Since March 2020, the JobKeeper payment (JobKeeper) has undergone multiple amendments to ensure that it not only continues to support employers and employees who remain adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but to keep the economy stimulated for the months and years to come. Now, in January 2021, JobKeeper moves to its second phase extension period which currently is proposed to end on 28 March 2021.

Turnover Eligibility for JobKeeper in the period from 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021

To claim JobKeeper in this time period a business must, amongst other things, show that:

  • It meets the actual decline in turnover test – for a business whose aggregated turnover is $1 billion or less then it must show that its actual GST turnover in the December 2020 quarter declined by at least 30% relative to a comparable period (usually the December 2019 quarter); and
  • It meets the original decline in turnover test under JobKeeper Version 1 which was based on projected GST turnover. 

A business already receiving JobKeeper before 28 September 2020 would have already satisfied the original decline in turnover test. Where a business is enrolling for JobKeeper from 28 September 2020, it will meet the original decline in turnover test if it meets the actual decline in turnover test.

Rate Decrease

From 28 September 2020, the JobKeeper payment amount was split into 2 tiers. The higher tier 1 rate applies to an employee who worked for 80 hours or more in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020. The tier 2 rate, which is aimed at part-time workers, applies where the 80-hour test is not met. The tier 1 and tier 2 rates that came into effect on 28 September 2020 ($1,200 and $750 respectively) ended on Sunday, 3 January 2021.

From 4 January 2021 until 28 March 2021, the tier 1 rate has been decreased to $1,000 per fortnight and the tier 2 rate has been decreased to $650 per fortnight.

All eligible recipients of the JobKeeper payment, such as employees, must be informed that a new payment rate applies to them (and the amount) within 7 days of notifying the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) through the business monthly declaration.

December 2020 business monthly declaration

Ordinarily, an eligible employer must provide their business monthly declaration by the 14th day of the month to be reimbursed for payments made to their eligible employees in the preceding JobKeeper fortnights. For the three JobKeeper fortnights occurring since 23 November 2020 to 3 January 2021 (fortnights 18-20) the monthly declaration may be processed up until 28 January 2021.

Wage Condition (Payment) Flexibility

The ATO is affording employers some flexibility in meeting the wage condition for fortnights 20 and 21.

  • For fortnight 20 (21 December 2020 to 3 January 2021) the payment date moved from 3 January 2021 to 4 January 2021.
  • For fortnight 21 (4 January 2021 to 17 January 2021), the payment date has moved from 14 January 2021 to 31 January 2021.

New Participants

If you are a new participant in the JobKeeper scheme and you wish to claim JobKeeper for January, by the end of January you must:

  1. Enroll for the JobKeeper payment;
  2. Submit your decline in turnover form to the ATO; and,
  3. Identify your eligible employees or business participants and which payment tier applies to them.

As an employer who receives JobKeeper or wishes to apply for the subsidy in this final extension phase, you need to keep up with the changes to JobKeeper to ensure compliance with its rules. The ATO has indicated that it is currently conducting audit compliance activities with respect to the inappropriate claiming of JobKeeper. As a result, an employer who is found to have failed to comply with the JobKeeper rules could be required to repay the subsidy and may incur penalties. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.