JobKeeper 2.0: what the construction industry need to know
The federal government has extended the JobKeeper stimulus package in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which will carry through to January 2021 before shifting to the second extension until March 2021.
It will cut fortnightly payments for full-time staff from $1,500 to $1,200 and begin on 28 September 2020.
Since 9 April 2020, the scheme has temporarily amended the Fair Work Act 2009. Employers have been given the power to give employees JobKeeper enabling directions subject to certain conditions being met which result in:
Reducing the number of hours an employee works, including to zero
- Changing the employee’s days of work and times (but not changing the number of hours of work)
- Changing the employee’s duties
- Changing the employee’s location of work
- Agreeing to take annual leave (including at half pay)
However, on and after 28 September 2020, employers will not be able to give a JobKeeper enabling direction to request that an employee agree to take annual leave. The Fair Work Commission has amended a number of awards to include an additional schedule which gives employers certain flexibilities when dealing with employees during the pandemic.
Employsure, Australian workplace relations advisor, welcomes an extension to the industrial relations changes: “The changes we have seen in the industrial relations sector over the past few months have given small business owners the flexibility they need to continue to operate in this challenging time,” Employsure managing director Ed Mallett says.
“There has never been any justification to wind back this flexibility that has been keeping businesses in operation. So many SMEs, such as those in the construction industry, are reliant on workplace provisions and would be forced to terminate employees without this flexibility. It is simply in no one’s interest.
“The flexibility we’ve seen in the IR sector in responding to COVID-19 is a sign of how complicated and impractical the system was pre-pandemic, and now we have a chance for long lasting reform that will benefit both business owners and their employees.”
To determine if an employer can give a JobKeeper enabling direction four general criteria needs to be met:
- The business must be covered by the Fair Work Act
- The business must qualify for the JobKeeper wage subsidy
- The business must be entitled to one or more JobKeeper payments for the employee for the relevant period
- The direction must be reasonable in the circumstances
If an employer answers no to any one of these steps, they cannot give a JobKeeper enabling direction. There are also specific criteria that must be satisfied in order to give the direction and these additional criteria changes depending on the type of direction they want to give.
If an employer does not satisfy the general criteria listed above to make a JobKeeper enabling direction, they may have options under any applicable industrial instruments, including awards or a contract of employment.
To find out more details about the new JobKeeper 2.0 scheme, including more options for employers and the nets steps, visit the Australian Taxation Office website here.