Updated as of Thursday 27 August 2020
COVID-19 has changed the lives of millions of Australians over the past weeks. If you’re like one of the thousands of employers who have had to stop trading, you’re most likely feeling the impact it’s having on your team. With reduced hours, job loss and so much uncertainty, it can be difficult to know how to help your employees during this difficult time. With the government providing assistance and financial support to those experiencing reduced hours or job loss, we’ve summarised how you can help your employees. Disclaimer: The information provided in this knowledge base article is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation, we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for further advice. JobSeeker Income test – Update 27th August 2020: From 25 September 2020, the following changes will be made to the JobSeeker income test:
- The income free area for the COVID-19 JobSeeker Payment will increase from $106 to $300 per fortnight.
- If you’re currently earning above $300, your payment will be reduced by 60c for each dollar over this amount.
- The COVID-19 supplement isn’t considered as income.
- If you’re currently receiving the COVID-19 JobSeeker Payment as a principal carer, there will be no changes to the income free area.
Is JobKeeper means tested? Yes, from 25 September 2020, means tests (including the JobKeeper asset test) will also be reintroduced for all payments. Update 30th April 2020: The announcement of the JobKeeper Payment has allowed millions of Australians to stay employed whilst we navigate the true impact of COVID-19. Since this announcement, we’ve been hard at work on the Employment Hero JobKeeper Wizard that allows employers to send, collect and report on the nomination form. If you’d like to find out more about how the Employment Hero JobKeeper Wizard can help streamline your JobKeeper application process, get in touch with one of our small business specialists today.
A walkthrough of the Employment Hero JobKeeper Wizard
If you’re looking for more information on the JobKeeper Payment, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you support your team below. Additionally, you can view our handy JobKeeper FAQ blog for employers here.
Update 30th March 2020: The Australian government has announced further benefits consisting of a $1500 per fortnight wage subsidy to help keep people in jobs during the COVID-19 shutdown. The $130 million package will be available to full-time, part-time and casual workers who have been employed by an Australian business for more than 12 months. New Zealand nationals are also eligible for this. This will allow Australian businesses who have lost 30% or more in revenue as a result of COVID-19 to pass the payment onto their employees. This is a way to keep employees on the books and off welfare payments. You can find more information about this update here and a fact sheet for employers here. If your employees are affected by COVID-19 and would like to view more information and services to assist you during this time, you can learn more here. Additionally, you find more resources in the COVID-19 Employment Hero Resource Hub. Please note that information below is dated 26th March, 2020. As updates are continuously being made, information is subject to change.
- $550 fortnightly payment from 27 April 2020 for up to six months if eligible for payment. The COVID-19 supplement will be available for people covered under:
- JobSeeker Payment
- Sickness Allowance
- Youth Allowance for jobseekers
- Parenting Payment Partnered
- Parenting Payment Single
- Partner Allowance
- Sickness Allowance
- Farm Household Allowance.
The COVID-19 supplement is not a pro-rata payment. If you are in receipt of an eligible payment, you will receive the full $550 per fortnight.
COVID-19 JobSeeker Payments (previously, Newstart Allowance) Access
Expanding JobSeeker allowance eligibility (and Youth Allowance for job seekers). Access will be given if you’re:
- A permanent employee who has been stood down or lost your job.
- A casual or contract worker whose income has reduced.
- Caring for someone who’s affected by coronavirus.
- The ordinary one week waiting period will be waived for three months starting from 12 March 2020.
- The JobKeeper asset testing will be waived from 27 April 2020 for six months.
- Normal income testing rules still apply.
- You are unable to access employer entitlements (Annual Leave, Long Service Leave, Sick Leave) or income protection insurance at the same time as getting the COVID-19 JobSeeker Payment / Youth Allowance for job seekers.
First Economic Support Payment:
$750 one-off payment if in receipt of an eligible payment between 12 March and 13 April, being:
- JobSeeker Payment
- Family Tax Benefit A
- Family Tax Benefit B
- Parenting payment
- Plus, several other government payments. Please refer to this link for a full list of eligible payments
Second Economic Support Payment
There is a $750 one-off payment available if you’re not eligible for the COVID-19 Supplement. You may get this if you were eligible on 10 July for any payments that were eligible for the First Economic Support Payment.
Early Access to Superannuation
- Eligible persons can withdraw up to $10,000 tax-free for the 30 June 2020 financial year, and up to an additional $10,000 tax-free for the 30 June 2021 financial year
- Available for those who are in receipt of the COVID-19 Supplement
- Need to apply online through myGov before 1 July
Rent assistance from Services Australia is available for persons who are in receipt of either:
- Certain payments from Services Australia (i.e. JobSeeker Payment)
- More than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit
And, you pay a more than a specified amount of ‘Rent’ or a similar payment such as lodging, board, mooring fees. Persons who have made mortgage payments aren’t eligible. You don’t need to submit a claim for Rent Assistance. Your JobSeeker eligibility is assessed when you claim a payment from Services Australia.
Renegotiation of Mortgage
All lenders have hardship teams ready to help customers in tough times. Certainly, with COVID-19, most lenders if not all will be expecting calls from their customers to discuss what options are available to reduce and/or defer payments. Banks are considered to be an essential service and so will remain open at these times. Contact your lender to discuss what options are available. Some examples of what these offerings are:
Australia & New Zealand Bank (ANZ)
- Decrease variable interest home loan rates by 0.15%pa across all Variable rate indices, effective from 27 March 2020.
- Introduction of a two-year fixed rate of 2.19%pa (available under ANZ Breakfree) for Owner Occupiers paying Principal & Interest.
- Request a deferral of home loan repayments for up to six-months, with a review at three-months, with interest capitalized. Please note that the loan balance increases when interest is capitalized.
- You can find the full ANZ COVID-19 Support Package here.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA)
- All home loan customers can defer home loan repayments for up to six-months, with interest capitalized. Please note that the loan balance increases when interest is capitalized.
- Introduction of a two-year fixed rate of 2.29%pa (Wealth Package) for Owner Occupiers paying Principal & Interest.
- Home loan customers who have lost their job or suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19 can apply for a three month deferral on mortgage repayments, with additional three month deferral possible.
- A 2.29% p.a. fixed rate home loan for one, two and three years for owner occupied customers on principal and interest repayments with a Premier Advantage Package
- You can view the full COVID-19 Customer Support Package from Westpac here.
Whilst a lot of industries are going through difficult times as a result of COVID-19, there are some industries/businesses that require additional staff to accommodate the increased activity. Some examples of businesses that have stated they will be hiring additional employees follow:
- Services Australia – additional 5,000 positions available nationwide.
- Coles – additional 5,000 positions available nationwide.
- Woolworths – additional positions available.
- Uber Eats
Some additional items you may consider are:
- Review all non-essential spending, cutting back where you can
- Reducing child-care hours
- Cancelling all non-essential subscriptions (i.e. gym memberships, sporting memberships etc.)
- Use discount offers e.g. 5% off Coles & Woolworths gift cards via Employment Hero
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I claim a JobSeeker allowance? The best way to claim your JobSeeker allowance is online. You’ll need a Centrelink online account which you can set up through the myGov website. If you’re unable to do this, you can call Services Australia, or go to a service centre. If I am only eligible for a reduced payment because of the JobSeeker Income Test, will the Coronavirus Supplement also be reduced?” No, the COVID-19 Supplement will not be reduced. All eligible persons will receive the full $550 per fortnight. Will the Coronavirus Supplement be paid to persons who receive Newstart Allowance?” As of 20 March 2020, the Newstart Allowance was rebranded to JobSeeker Payment. All persons who are eligible for the JobSeeker Allowance (i.e. Newstart Allowance) will automatically receive the COVID-19 Supplement. Is the Coronavirus Supplement different for single persons and partnered persons? No. The COVID-19 Supplement is an eligibility payment. If you are a single person and eligible for COVID-19 Supplement, you automatically receive $550 per fortnight. If you are a partnered person and you are both eligible for the COVID-19 Supplement, you both automatically receive $550 each per fortnight. If you are a partnered person and only one of you are eligible for the COVID-19 Supplement, only the eligible person will receive $550 per fortnight. I am a casual worker who has had my hours reduced. Am I eligible for the Coronavirus Supplement? You are only eligible for the COVID-19 Supplement if you are in receipt of an eligible payment (e.g. JobSeeker Payment). The normal Income Tests apply to JobSeeker Payments. If you are earning less than $1,075 per fortnight, you will be eligible for the COVID-19 JobSeeker Payment (pro-rata) and the full COVID-19 Supplement payment. I have been stood down from my job and will apply for the COVID-19 JobSeeker Payment. How much is the payment, and what is the waiting period? The government has waived the ordinary one week waiting period from 12 March 2020 for three months. The maximum fortnightly amounts for JobSeeker Payments for the following categories of persons are as follows: Note: The COVID-19 Supplement will be automatically paid on top of your JobSeeker Payment. What if I have been stood down and receiving JobSeeker Payments, and then access a type of leave payment through my employer? In order to receive financial assistance, there will be a JobSeeker income test.. If you are in receipt of a leave payment you will need to advise Services Australia that your situation has changed. If the leave payment causes you to earn in excess of $1,075 per fortnight, then you will not be eligible for the COVID-19 JobSeeker Payment for that period. You will also not be eligible for the COVID-19 Supplement. Once the leave payment ceases, or your income is otherwise reduced below the relevant threshold noted above, you can apply/reapply for the JobSeeker Payment.
Need more help? Here are some links to support you.
The Government is working to cushion the blow from the coronavirus for businesses, individuals and households during this difficult time. To help them get through to the other side of the crisis, here are some helpful links and documents below. These links assist small and medium businesses, sole traders and households under the $189 billion economic support package announced by the Prime Minister: Business.gov.au support line: 13 28 46 Small or medium business with reduced cash flow? Here’s what we’re doing to boost your cash flow. Is your business financially distressed? This is what we’re doing to support you. Assisting the economic recovery Here’s how we’ll support you to grow. Employ an apprentice or trainee? This support is for you. Are you a sole trader that has lost business? This is what we’re doing to support you and your business. Household finances hit by reduced work? Here’s what we’re doing to help support your family budget. Payments to support households. For more information on Coronavirus and the Government’s response, please visit: www.treasury.gov.au/coronavirus or www.australia.gov.au Thank you to our friends at RFG who helped pull this article together.