JobKeeper 2.0 passed by Parliament with minor adjustment
The JobKeeper extension has now passed both houses with only a minor tweak that ensures those not eligible for the wage subsidy post September will be able to access temporary Fair Work Act provisions for a further six months.
The Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Jobkeeper Payments) Amendment Bill 2020 was passed by Senate on Tuesday, extending the government’s wage subsidy program by six months to 28 March 2021.
Under the new regulation, the current JobKeeper subsidy rate of $1,500 a fortnight will drop to $1,200 from 28 September 2020 and then to $1,000 a fortnight from January 2021, with a lower payment in place for those employees who worked on average less than 20 hours a week in the relevant reference period.
A legislative instrument detailing the rules for the new rates and the new eligibility criteria is expected to be issued shortly by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
The slight tweak in the original JobKeeper 2.0 legislation will see legacy employers – those that have received JobKeeper but don’t qualify for the second stage of the stimulus – retain access to the provisions under Part 6-4C of the Fair Work Act from 28 September 2020 to issue JobKeeper enabling directions albeit in a slightly more limited capacity, and subject to more onerous obligations.
To qualify for the flexibility, businesses will need to hold a certificate, issued by an accountant, proving their 10 per cent decline in turnover each quarter. For small employers with fewer than 15 workers, a self-certificate will be accepted, but penalties are expected for those that lie.
According to the legislation, legacy employers will need to obtain a certificate for each and every quarter. If a subsequent certificate is not obtained, any directions or agreements in place cease to operate.
Attorney-General Christian Porter earlier explained that while those remaining on the wage subsidy will still be able to reduce hours to zero, adjust duties or work locations, legacy employers will only be allowed to cut hours to a floor of 60 per cent of an employee’s ordinary hours of work as at 1 March.
Other restrictions will also prevent an employer from requiring an employee to work less than two hours on their usual work day, while any workplace changes will need to be communicated to the employee in written notice issued seven days in advance to the change.
The legislation includes a penalty up to $13,320 for individuals, and $66,600 for body corporates or employers, where an employer does not meet the 10 per cent decline in turnover test and knowingly or recklessly tries to use the provisions, or fails to notify employees that a JobKeeper enabling direction or agreement is not continuing or ceasing each quarter due to not having met the 10 per cent decline in turnover test nor obtaining the relevant certificate.