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.
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.
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 updatehere and a fact sheet for employershere.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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: