Initial information on the ‘Jobkeeper’ Wage Subsidy

The Federal Government has introduced a subsidy program to support both employees and businesses due to the impact of the Coronavirus crisis.   Employers should note that at the time of this Alert, the legislation governing this program has not been passed and so the information provided below is general in nature from what is known at present.  It will be essential to consider the program requirements and thresholds once the legislation is passed through Parliament.

The Government, through the ATO, will provide eligible employers a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum period of 6 months (‘JobKeeper Payment’).  The JobKeeper Payment is aimed at subsidising all or part of an eligible employee’s income.

An eligible employer is a business:

  • that has a turnover of less than $1 billion and their turnover will be reduced by more than 30 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); or
  • that has a turnover of $1 billion or more and their turnover will be reduced by more than 50 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); and
  • that is not subject to the Major Bank Levy.

An eligible employee will include:

  • employees of at least 16 years of age who were/are employed by an eligible employer as at 1 March 2020; and
  • who are full-time or part-time employees, or casual employees with more than 12 months service as at 1 March 2020.

Employers should seek advice relevant to their obligations to non-Australian citizens and visa holders.  The JobKeeper Payment program does contemplate that those who have already been terminated by employers due to COVID-19 impacts, may, if rehired by the employer, be eligible employees.  This will be a particular area where legal advice is recommended.

Next steps for Employers

Employers who consider that they are or will be an ‘eligible employer’  should register an intention to apply at the ATO and assess whether they have or will experience the required turnover decline.  Eligible employers will be able to apply for the program by means of an online application.  It is stated that the first payment will be received by eligible employers from the ATO in the first week of May.

Aitken Legal strongly recommend employers consider all available information and seek advice before applying for the Government subsidy JobKeeper Payment.  The subsidy, although welcome, has significant implications in relation to employment contracts, over-award payments, current stand down arrangements, casual employee arrangements, potential re-engagement of employees and employee notification requirements.   As always, our experienced employment lawyers stand ready to assist with relevant and timely advice.

Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.