Finance Your Budget JobKeeper: Who is eligible? And when will the payments start?
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JobKeeper: Who is eligible? And when will the payments start?

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The JobKeeper payments are a wage subsidy for employers. Photo: TND
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The federal government on Wednesday passed its $130 billion JobKeeper package – a wage subsidy scheme hailed as the biggest financial lifeline in Australian history.

Up to six million workers are expected to access the fortnightly payments – including many who were stood down after the first wave of economic havoc.

With the ink still drying on the legislation, The New Daily explains who will benefit and how much they will receive.

Do I qualify for JobKeeper payments?

Workers must have been employed on March 1 to qualify for JobKeeper.

Full-time and part-time workers are eligible for the scheme.

As are casual workers who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months – and sole traders who have lost, or are likely to lose, 30 per cent of turnover as a result of COVID-19.

To be eligible, employees must also be one of the following:

  • 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.

Then there’s an additional condition for employers.

Businesses – including private-sector companies, partnerships, trusts and not-for profits – must have lost at least 30 per cent of revenue compared to this time last year.

For businesses that rake in more than $1 billion in turnover, that benchmark is raised to a 50 per cent reduction in revenue.

Registered charities also qualify if their turnover has dropped by 15 per cent.

How much will I get under JobKeeper?

The Morrison government will pay eligible businesses a wage subsidy of $1500 a fortnight for every worker they keep employed during the crisis.

Employers will then be legally obliged to pass this on to workers – although it won’t affect everyone’s pay cheques.

If you normally earn more than $1500 a fortnight, there will be no difference to your pay if you keep working your regular hours. The money will go to your boss to subsidise your normal salary.

But if you normally earn less than that – or are stood down or have your hours cut because of the coronavirus – then you will be paid the full $1500 a fortnight. (The same goes for employees who were let go after March 1 and later re-hired.)

This means some workers – especially part-timers – will receive a pay rise under the measure.

Either way, it is designed to keep you employed.

Is the payment taxable?

JobKeeper payments are taxable, as they are paid by employers, rather than the government.

But the unemployment benefit JobSeeker is tax-free, with those already on income support now eligible for an additional coronavirus supplement of $550 a fortnight.

As for superannuation, employers will only need to pay it on top-up payments above the $1500 threshold.

If an employee’s pay falls below the $1500 threshold, the employer is under no obligation to pay superannuation.

When will the payments commence?

Under the legislation, employers will start receiving monthly subsidies from the Australian Tax Office from the first week of May.

But payments will be backdated to March 30.

Scott Morrison has urged the near-750,000 businesses that have applied for the scheme to begin paying their staff under their existing payroll systems and claim that money back from the ATO.

However, many businesses forced to shut down following lockdown restrictions – including cinemas, gyms and pubs – may not deliver payments until the start of May given their lack of turnover.

Do I have to keep working to get the payment?

Workers do not have to keep working to receive the payment.

As discussed earlier, if there’s no work available as a result of the coronavirus, employees will receive the fortnightly payment of $1500 before tax.

If they continue working their normal hours, the money will subsidise their normal wage.

But if the coronavirus means there is less work than usual, employers are allowed to reduce or modify their workers’ hours to bring their pro-rata pay in line with the subsidy.

Does this affect my annual leave?

Eligible employers can direct staff to take annual leave under amendments to the Fair Work Act that were passed at the same time as the JobKeeper legislation.

The wage subsidy can be used to subsidise holiday pay.

However, arrangements must be agreed by mutual consent between employers and workers, and cannot leave staff with less than two weeks’ leave in their balance.