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%.
Newly eligible employees
- Significantly, from Monday 3 August 2020, the employee eligibility test date will move from 1 March 2020 to 1 July 2020.
- The new reference date will apply for the last four fortnights of the legislated scheme as well as the duration of the proposed extended period.
- Staff who were hired after 1March 2020 may now be eligible for JobKeeper.
Changes in a nutshell
- a two-tier payment rate will apply based on the worker’s average weekly work hours during a reference period;
- the current $1,500 per fortnight payment rate will be reduced on 28 September 2020 and reduced further on 4 January 2021;
- the decline in turnover will be retested on a quarterly basis; and
- the decline in turnover test will be based on actual GST turnover.
Eligibility in detail
The eligibility criteria for employees (and business participants) will change from Monday 3 August 2020. For the final four fortnights of the current scheme, and throughout the extended scheme, the reference date for employee eligibility for the extension periods will generally change from 1 March 2020 to 1 July 2020.
The revised eligibility criteria are as follows:
- the individual is employed by the entity at any time in the fortnight — including those stood down or re-hired;
- on 1 July 2020 — the individual was aged 18 or over (or if they were if 16 or 17 years old on 1 March 2020 — they were independent or not undertaking full-time study);
- on 1 July 2020 — the individual was either a full-time, part-time or fixed-term permanent employee, or a long-term casual employee;
- on 1 July 2020 — the individual was either an Australian resident for social security law purposes, or a tax resident and held a special category Subclass 444 visa (note that the Fact Sheet states 1 March 2020 — however, another updated Treasury fact sheet confirms that the test date is 1 July 2020; presumably the 1 March 2020 reference is an error);
- the individual agrees to be nominated by the employer as an eligible employee; and
- the individual does not receive the Government’s paid parental leave or dad and partner pay, or workers’ compensation payments for total incapacity for work, at any time during the fortnight.
Payment Rates in detail
The payment rate — i.e. the minimum amount which an eligible employer must pay an eligible employee, and the amount which the ATO pays the employer per eligible employee — is $1,500 per fortnight. This is a flat rate regardless of the employee’s work hours for the relevant fortnight.
Under the extended scheme the payment rate will be reduced in two tranches as follows
Note: Businesses will be required to nominate which payment rate they are claiming.
The two-tier payment system will apply to workers based on their average weekly work hours in the relevant reference period.
The reference period is the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020.
Workers with 1 March 2020 eligibility are able to use the period with the higher number of hours worked.
The payment tiers will apply as follows:
Eligibility Criterion - decline in turnover test
Assessing decline in turnover based on activity statements
Businesses will generally be able to assess eligibility based on details reported in their Business Activity Statement (BAS).
The deadline to lodge the September BAS is in late October, and the December BAS is in late January (monthly) or late February (quarterly).
Therefore businesses will need to assess their JobKeeper eligibility in advance of the BAS deadline in order to meet the wage condition.
There are a number of matters in relation to which the Commissioner will have discretion in relation to the ATO’s administration of the extended scheme:
- The Commissioner will have the discretion to set out alternative tests where a worker’s hours were not usual during the February 2020 and June 2020 reference periods — e.g. where the employee was on leave, volunteering in the bushfire effort, or not employed for the whole period.
- The ATO will provide guidance where the employee was paid in non-weekly or non-fortnightly pay periods and in other circumstances.
- The Commissioner will have the discretion to set out alternative tests in circumstances where it is not appropriate to compare actual GST turnover in a quarter in 2020 with actual GST turnover in the comparative quarter in 2019.
- The Commissioner will have discretion to extend the time for meeting the wage condition so that businesses have time to first confirm their JobKeeper eligibility.
At time of writing the ATO has not released any guidance on how it will administer the proposed extended scheme.
Carmen owns and runs the City Café. Carmen started claiming the JobKeeper Payment for her eligible staff and herself as a business participant when the JobKeeper Payment commenced on 30 March 2020. At the time, Carmen estimated that the projected GST turnover for City Café in April 2020 would be 70 per cent below its actual GST turnover in April 2019. To be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment from 30 March 2020 to 27 September 2020, Carmen needed to show the turnover for the City Café was estimated to decline by at least 30 per cent.
As a monthly BAS lodger, Carmen submitted her BAS for the City Café in July, August and September. For each of these, her actual turnover was as follows:
Total for September Quarter
Decline for September quarter: 33 percent
The actual turnover decline for the September 2020 quarter is greater than 30 per cent, so City Café is eligible for the JobKeeper Payment for the period of 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.
Business continued to improve for the City Café, and actual turnover for the December 2020 quarter was 20 per cent less than the December quarter 2019, so the City Café was no longer eligible to claim the JobKeeper for the second extension period starting from 4 January 2021.
Working out the payment rate
As Carmen was working full-time at the café herself throughout February 2020, she is entitled to claim $1,200 per fortnight from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, as an eligible business participant.
She has three full-time employees who are also eligible to be paid $1,200 per fortnight because they each worked 20 hours or more per week throughout February 2020.
Chris — part-time
Carmen has an employee, Chris, who works part-time with different hours every other week: 14 hours one week; and 22 hours the next week. During the two pay fortnights (i.e. the four weeks of pay periods) prior to 1 March 2020, Chris was employed for 36 hours in each fortnight. On average, Chris worked less than 20 hours per week for City Café. Carmen is eligible to claim $750 per fortnight for Chris, from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.
Cathy — long-term casual — less than 20 hours per week
Cathy is an eligible employee who worked on a long-term casual basis during February 2020 and June 2020. To determine what rate of JobKeeper Payment to claim for Cathy, Carmen looks at pay records for the two fortnightly pay periods before 1 March 2020 and 1 July 2020. She sees that Cathy was employed on average less than 20 hours per week, so Carmen claims $750 per fortnight for Cathy, from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.
Charles — not employed in 1 March 2020
Carmen also started employing Charles, who works part-time, from June 2020 when business started picking up again. Because Charles was employed at City Café before 1 July 2020, Carmen looks at pay records for the two fortnightly pay periods before 1 July 2020 to determine the rate of JobKeeper Payment to claim for Charles. Charles was employed on average less than 20 hours per week for this period, so Carmen claims $750 per fortnight for Charles, from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.