The Australian Government has introduced a Job Keeper payment, to help keep Australian workers in a job they may have already lost, or be in danger of losing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The wage subsidy will be applicable to around six million workers who will receive a flat payment of $1500 per fortnight. That payment will come through their employer, before tax, helping recipients to avoid some of the delays, and queues, which have been happening with Centrelink.

The payments are open to eligible businesses that receive a significant financial hit caused by the coronavirus, meaning bars and other hospitality venues which have been closed down will be eligible.

Speaking about the payment, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: “This payment will give working Australians their best chance of keeping their job and keeping them connected to their employers so that they can bounce back in the recovery phase.

“This $1500 payment is a flat payment; it is the equivalent of around 70 per cent of the median wage and represents about 100 per cent of the median wage in those sectors, most heavily impacted by the coronavirus like retail, hospitality and tourism.”

In identifying how you will qualify for this payment, the Treasurer added: “It will be available to full and part-time workers, sole traders, and in the case of casuals, to those who have been with their employer for 12 months or more.

“From [Monday], employers and sole traders will be able to apply to the Australian Tax Office for workers that are on their books as of 1 March. The payments will flow from the first week of May and be backdated to today.

“If employees have been stood down by their employer since March 1, they are still eligible for these payments. To be eligible the turnover of the business will need to have fallen by 30 per cent or more, or in the case of a business with an annual turnover of more than $1 billion by 50 per cent or more.”

The $1500 is a flat payment to all eligible workers, and that is not dependent on what wage you received prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown. The payment is also applicable to New Zealanders on 444 visas, and importantly it is applicable to you if you are currently out of work, but were stood down on or after 1 March this year.

The Prime Minister said: “What we are doing is providing this support to employers when their businesses are still functioning, when their employees are actually still at work. Our scheme is designed to actually keep people not just in pay, but in actual work, wherever that’s possible. And so that’s why the mechanisms kick in, the threshold kicks in when they have a downturn in revenue of 30 per cent.

“Now, I’ve been taking some soundings from people in my own electorate and they’ve seen their businesses fall by 50 per cent, 70 per cent. But they’re still keeping people on and they’re still running businesses. And this is actually an incentive for businesses to adapt to these new circumstances to keep people on doing actual work.

“And for those businesses that have had to close their doors because of the decisions to close down certain businesses. That means they can still have them on the books, on the payroll and still looking at how they can work together to resuscitate and revive the business on the other side.

“So this isn’t, this isn’t money for people just to go away and do nothing. This is about people remaining connected to their business and looking to the future.”

He also has this advice for workers: “[You] should ring their employer, find out whether they’re registering to be part of the Job Keeper program, and they’ll be able to take up that arrangement with Job Keeper.

“You obviously can’t get Job Keeper and Job Seeker, and that will be one of the conditions that the employers will be working through to ensure that they’re not double counting on those measures.

“So if you have applied to Job Seeker through Centrelink, then you can get in touch with your employer and translate across to the other program. That will mean it will take a lot of pressure off Centrelink and the government services system, and that will hopefully mean that we’ll be able to even move more quickly through those arrangements.”

CEO of the Australian Hotels Association, Stephen Ferguson said the Association had been pushing for a system where employers were paid a rebate for keeping staff on for some time.

“Firstly, I want to thank the Prime Minister and the Federal Government for announcing this scheme and the Opposition for supporting it,” he said.

“There is a lot more detail to work through, but I can say it is vital for hoteliers to retain a connection to their loyal staff as much as possible during this critical period and this package goes some way toward helping us do that.

“We are putting lives and the health of our staff and patrons first, but many on-going bills still need to be paid by mum and dad operators while the pub is not able to trade and have any income other than some small take-away sales.

“We are a resilient industry, however, we will get through this together and continue to work closely with Governments and the broader community.

Michael Rodrigues, Chair of the Night Time Industries Association, also welcomed the Government’s move, telling TheShout: “We welcome the introduction of a wage subsidy scheme to protect employees who have recently lost their jobs or are on the verge of being sacked.

“We have always argued that it is much easier for mothballed organisations to spring back in activity than those who have closed down completely, and the government now seemingly accepts this logic.

“The fact that extra money has been made available for hospitality businesses demonstrates just how hard the sector has been hit. We will work with government over the next days and weeks to urgently support businesses that need critical help. A challenge for many will remain cashflow management, in circumstances where rent relief has not as yet been granted, and is still subject to case by case negotiation with landlords.

“Make no mistake, this is a big win for the sector and a ray of hope in these dark times.”

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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