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Jobkeeper Payment: What Are Your Rights?

Jobkeeper payments will begin from the end of this week. Here are some things your employer can and can’t do.

Financial relief for struggling Australian businesses and employees will start from the end of this week. The federal government’s Jobkeeper payment will be made to eligible employers in early May, and employees should see payments hit their bank accounts in the next fortnight.

By now, your employer should have had discussions with you about your eligibility to receive the Jobkeeper payment. You’re eligible for Jobkeeper if you are a full-time, part-time or long-term casual employee (a long-term casual employee is a casual who has been employed on a regular and systematic basis for a minimum of 12 months as of March 1, 2020). On top of this, you must be an Australian resident for tax purposes. Basically, every employee in Australia is eligible except short-term casuals and visa workers.

Each eligible employee will receive a $1500 fortnightly payment – before tax – if their employer has successfully applied for the government support. There are a few important things to note.

In practical terms, your take-home amount won’t necessarily be the full $1500 because you’re paying income tax on this amount. You’re still eligible for the superannuation payment specified in your contract. That is, you still earn the entire amount, plus super, and you’re taxed on it.

If you are due to receive the payment, you may have a few questions for your employer or be confused about what they can and can’t do with the $1500.

If you’re normally paid less than $1500 a fortnight before tax, you’re still eligible to receive the full Jobkeeper amount – your employer can’t force you to work more in order to receive the full amount. They can ask you to work less or work more in the process of conducting regular business, but not at the expense of receiving the full Jobkeeper payment.

If you normally earn more than $1500 a week, you’re still entitled to your full earnings if you’re working your full contracted hours. For example, if you normally work ten days in a fortnight and earn $2000, as long as you are still working these hours, your employer has to pay you the $2000, with $1500 of it coming from the Jobkeeper scheme. If an employer wants to reduce what they pay you (with $1500 as the base rate), they have to ask you to reduce your hours.

Your employer can ask you to perform different work if you’re receiving Jobkeeper payments, but they need to provide you with three days’ notice in writing and the duties need to be within the usual scope of how the business operates. You also can’t be asked to do anything beyond your skillset or anything unsafe.

Your employer cannot ask you to share part of the payment with the business or another employee, and they cannot take an administrative fee (or similar) from the payment.

You can’t receive both Jobkeeper and Jobseeker payments. So, if for example you were stood down and now your employer is re-hiring you under the Jobkeeper scheme, you’ll have to contact Centrelink and advise them that you’ll be receiving Jobkeeper instead.

You can read more on the Jobkeeper payment here.

Photography: Pete Dillon

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