment being affected as long as you remain eligible and maintain your employment (including being stood down) with your primary employer.

You may need the agreement of your primary employer to work elsewhere, depending of the terms of your contract. 

You can only receive the JobKeeper Payment from one employer.

Will I get paid superannuation on the Jobkeeper Payment?

Superannuation guarantee payments are required to be paid on your ordinary hourly earnings. However, superannuation is not payable on any additional payment you receive from JobKeeper.

If you are stood down without any working hours, superannuation is not payable on the JobKeeper payment you will receive.

Will I receive the JobKeeper payment on paid or unpaid leave?

Yes, you will receive the payment whether you are working, on leave, or have been stood down unless you are receiving paid parental leave under the Federal Government scheme (including Parental Leave Pay or Dad and Partner Pay).

Will I receive the JobKeeper payment while I am receiving workers’ compensation?

If you are still working (including reduced hours) then you will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment.

If you are not currently working due to incapacity and you are being paid weekly compensation through a workers’ compensation scheme, you will not be eligible for the JobKeeper payment.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your eligibility for JobKeeper, please contact us.

What to do if this information applies to you – when should I hire an employment lawyer?

For personalised and individual advice, we offer consultations to discuss your matter. 

Please call Gordon Legal (Melbourne) on (03) 9603 3000 or our Geelong office on (03) 5202 2729 to speak with a member of our team.

Given the current environment, we are providing consultations over the phone, or using Zoom, WebEx or Skype

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