Business guide to Coronavirus

Updates to the JobKeeper payment plan

Last updated: 1:52pm 22 September 2020

The Government has extended the JobKeeper Payment Plan until 28 March 2021. Changes have been made to the original eligibility criteria and payment rates have now been reduced. Find out more about the new eligibility tests and how JobKeeper 2.0 impacts your business. 

JobKeeper extension

The Federal Government recently announced an extension of the JobKeeper wage subsidy until March 2021. The current scheme will remain in place until September and then extend for a further six months at a lower rate. 

The new-look scheme will operate through a two-tiered approach, with a lower rate for casuals and part-time workers. Payment will be closely aligned to the hours worked by employees receiving the payment.

New payment rates

28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021  

  • Worked 20 hours or more: $1,200 per fortnight 
  • Worked under 20 hours: $750 per fortnight

4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021 

  • Worked 20 hours or more: $1,000 per fortnight 
  • Worked under 20 hours: $650 per fortnight 

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said of the updated subsidy: "We are starting to lower the payment from the end of September onwards as part of an effort to wean the economy, wean business off this sort of support."

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WHAT ABOUT ELIGIBILITY?

Businesses will now need to reassess their turnover for each of the 2 new periods: 

Extension 1 (28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021) you'll need to demonstrate that your actual GST turnover has fallen in the September 2020 quarter and compare it to the same quarter in the previous year. 

Extension 2 (4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021) you'll need to demonstrate that your actual GST turnover has fallen in the December 2020 quarter and compare to the previous year’s quarter. 

Employee eligibility

Workers will qualify for the JobKeeper extension if they were employed on July 1 2020, rather than March 1 2020, as previously required.

These changes impact employees who were not previously eligible due to not being currently employed on 1 March 2020 and casuals who were ineligible due to not being employed for the 12 months leading up to 1 March 2020. 

These changes do not affect those that were already qualified for JobKeeper on 1 March 2020. These employees still remain eligible for Jobkeeper until 27 September 2020.  

JobKeeper can now apply for anyone who commenced fulltime or part-time work after 1 March 2020 but before 1 July 2020 or any long-term casuals who have now completed their 12 months of employment i.e. those who started between 3 March 2019 & 2 July 2019.

The changes will apply across the country. Visit the Australia Taxation Office's website for more information. 

JobKeeper 2.0 questions

At this stage, no. The amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 that permit an employer to make a JobKeeper enabling stand down direction are repealed when JobKeeper 1.0 ends (from 28 September 2020). After this time, any JobKeeper enabling direction will cease to have an effect.

There may be further amendments to the Fair Work Act to extend the current provisions, so this is an area we will continue to monitor and update members if and/or when any further changes to the Fair Work Act are announced.

If the employer ultimately qualifies for JobKeeper 2.0, it is likely the employee will also be an eligible employee in the above scenario. This employee is also likely to qualify for the current JobKeeper payment as the assessment date has recently moved from 1 March 2020 to 1 July 2020.

We recommend this employer:

  • provide this part-time employee with a JobKeeper nomination notice by Friday 21 August 2020
  • comply with the wage condition in relation to the employee and make any top-up payments (where necessary) by Monday 31 August 2020, and
  • notify the ATO of the relevant information regarding this newly nominated employee.

There are two observations to make about this question. First that in order to qualify for and participate in JobKeeper 1.0 an employer must be eligible, have registered with the ATO and been accepted. In that case, the employer must have eligible and nominated employees that it is paying no less than $1,500 per fortnight. JobKeeper 1.0 only requires an employer to satisfy the relevant decline in turnover once during the scheme, irrespective of the nature of their turnover thereafter.

Accordingly, a participating employer remains in JobKeeper 1.0 until September 27 2020 and will receive the wage subsidy for all of its eligible employees that it pays $1,500 or more per fortnight during this period.

Second, in order to transition to JobKeeper 2.0 (commencing 28 September 2020) an employer must satisfy a fresh decline in turnover test. This test is broader than the prior test and is be based on a decline of actual GST turnover for the preceding three months, i.e. July, August, September 2020 compared with the same or a comparable period in 2019.

Nonetheless, the government has stressed that there will be a greater focus on actual numbers to evidence the decline of turnover. At the end of the first 3 months of JobKeeper 2.0 those wishing to transition to final 3 months must satisfy another decline in turnover test, but this time focusing on the period of October, November and December 2020.  

The JobKeeper payment does not ‘transfer’ from a departing employee to an employee who subsequently commences with an employer.

The new employee will still need to meet the eligibility requirements in order to receive the JobKeeper payment.

An eligible employer can only claim the JobKeeper payment for eligible employees that were employed as at 1 July 2020 (or 1 March 2020 for employees who have already qualified) and who remain employed with that employer while the employer is claiming the JobKeeper payment.

Employees currently receiving JobKeeper, who have received notice of termination, will continue to receive the JobKeeper payment up to their last day of employment, but not after they cease employment with the employer.

The current rules contemplate this scenario. If a business changes hands, an individual can be treated as an eligible employee of the same employing entity even if the business in which the person is employed subsequently changes hands.

The JobKeeper payment can be used to subsidise a range of payments to employees including wages and leave payments.

In the above scenario, the employer can still claim the JobKeeper payment for the employee on long service leave, if the employee has qualified for the JobKeeper payment as an eligible employee and, post 27 September 2020, both the employer and the employee qualify for the JobKeeper extension.

Based on government announcements so far, it appears sole traders will be able to participate in JobKeeper 2.0.

The revised rules will detail the specifics of an amended decline in turnover test governing the ability to transition from JobKeeper 1.0 to the first quarter (October, November, December 2020) of JobKeeper 2.0, and then to transition to the final quarter of JobKeeper 2 (January, February, March 2021).

At the moment, it is clear participants will have to satisfy an additional and revised decline in turnover tests at the commencement of each calendar quarter of JobKeeper 2.0.  

Government announcements about JobKeeper 2.0 have noted the need for participants to demonstrate they have met the relevant decline in turnover test with reference to their actual GST turnover.

So we await the revised rules to clarify how they deal with those participants who are not registered for GST. In the JobKeeper 1.0 the ATO (as scheme administrator), has the discretion to allow alternate or varied tests to be used in appropriate circumstances.       

Based upon current information we understand sole traders will be able to participate in JobKeeper 2.0. 

Assuming sole traders are treated in a consistent manner to that in JobKeeper 1.0 we expect sole traders will be subject to the 20 Hour Test as a means of allocating their entitlement to a subsidy between the top-tier and lower-tier rates during the two quarters of JobKeeper 2.0. 

It's important to note this information does not constitute legal advice as it does not take into account your individual circumstance. We recommend contacting Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors to discuss what JobKeeper 2.0 means for your and your business. 

We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available. 

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Previous JobKeeper updates 

Last updated: 10:14am 27 April 2020

The JobKeeper payments will be available from 4 May, back-dated to start from 30 March 2020. The new scheme forms part of the government’s third economic assistance package which totals $130 billion.

How does it work?

Eligible employers will receive a fortnightly payment of $1,500 to pay each eligible employee that was in their employment on 1 March 2020 and is retained or continues to be engaged by the employer. Every eligible employee must receive at least $1,500 per fortnight before tax, for a maximum period of 6 months.

The payment will be administrated through the ATO. Businesses can enrol and apply for the JobKeeper payment on the ATO website. Read more about the application process here.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: "This $1,500 payment is a flat payment and is the equivalent of around 70% of the median wage and represents about 100% of the median wage in those sectors most heavily impacted by the coronavirus like retail, like hospitality and tourism." 

Who is eligible?

Eligible employers are businesses (including companies, partnerships, trusts, sole traders), not for profits and charities:

• with a turnover of less than $1 billion whose turnover has fallen by more than 30% (of at least one month), or

• with a turnover of $1 billion or more whose turnover has fallen by more than 50% (of at least one month).

• Big banks subject to the Major Bank Levy are not eligible.

Eligible employees include full time and part-time employees, including stood down employees. Where a casual employee has been with their employer for at least the previous 12 months they will also be eligible for the Payment. Apprentices and trainees may also be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment. An employee will only be eligible to receive this payment from one employer. 

The subsidy will include not for profit employees and New Zealanders who work in Australia but are typically unable to access welfare support. Self-employed individuals are also eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment. The subsidy is aimed at preventing workers from being stood down. 

How does an employer establish a 30% (or 50%) fall in turnover?

Most businesses are expected to be able to establish that their turnover has fallen in the relevant month or three months (depending on the natural activity statement reporting period of that business) relative to their turnover a year earlier in 2019.

However, where a business’s turnover a year earlier is not representative of their usual or average turnover, (e.g. because there was a large interim acquisition or their turnover is typically highly variable) the Tax Commissioner will have the discretion to consider additional information that the business can provide to establish that they have been significantly affected by the impacts of COVID-19.

The Tax Commissioner will also have discretion to set out alternative tests that would establish eligibility in specific circumstances (e.g. eligibility may be established as soon as a business has ceased or significantly curtailed its operations).

There will also be some tolerance where employers, in good faith, estimate a greater than 30% (or 50%) fall in turnover but actually experience a slightly smaller fall.

What if my business has been trading for less than 12 months?

Where a business has not been in operation for a year and therefore will have an issue showing that turnover has fallen relative to a year earlier, the Tax Commissioner will have discretion to consider additional information that the business can provide to establish that they have been significantly affected by the impacts of COVID-19.

What is JobKeeper application process?

Follow our step-by-step guide on how to apply for the JobKeeper Payment Plan here

If you use the ATO Business Portal, you will need a myGovID linked to your ABN in relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM). You can find out how to set this up at ato.gov.au/mygovid. For more information on the payment, read the Australian Government's fact sheet

More information for businesses

Businesses with employees

Eligible employers will need to identify eligible employees for JobKeeper Payments and must provide monthly updates to the ATO. An employer that elects to participate is required to include all eligible employees in the scheme. Participating employers will be required to ensure eligible employees receive, at a minimum, $1,500 per fortnight before tax. It will be up to the employer if they want to pay superannuation on any additional wage paid because of the JobKeeper Payment. 

Businesses without employees

Businesses without employees, such as the self-employed, can register their interest in applying for JobKeeper Payment at ato.gov.au. 

Businesses without employees will need to provide an ABN for their business, nominate an employee to receive the payment and provide that employee’s Tax File Number and provide a declaration as to recent business activity. 

The payment will be made monthly to that person’s bank account. Further details for the self-employed are in the Support for Sole Traders factsheet.

There are a number of obligations employers must comply with before they can receive the JobKeeper payment. Read the Australian Government's fact sheet dedicated to employers for a breakdown of these obligations. For businesses with apprentices and trainees, visit our FAQs page to learn more about how this impacts your business.

More information for employees 

There are a number of obligations employees must comply with before they receive the JobKeeper payment. Read the Australian Government's fact sheet dedicated to employees for a breakdown of these obligations. Apprentices and trainees may also be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment. Visit our FAQs page to learn more.

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