August 2020 – JobKeeper eligibility criteria softened

The Federal Government is injecting an extra $15.6 million into the JobKeeper scheme, reversing some of the tightened eligibility rules announced as part of ‘JobKeeper 2.0’.

To be eligible, businesses will need to demonstrate a decline in turnover over one quarter rather than multiple quarters, and workers will qualify if they were employed on 1 July (previously 1 March).

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says that as a result of new lockdowns an extra 530,000 Victorian employees will join the program over the September quarter, amounting to 1.5 million Victorian workers on the scheme.

“That’s nearly half of the private sector workforce across the whole State.”

The changes are nationwide and aim to soften the economic blow caused by the Victorian crisis, which Treasury forecasts will push unemployment to 10% and shrink the national economy by as much as $12 billion in the September quarter.

“The total cost of this to our economy just in the September quarter… we anticipate to now be around $10 to $12 billion. That’s devastating. It’s 250,000 to 400,000 people who will either be out of work or reduced to zero hours and out of the workforce. So these are terrible impacts,” says Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“That’s why we’ve done everything we have; JobKeeper, JobSeeker, cash flow allowance support, pandemic leave support, payments so people are allowed to isolate when they’re told to when they’ve had a positive test or they’re having to be separated from work for having to isolate.”

There are no changes to the current $1,500 subsidy, or the new two-tiered subsidies due to start on 28 September ($750 for those who worked fewer than 20 hours a week before the scheme started in February, and $1,200 for those working longer hours).

ACCI has welcomed the changes, but says the tweaks “will not provide help to every business that is struggling”. The ACTU echoes this sentiment, claiming that the expansion of the scheme is a “good step forward”, but falls short because it still doesn’t cover casuals and visa workers.

“Mind-boggling” impact of Victorian lockdown

Worker permits have now come into force in Melbourne, with employees required to carry a permit due to the stage four lockdown.

Employers that operate permitted work premises and require staff to attend a worksite must issue employees with the documentation indicating that they are a ‘permitted worker’.

The permit is predominantly for those in the private sector, as workers such as police officers and nurses can use their official identification.

Employers can be penalised up to $99,132 for breaching the requirement or be issued with an on the spot fine of up to $9,913. Fines for employees are up to $19,826 and $1,652 respectively.

Meanwhile, a new childcare permit system has also been introduced to allow parents to access childcare during the lockdown.

As a result of the restrictions, only vulnerable children and those whose parents are permitted workers can attend childcare.

All permitted workers, regardless of whether they are working onsite or from home, qualify for childcare permits if they attest that they are unable to care for their child/dependant during work hours and have nobody else to do so.

Both the employee and employer need to fill in the permit form, which is different for onsite and remote workers.

The Federal Treasury estimates of the Victorian lockdown’s impact on the national economy “reinforces the deep concerns that businesses have about their ability to continue to provide employment for hundreds of thousands of people and in some cases about the survival of their businesses,” says Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox.

“The severity of these impacts is mind-boggling and sets Victoria up to be Australia’s economic laggard. The national cost of the lockdown is estimated to be between $10 and $12 billion and between 250,000 and 400,000 jobs are expected to be lost.”

The Ai Group says the State Government needs to provide further clarification on the details around businesses opening and closing, but is pleased with its “prompt and effective” responses and clear avenues of communication.

Source: HR Daily

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