On 21 July 2020, the Prime Minister announced the extension of the JobKeeper program through to March 2021. Importantly, there are no changes to eligibility or payment levels for the period to the end of September 2020. Beyond that, a two tiered scheme will be introduced with separate levels of payments being made for full and part time workers. Further, the turnover test will be strengthened by requiring an actual reduction in turnover of 30%.
Subsequently, on 2 August 2020, metropolitan Melbourne entered Stage 4 lockdown with businesses subject to strict closure requirements from 6 August 2020.
In order to cater for the worsening position in Victoria, the Federal Government softened the requirements for the JobKeeper extension period.
An explanation of the key differences between the application of JobKeeper for the period to the end of September 2020 and for the periods to the end of March 2021 is provided below.
What are the key changes?
- Full time and part time workers treated differently: From the December 2020 quarter, JobKeeper will operate with two levels of payments. One for people who were full time employees pre COVID-19 and a lower level for part time employees. An employee will be eligible for the full time payment if they worked an average of 20 hours or more per week for the relevant employer in the four weeks ended before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020. All other persons will be regarded as part time.
- Payment levels are lower: For the December 2020 quarter, a full time worker will receive $1,200 per fortnight and a part time worker will receive $750 per fortnight. These levels will be further reduced to $1,000 for full time workers and $650 for part time workers in the March 2021 quarter.
- Turnover decline retested: In order to be eligible for JobKeeper for the December 2020 quarter, an employer must suffer a 30% or greater decline in turnover for the September 2020 quarter as compared with the September 2019 quarter. For the March 2021 quarter, they will also need to demonstrate a 30% or greater decline in turnover for the December 2020 quarter as compared to the same period in 2019. The 21 July 2020 announcement had required that a 30% reduction in turnover in the June 2020 quarter was necessary for eligibility post September 2020 but this requirement has now been withdrawn.
A further change, effective from 3 August 2020, is that employees eligible for JobKeeper need only have been employed by their employer as at 1 July 2020 (as opposed to being employed as at 1 March 2020 as was the requirement prior to 3 August 2020).
The extension of JobKeeper is estimated to cost around $31.6 billion with the number of employees benefitting from the scheme reducing from the current 3.5 million to 1.9 million in the December 2020 quarter.
The easing of the retesting requirement so that businesses that do not suffer a 30% decline in the June 2020 quarter remain eligible for the scheme is a sensible move and will be a welcome relief to many struggling businesses, particularly in Victoria.
Employers should review which tier of JobKeeper each of their current employees might be eligible for from October onwards.
The requirement for employers to pay their employees first and then claim JobKeeper back from the ATO remains. The new requirement that eligibility will depend upon actual turnover declines will mean that businesses need to have their financial records right up to date to confirm their eligibility from October onwards.
It now seems that a quarterly turnover comparison will be required irrespective of the BAS reporting period of the business.
Please contact Philip Diviny if you need assistance with any JobKeeper queries.