The JobKeeper scheme has been extended until 28 March 2021.
Within that time, there are two extension periods where the amounts of the subsidy decrease.
It must be remembered that the scheme is simply a mechanism which allows eligible employers to receive a ‘reimbursement’ of their wage liability which must be directly passed on to their employees. Employers cannot receive the subsidy and then pay less than the subsidy amount and or otherwise profit from the scheme. One imagines, however, that a small minority will somehow work it to their advantage.
The first extension period has a payment subsidy of a gross amount of either $1200 per fortnight or $750 per fortnight depending on whether the employee worked 80 actual work hours or more in a nominated four-week period. The employer must nominate the number of hours worked by each employee. This applies until 3 January 2021.
Extension period two applies from 4 January until the end of the scheme. Current, there is no indication about whether or not the scheme will be further extended beyond March. I believe this will depend on economic conditions and what happens with COVID. For this extension period, the rate of the payments is tiered at $1000 per fortnight and then $650 per fortnight, again being gross amounts.
Employer eligibility for the scheme otherwise remains broadly the same. Employers must continue to communicate with workers about the scheme and the details as they affect staff. This includes the rates of the subsidy to be, or being, received.
The turnover tests have not changed significantly. However, the tests are now based on actual turnover decline rather than projected or estimated declines. Accordingly, the business must notify of their actual GST turnover decline quarter by quarter in an amount of 30 percent or more, or for a not-for-profit the test is 15 percent or more decline, which declines cover the vast majority of businesses. For a business with an annual turnover of $1 billion or more, the decline in turnover test is 50 percent or more. Arguably, this new requirement reflects the fact that the scheme aims to account for the most recent economic impacts of the pandemic. Alternative turnover tests can be considered by the ATO particularly where, say, the business has not been operating for long enough to have a comparable GST quarter to compare to from a previous year and or quarter.
Interestingly, eligibility for businesses will need to be assessed in advance of BAS reporting deadlines. Accordingly, the ATO has discretion to extend the deadline for payment by the business of wages in order to satisfy what is called the ‘wage condition’ – a condition which requires that businesses must have paid their normal periodic wage before being eligible for the subsidy. In the rare case where a business does not have to report BAS, they should contact the ATO to discuss alternative arrangements. In fact, advice should be sought from the ATO in relation to any concerns arise or unique circumstances.
Businesses who were part of so-called Job Keeper 1 can continue in the scheme and need not do anything different so long as they continue to have an ABN and continue to report assessable income and supplies.
As always, seek advice if uncertain about any part of the scheme. Advice should be sought particularly from accountants rather than lawyers – the latter who are able to advise more specifically about legal issues that arise.
Where there is a dispute between employers and workers, the parties can apply to engage in a dispute resolution pathway operated by the Fair Work Commission. This can include not only arbitration (basically a binding decision) but also conciliation and mediation.
Anecdotally, I have heard that there is so far a high take-up rate of this mechanism but that dispute numbers are falling back as parties become familiar with the scheme’s operation.