On 30 March 2020, the Morrison Government announced the JobKeeper scheme to provide assistance to businesses that are significantly affected by COVID-19 to encourage those businesses to retain staff.
JobKeeper is available for businesses that have experienced a minimum 30% decline in revenue (or minimum 50% decline for businesses with turnover of more than $1 billion) due to COVID-19.
The subsidy will be paid to businesses at a flat rate of $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible employee, which is just above Australia’s minimum wage of $1481.60 per fortnight. Businesses will need to ensure that each eligible employee receives at least $1,500 per fortnight (before tax).
- For employees that were already receiving this amount, their income will not change.
- For employees that have been receiving less than this amount, the business will need to top up the payment to the employee up to $1,500 (before tax).
- For employees earning more than this amount, the business may provide a top-up their income (or allow employees to utilise paid leave entitlements).
Eligible employees are employees who:
- are currently employed by the eligible employer (including those stood down or re-hired);
- were employed by the employer at 1 March 2020;
- are full-time or part-time, or long-term casuals (employed on a regular basis for more than 12 months as at 1 March 2020);
- are at least 16 years of age;
- are an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent visa, a Protected Special Category Visa Holder, a non-protected Special Category Visa Holder who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder; and
- are not receiving a JobKeeper Payment from another employer.
The subsidy payments do not include a superannuation component, and it will be up to the employer whether it wants to pay superannuation on the subsidy amount. However if employees are working or on paid leave (rather than “stood down”) then superannuation should also be paid.
The subsidy payments will start to be issued from 1 May 2020 and will be backdated to 30 March 2020.
The scheme will be administered through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This means employers and workers will not have to deal with the already overburdened Centrelink network.
In the ATO’s online application process, employers will need to provide information on eligible employees, including the number of eligible employees engaged as at 1 March 2020 and those currently employed by the business. The ATO may use Single Touch Payroll data to pre-populate the employee details.
Upon receiving the payment, eligible employees will need to be informed that they are receiving the JobKeeper Payment and businesses will need to continue to provide information to the ATO on a monthly basis.
Parliament will soon be recalled to consider the legislation to give effect to the JobKeeper scheme. In the meantime, employers can register their interest with the ATO.
At this stage it is unclear if employers will need to pay workcover premiums or payroll taxes (if applicable) on these amounts.