On 30 March 2020 the Government announced a new ‘JobKeeper payment’, said to be ‘designed to help businesses affected by the Coronavirus to cover the costs of their employees’ wages, so that more employees can retain their job and continue to earn an income’.
The following outlines the key components of the announcement. As can be expected, in the absence of actual legislation, there are a multitude of questions to be answered. This is obviously even more so given the unprecedented pressure the Government is under to respond to the current circumstances as swiftly as possible.
- The payment will be made to employers. Money will find its way to employees because the payment to employers is made conditional on continuing to pay eligible employees the required amount.
- Eligible employers will be paid $1,500 per eligible employee per fortnight. The employer must in turn pay at least $1,500 to each eligible employee per fortnight.
- Employers will receive the first payment in the first week of May.
- Employers are entitled to payments for the next six months for each eligible employee – essentially employees who were on the employer’s books at 1 March 2020 – but only so long as the relevant employee remains employed with that employer.
- Businesses must show a reduction in turnover of more 30% as compared to a comparable period (of at least one month’s duration) from a year ago (or 50% for businesses with a turnover of $1 billion or more).
- Payments to employees, from their employer, will be assessable to the employee in the same way that normal salary and wages are.
- Employees whose earnings prior to the Coronavirus crisis were less than $1,500 per fortnight (pre-tax) will receive an uplift. It is not entirely clear what the impact will be on employees whose earnings prior to the Coronavirus crisis were more than $1,500 per fortnight (pre-tax).
- Sole traders who do not not employ others will be entitled to the JobKeeper payment, provided they can show the required reduction in turnover.
A payment of $1,500 per employee per fortnight will be made to employers to subsidise their wage bill. In return for receiving that payment the employer must pay eligible employees at least $1,500 (before tax) per fortnight.
I have more than one job. Can I get more than one payment (from each of my employers)?
Only one employer per employee can receive the payment – this will generally be the employer in respect of which the employee claims the tax-free threshold, but the employee can elect otherwise
Will I have to pay tax on the payment I receive from my employer?
Fortnightly payments received from your employer will be included in your assessable income and subject to tax accordingly.
My pre-Coronavirus crisis earnings are more (or less) than $1,500. How does that work?
If you are usually paid less than $1,500 per fortnight, the employer must pay you $1,500 regardless. In other words you will experience an increase in income.
It is not entirely clear what the impact on you will be if you usually earn more than $1,500 per fortnight. The Government announcement states that, in those circumstances, the employer will ‘continue to receive their regular income according to their prevailing workplace arrangements’, whatever that means.
As an employer, what are my Superannuation Guarantee (SG) obligations in relation to payments I am required to make to my employees?
For employees you pay in excess of the JobKeeper amount, your SG obligations will presumably remain unchanged.
For employees you paid less than $1,500 to before the Coronavirus crisis, your SG obligations are based on the lower amount. You will not be obliged, although you may choose, to pay superannuation on the difference between the pre-Coronavirus earnings and $1,500.
The JobKeeper payment is available to employers (other than the major banks) that can show a reduction in turnover of the following percentage relative to a comparable period from a year ago (of at least one month)
- Businesses with a turnover of less than $1 billion – more than 30% reduction in turnover
- Business with a turnover of $1 billion or more – more than 50% reduction in turnover
Such employers will receive payments for each employee who satisfies all of the following conditions (eligible employees):
- they were on the employer’s books on 1 March 2020;
- they continue to be engaged by the employer;
- they 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
- they are at least 16 years old.
Payments are available for all eligible full-time and part-time workers. Payments are also available to casual employees who have been with their employer on a regular basis for at least 12 months as at 1 March 2020.
Employees who were employed on 1 March 2020, but have since been stood down, can be re-instated if necessary.
There is no income or assets testing.Employees who were employed on 1 March 2020, but have since been stood down, can be re-instated if necessary.
There is no income or assets testing.
Payments will be made monthly in arrears by the ATO.
The subsidy will start on 30 March 2020, with first payments to be made in the first week of May. In other words, employers will be required to make fortnightly payments of $1,500 to eligible employees before they receive the Government subsidy.
Employers must elect to be in the scheme and provide information to the ATO on eligible employees on their books as at 1 March 2020. Single Touch Payroll will be used where possible to pre-populate this data.
Employers must make ongoing reports to the ATO on a monthly basis, regarding the number of eligible employees on their books.
Sole traders with no employees must register for payments with the ATO and provide a monthly update to the ATO to declare their continued eligibility for payments.
For more information on the Government’s JobKeeper payment we recommend you check out the following links:
Treasury Fact Sheet ‘Supporting businesses to retain jobs’
Treasury Fact Sheet ‘JobKeeper Payment — Information for Employers’
Treasury Fact Sheet ‘JobKeeper Payment — Information for employees’