The Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Jobkeeper Payments) Amendment Bill 2020 was passed by Senate on Tuesday, extending the government’s wage subsidy program by six months to 28 March 2021.
Under the new regulation, JobKeeper 2.0 will replace the current flat $1,500 a fortnight subsidy with a two-tiered system.
The subsidy will consist of a $750 fortnightly payment for those working under 20 hours pre-COVID and $1,200 per fortnight for others. This well then be reduced further from January next year to $650 and $1,000, respectively.
A legislative instrument detailing the rules for the new rates and the new eligibility criteria is expected to be issued shortly by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
The slight tweak in the original JobKeeper 2.0 legislation will see legacy employers — those that have received JobKeeper but don’t qualify for the second stage of the stimulus — retain the industrial relations flexibility measures, provided they have suffered a 10 per cent drop in revenue in relevant quarters this year compared with last year.
To qualify for the flexibility, businesses will need to hold a certificate, issued by an accountant, proving their 10 per cent decline in turnover each quarter. For small employers with fewer than 15 workers, a self-certificate will be accepted, but penalties are expected for those that lie.
According to information given earlier by Attorney-General Christian Porter, while those remaining on the wage subsidy will still be able to reduce hours to zero, adjust duties or work locations, legacy employers will only be allowed to cut hours to a floor of 60 per cent of an employee’s ordinary hours of work as at 1 March.
Other restrictions will also prevent an employer from requiring an employee to work less than two hours on their usual work day, while any workplace changes will need to be communicated to the employee in a written notice issued seven days in advance to the change.