Late yesterday, the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (JobKeeper Payments) Amendments Bill 2020 (Bill) to extend the JobKeeper Payment scheme (JobKeeper) announced by the Federal Government in July 2020 was passed by Parliament after Labor and the Greens failed to win support for amendments.
Under extended JobKeeper, the current Rules will be amended to provide that from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, the current $1,500 fortnightly payment will be reduced to $1,200 for full-time employees, and $750 for those working less than 20 hours per week. From 4 January 2021 until 28 March 2021, the payment will be further reduced to $1,000 per fortnight for full-time employees, and $650 for people working less than 20 hours a week.
Employer eligibility will be based on similar turnover tests but will be reassessed in October (based on the September quarter) and again in January (based on the December quarter).
The Bill also extends the ability for employers to give JobKeeper enabling directions under Part 6-4C of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act). Employers remaining on JobKeeper will still have the flexibility to modify eligible employees’ working hours, days, duties and location to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business.
Employers who no longer qualify for JobKeeper after 28 September 2020 will be classified as “legacy employers”. Legacy employers will still retain the ability to change eligible employees’ working conditions, except that:
- any reduction to an employee’s hours of work cannot be below 60% of the employee’s ordinary hours of work as at 1 March of this year;
- they cannot require an employee to work less than two hours on a day they work; and
- they must give employees seven days’ written notice before a JobKeeper enabling direction is issued (unlike employers who are eligible for JobKeeper, who are only required to give three days’ notice).
The above modified flexibilities will only be available to employers who can demonstrate their turnover has declined between 10% and 30% in relevant quarters this year compared to last year.
Both the extension to JobKeeper and changes to the FW Act, which were due to expire on 28 September 2020, will operate for a further six months until 28 March 2021.
We urge employers who did not qualify for JobKeeper under the existing rules to consider whether they are likely to do so now.
Employers should also note that the JobKeeper Rules were also recently amended so that from 3 August 2020, the subsidy can be claimed for eligible employees who were employed on a full time or part-time basis on 1 July (previously 1 March) and regular casuals who had been employed for 12 months on 1 July (previously 1 March).
If you would like to discuss how these developments impact your business or assistance with managing your workforce in response to the pandemic, please contact a member of our Workplace Relations team.
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