The Australian federal government has eased eligibility for its JobKeeper programme, allowing more employees to benefit from the wage subsidy, following recent changes which were announced last Friday. Both the business turnover test and the eligibility employee test have been amended.
Employees who were hired before 1 July 2020 will now also be eligible for the scheme – an extension from the previous cutoff point of 1 March 2020.
In addition, businesses will now only need to demonstrate that their actual GST turnover has fallen over one quarter to claim the subsidy. This will apply to claims made for the following two periods: 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, and 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021. Under previous guidelines, businesses needed to demonstrate a consecutive decline for two and three quarters respectively. Decline thresholds remain the same.
“We believe that about 530,000 extra Victorian employees will now join the JobKeeper program over the September quarter, that means 1.5 million Victorian employees will be using JobKeeper […] that’s nearly half of the private sector workforce across the whole state.” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in an interview last Friday.
Following the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Victoria, Stage 4 restrictions have meant that businesses in Victoria have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic, with the lockdown expected to last until 13 September.
However, the Australian government plans to stay on track to begin lowering the JobKeeper subsidy by the end of September. Although the JobKeeper programme has been substantially extended by six months and will now end on 28 March 2021, the subsidy provided will drop from AUD 1,500 to AUD 1,200 (USD 860) per fortnight starting from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, and further lessened to AUD 1000 (USD 720) from 4 January to 28 March 2021. Furthermore, payments will be distinguished between full-time and part-time employees, with lower compensation to those working fewer than 20 hours a week. The financial subsidy will be reduced to AUD 750 (USD 540) and AUD 650 (USD 470) respectively.
Speaking to ABC News, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann indicated the government would continue to respond to the country’s needs, stating, “We [the government] are prepared to make decisions in the context of an evolving situation based on the information that comes before us”.