The coronavirus global pandemic had a serious impact on the retail, fast food and warehousing industries including the health and safety and job security of workers.
The SDA along with Australian Unions and businesses called for the Federal Government to provide wage subsidies for workers and employers to save incomes and jobs.
The Federal Government have now passed legislation for the JobKeeper Payment which is a wage subsidy for employers and employees who have been negatively impacted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
What is the difference between the JobSeeker and the JobKeeper payment?
The JobSeeker payment is for those who have lost their jobs and are no longer employed, it used to be called Newstart. The Australian Government has also increased the amount of the payment.
The JobKeeper payment is a wage subsidy provided to employers impacted by coronavirus to pay employees wages to keep them employed during this period. The payment will be paid to employers via the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to pass on to employees.
Is my employer eligible for JobKeeper?
The JobKeeper payment is paid to eligible employers impacted by coronavirus in order for them continue to pay employees.
For an employer to be eligible they must apply for the scheme and meet certain criteria including:
- On 1 March 2020, it carried on a business in Australia or was a non-profit body pursuing its objectives principally in Australia;
- has a turnover of less than $1 billion and can prove a decline in turnover of 30% or more; or
- has a turnover of more than $1 billion and can prove a decline in turnover of 50% or more;
- is an Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission registered charity that can prove a 15% or greater decline in turnover.
Not all employers will be eligible for the JobKeeper payment.
When will I know if my employer is eligible?
Your employer must notify you if they have elected to participate in the JobKeeper scheme. Employees will be asked to fill out at form nominating to participate in the JobKeeper scheme, which you will need to sign and return to your employer in order to receive JobKeeper payments. You do not have to nominate but only those employees who do nominate will receive JobKeeper payments.
If my employer is eligible, how do I know if I am eligible?
The form from the ATO that your employer gives you describes who is eligible to receive the $1,500 per fortnight. Generally, to receive the $1,500 per fortnight you must satisfy the following requirements:
- Employed by your employer on 1 March 2020,
- are a full-time or part-time employee; or
- are a casual employed on a regular and systematic basis for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020; and
- are aged 16 years or older at 1 March 2020 with the exception of full time students who are 17 years old and younger and who are not financially independent; and
- are Australian citizens, the holder of a permanent visa, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder at 1 March 2020
Who is not eligible?
The following employees are not eligible:
- Regular casuals with less than 12 months tenure
- Any worker on a temporary visa other than the 444 visa
There are also circumstances in which an employee can be temporarily not eligible (for a period of time) if:
- (government provided*) parental leave pay is payable to the individual and the individual’s PPL period overlaps with, or includes, the fortnight; or
- at any time during the fortnight, the individual is paid (government provided*) dad and partner pay; or
- if you are on workers compensation and all of the following applies to you:
- the individual is totally incapacitated for work throughout the fortnight;
- an amount is payable to the individual under, or in accordance with, an Australian workers’ compensation law in respect of the individual’s total incapacity for work.
* Receiving employer paid parental leave as the primary or secondary carer does not make you ineligible for the period.
Will I receive the full $1,500 per fortnight?
If you are eligible for the JobKeeper payment you will receive the full $1,500 per fortnight. It is a flat rate regardless of if you are full-time, part-time or casual.
- If you have been stood down or your wage is less than $1500 per fortnight, you will receive at least $1500 per fortnight (before tax) in payment.
- If you are still working your employer must pay you the higher of $1500 per fortnight before tax or your normal pay for the hours you are actually working (before tax).
Can my employer pick and choose who they make the payments to?
No, all eligible employees must receive the payments from the employer.
What if my employer doesn’t pass on the payments to me?
If you are eligible to receive the JobKeeper payments, your employer is legally required to pay them to you. Contact the SDA for advice if this happens to you.
Will superannuation be paid on JobKeeper payments?
Superannuation will only be paid on hours worked. If you are receiving JobKeeper payments but are not working any hours then you will not receive superannuation contributions.
What if my employer doesn’t qualify for the JobKeeper scheme?
If you have been stood down or are no longer working, you may qualify for the JobSeeker payment. You can check your eligibility at https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/affected-coronavirus-covid-19.
Can I work another job if I am receiving JobKeeper payments?
Yes, you can work another job or continue to receive additional income from another employer while you receive JobKeeper payments. You cannot receive the JobKeeper payments from two employers, you must nominate your primary employer.
If you are a long-term casual employee for one employer, and are also employed in a permanent position, you can only nominate your permanent employer. You cannot nominate your casual employer, even if your permanent employer does not qualify or elects not to participate in the JobKeeper scheme.
Can I be instructed to do different work under JobKeeper?
Yes, for a temporary period, an employer participating in the Job Keeper scheme can direct you to perform different duties if this is reasonable and necessary to save jobs. You must be given 3 days’ notice in writing of any change (you can agree to less notice if you wish) and your employer must consult with you or your union first. For example, your employer might ask you to work in their online retail operations. Any direction must be reasonable.
What if I don’t agree with what I have been asked to do?
If you think you have been treated unreasonably by your employer or have a good reason that you cannot comply with a directive (for example caring responsibilities), you should contact the SDA for advice.
Protections under workplace health and safety, anti-discrimination, and workers compensation laws continue to apply.
The SDA will provide you with advice and can take the matter up with your employer.
Also, because the SDA is the registered union for workers in retail we can apply to the Fair Work Commission to hear and decide a dispute about your pay, a change to your hours or days of work, or a request to access your annual leave. If the FWC finds the directive or request was unfair they can reverse the employer’s direction.
Can I be forced to take leave under JobKeeper?
If you work for an employer participating in the Job Keeper scheme, you may be asked by your employer to agree to take some annual leave, as long as you will not be left with a balance of less than 2 weeks of annual leave.
You must consider the request and can only refuse if you have reasonable grounds to do so.
You cannot be required to take your Long Service Leave.
Contact the SDA if you are unsure whether or not you are allowed to say no.
You should be paid your annual leave at the higher of either your usual rate of pay (including loadings) or $1,500 per fortnight. You are able to agree with your employer to take twice the period of annual leave at half your rate of pay if you wish.
Can my hours be cut under JobKeeper?
Yes, for a temporary period, an employer participating in the Job Keeper scheme can direct you to work reduced hours (or no hours) because of changes to business due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the directive is reasonable.
You must be given 3 days’ notice in writing of any change (you can agree to less notice if you wish) and your employer must consult with you or your union first.
You can be directed not to work on a day or days on which you would usually work; or to work for a lesser period on a particular day than you ordinarily would, or work a reduced number of hours compared with your ordinary hours.
The SDA is here to support you
The SDA continues to keep all SDA members up to date with information.
If you are unsure or have questions, get in touch with us for advice and support.
You can also stay updated with information from the SDA about coronavirus at www.national.sda.com.au/coronavirus.
Are you getting ripped off on JobKeeper?
Make sure you’re getting paid correctly and know what your rights are if you’re receiving JobKeeper payments.
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