JopKeeper and the Return to Work

In response to the COVID-19 economic downturn, the government recently introduced a JobKeeper subsidy assisting businesses to continue to pay their employees. This allowed eligible employers to be reimbursed for a fixed amount of $1,500.00 per fortnight for each employee until the scheme finalises.

As restrictions begin to be lifted, and businesses start reopening their doors it is important they are aware of how the scheme will continue to operate.

Changes to payments

Any business that has commenced making JobKeeper payments must continue to do so in full per fortnight until the last decided fortnight.

If an employer fails to do so they will have breached the Fair Work Act and may face penalties of up to $12,600 as an individual and $126,000 as a corporation, for each breach in addition to criminal penalties.

Employees who return to work and will be earning less than the $1,500 per fortnight will still need to be paid the full amount before tax. Employers are also legally required to pay relevant superannuation on any hours worked.

Those employees earning in excess of $1,500 per fortnight whilst working are entitled to receive the full amount. This means, where an employee is entitled to earn $2,500 per fortnight for their hours worked, employers will need to pay the full $2,500 plus applicable superannuation.

Changes to directions

Changes to the Fair Work Act enable a business to vary the terms of an eligible employee’s employment. These new provisions allow an employer to direct the eligible employee to:

  • Work fewer hours or days in certain circumstances
  • Change the location of the employee’s work
  • Alter the total number of hours performed by an employee.

It is important to note that these JobKeeper directions will only be available where employee cannot be usefully employed for their normal days or hours because of changes to business attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic or because of government initiatives to slow the transmission of COVID-19.

Disputes

Where disputes arise in connection to JobKeeper payments, employees and employers may apply to the Fair Work Commission to deal with the dispute. The Commission has the power to make any order it considers desirable to give effect to a JobKeeper enabling direction including setting it aside or replacing it with a different direction.

Any order made by the Commission will not apply after the JobKeeper scheme finalises in which pre-existing employment conditions will resume.

If you need advice in relation to the JobKeeper scheme or any employment matter, contact Butlers at enquiries@butlers.net.au or call (02) 4929 7002.