Author: Lehanne Bleumink, Gold Seal HR Services Manager

The JobKeeper scheme was originally scheduled to cease on 27 September 2020, however it has been necessary for the Federal Government to extend its economic support. On 1 September 2020, legislation was passed to continue the JobKeeper scheme until 28 March 2021.

NEW EMPLOYEE ELIGIBILITY
On 14 August 2020 JobKeeper rules were amended to change the date from 1 March 2020 to 1 July 2020, on which an employee must be employed in order to be eligible to receive JobKeeper payments. This means that those who commenced employment with a JobKeeper-eligible employer after 1 March 2020, but before 1 July 2020, will now be eligible for nomination for JobKeeper. This change means more employees qualify for payments under the 1 July eligibility test from 3 August 2020.

The legislation change extends reduced JobKeeper payments and related industrial powers over two extension periods being:

  • Extension period 1: covers the seven fortnights that commence on 28 September 2020 and end on 3 January 2021
  • Extension period 2: covers the six fortnights that commence on 4 January 2021 and end on 28 March 2021

Existing eligible employers are able to access a flat $1500 per fortnight wage subsidy for each eligible employee regardless of hours worked. There will be 2 tiers of JobKeeper eligibility from 28 September 2020 as follows:

  • Tier 1 payments will apply to eligible employees who worked 20 hours or more per week on average in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020.
  • Tier 2 payments apply to employees who worked less than 20 hours per week on average in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020.

Payments per fortnight will drop as follows:

  • Extension period 1: Tier 1 will drop to $1200 per fortnight; Tier 2 will drop to $750 per fortnight
  • Extension period 2: Tier 1 will drop to $1000 per fortnight; Tier 2 will drop to $650 per fortnight

The ‘reference date’ is either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020; whichever of those dates the employee was working more hours. This means that:

  • Full time employees working through February 2020 who had their average weekly hours reduced to fewer than 20 hours before 1 July 2020, can rely on the 1 March 2020 ‘reference date’ to retain the higher payments
  • Employees working fewer than 20 hours per week on average in April 2020, but who commenced working more than 20 hours before 1 July 2020, may be able to rely on the 1 July 2020 ‘reference date’ to retain the higher payments

DETERMINING WHO REMAINS AN ELIGIBLE EMPLOYER
In order to be eligible for the JobKeeper subsidy from 28 September 2020, employers will have to meet a further ‘decline in turnover test’ for each of the 2 extension periods outlined above. To qualify businesses will only have to demonstrate that their actual GST turnovers have decreased in the previous quarter, relative to a comparable period (generally the corresponding quarters in 2019). E.g. Extension period 1 will need to demonstrate an applicable decline in turnover in the September quarter, for Extension period 2 the December quarter will apply. The decrease remains at the current 30% or 50%.

Businesses will need to continue to satisfy the ‘wage condition’ by paying an eligible worker at least the amount of the relevant JobKeeper payment in advance of each JobKeeper fortnight, with reimbursement by the ATO in arrears. There have been no further changes to the original eligibility rules for employees. Employees will continue to only be able to claim JobKeeper from one employer.

EXTENSION AND CHANGES TO JOBKEEPER FLEXIBILITY PROVISIONS
Existing powers introduced by JobKeeper, including the ability for ‘JobKeeper enabling directions’ will remain in force until 28 March 2021. The only exception is that the flexibility related to paid annual leave, will not be extended past 27 September 2020. There will be two categories of employers that can use the temporary flexibilities set out in the Fair Work Act:

  • Qualifying Employers – employers who are eligible for JobKeeper during extension period 1 and/or extension period 2; and
  • Legacy Employers – employers who were eligible during the original JobKeeper scheme prior to 28 September 2020, but do not qualify for JobKeeper during extension period 1 and/or extension period 2

To continue to access the JobKeeper flexibility provisions from 28 September 2020, Legacy Employers will first need to have obtained a ‘10% decline in turnover certificate’, stating they have experienced at least a 10% decline in current GST turnover in the relevant quarter this year compared to last year. If an employer does not obtain a certificate, then any JobKeeper enabling directions or agreements that were in place prior to 28 September 2020 will automatically terminate on 28 October 2020, or 28 February 2021 (as relevant).

Legacy Employers with 15 or more workers will require a certificate to be issued by a qualified, eligible accountant, whereas Legacy Employers with less than 15 workers will be permitted to complete a certificate themselves. It is recommended you contact your company accountant for advice on this requirement.

ARE THE FLEXIBILITY PROVISIONS CHANGING?
Overall the flexibilities remain largely the same, except an employer will no longer be able to request that an employee receiving JobKeeper payments takes annual leave. There are a number of flexibility provisions that differ for Qualifying Employers and Legacy Employers.

Click here to find further information.

Further details of the changes and information on practical steps will be made available by the Government and the ATO as things change. You can find information on the ATO website.

For assistance on any of your HR/IR requirements –  email Gold Seal at  hrservices@goldseal.com.au