Enrolment applications for the government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme have now opened, with hundreds of thousands of businesses anticipated to sign up.
More than 870,000 companies have registered their interest in the $130 billion program, which will pay eligible employers $1500 a fortnight for every worker they keep on their books.
The government has made it explicitly clear that businesses must pass on the payment in full to workers or face recriminations, after reports of businesses allegedly trying to pocket part of the subsidy.
Here’s what workers and businesses need to know before payments start flowing in the first week of May.
What must workers do to access payments?
Workers must have been employed on March 1 to qualify for JobKeeper, but are still eligible for the subsidy if they have since been stood down.
If there’s no work available due to the coronavirus, employees will receive the full fortnightly payment of $1500 – but as the payment is considered income, the subsidy is taxable.
The same applies to workers who were retrenched after March 1 but since rehired.
If an eligible worker continues working regular hours through the lockdown period, the money will go towards subsidising their normal salary.
To be eligible, employees must be:
- Currently employed by an eligible employer
- Employed by that same employer on March 1
- Either an Australian citizen, a permanent visa holder, a protected special category visa holder, a non-protected special category visa holder who has resided continually in Australia for a minimum of 10 years, or a New Zealander on a special category (subclass 444) visa
- A full-time, part-time or casual worker (in the case of casual workers, they must have been employed on a consistent basis by an eligible employer for the 12 months leading up to March 1).
Eligible workers will not be required to apply directly to the ATO.
But they will be obligated to complete a JobKeeper employee nomination notice once their boss has notified them of their intention to enrol.
Although the monthly payments will not start flowing from the Australian Taxation Office until the first week of May, employees will receive backdated payments to March 30.
What must businesses do to access payments?
Firstly, businesses need to ensure they meet the requisite criteria, which include:
- Businesses (private-sector companies, partnerships, trusts and not-for profits) with less than $1 billion in turnover must have lost a minimum of 30 per cent of revenue compared to this time last year
- Businesses raking in more than $1 billion in turnover must have lost at least 50 per cent of revenue
- Registered charities if their turnover has dropped by 15 per cent.
Businesses can enrol for JobKeeper through the ATO’s Business Portal (ideally by the end of April), and must notify their eligible employees of their intention to enrol.
To qualify for the payments, employers must have paid their employees a minimum of $1500 per fortnight (before tax) from March 30 until the end of April, before the subsidy kicks in.
Businesses can claim these backdated payments with the ATO and will be reimbursed during the first round of JobKeeper payments.
Based on the information provided to the ATO, companies will receive a notice of acknowledgement and acceptance into JobKeeper once they have enrolled.
What else should I know about JobKeeper?
The Morrison government added new provisions to the Fair Work Act when it passed JobKeeper through Parliament, including ‘JobKeeper enabling stand down directions’ and new grounds for employers to request workers to take annual leave.
The ATO has also outlined the various sanctions for employers who are caught out scamming the system and says it will conduct audits throughout the six-month scheme.
Among them include exclusion from the program, hefty financial penalties, and prison terms for breaches of Australian taxation law.