JobKeeper Scheme Summary


The Federal Government’s JobKeeper Scheme gives qualifying employers fortnightly $1,500 payments for eligible employees, on the condition that they pay that employee at least $1,500 in that fortnight.

The JobKeeper Scheme is designed to help employers deal with the economic impact of COVID-19 and to keep workers employed.

The JobKeeper Scheme is set to be in place until 28 September 2020.

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Your JobKeeper questions answered

Payments are given fortnightly to eligible employers who have paid their employees at least $1,500 in that fortnight. The scheme essentially reimburses the employer for those wages.

If an employer qualifies for, and is entitled to JobKeeper payments, new sections of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) provide for:

  • JobKeeper Enabling Directions to be issued, allowing employers to change where an employee is to work, what their duties are, and if necessary, to stand an employee down- all subject to a number of restrictions;
  • Employers and employees to enter into flexibility agreements regarding alternative hours of work or taking annual leave at half-pay; and,
  • Employers requesting employees to take annual leave (where the request would not leave the employee with less than two weeks’ accrued leave).

The eligibility requirements for an employer include that they:

  1. Experience or expect to experience a significant reduction in turnover of:
    • 30% fall in turnover (for businesses with turnover of $1 billion or less)
    • 50% fall in turnover (for businesses with turnover of more than $1 billion), or
    • 15% fall in turnover (for ACNC-registered charities other than universities and schools.
  2. Have eligible employees (see below);
  3. Have paid their employees the fortnightly $1,500 payment up-front; and
  4. Have notified the government that they intend to participate.

Banks, state, federal and local governments, as well as government-owned corporations, are not eligible for the JobKeeper Scheme.

To be eligible, an employee must:

  1. Be employed during the relevant fortnight;
  2. Be aged 16 years or over;
  3. Not be a casual employee, unless they are a long-term casual employee, employed for at least 12 months on a regular and systemic basis; and
  4. Be an Australian resident within the meaning of the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth), or hold a special category visa.

Employees who have recently been sacked or made redundant can be rehired, and will be eligible for the payments if they were employed as at 1 March 2020.

If your employer qualifies for the JobKeeper Scheme and is entitled to payments, your employer should pass on the full $1,500 to you.

Even if you do not usually earn $1,500 per fortnight, you are entitled to the full payment. You do not have to increase your usual hours to be entitled to this amount.

So, if you are:

  • normally entitled to $1,500 a fortnight or less, you must be paid $1,500;
  • normally entitled to more than $1,500 for the work you perform and are continuing to perform that work as usual (or are working increased hours), you should be paid your normal income and your employer will receive the $1,500 (effectively topping-up the remainder);
  • working less then you ordinarily would but still enough hours that you would normally earn greater than $1,500 a fortnight, you are still entitled to $1,500 and any additional wages that are payable in accordance with your hourly rate of pay.

Employees for whom parental leave pay is payable during an overlapping fortnight or who have been paid dad and partner pay payments under the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (Cth) are not eligible employees for JobKeeper payments. Employees who are totally incapacitated for work and are due workers compensation payments, also will not be an eligible employee for the JobKeeper payments in a relevant fortnight. 

However, employees appear to still be eligible for the payments if they are receiving parental leave payments through employer-funded schemes (for example, through their employment contract or Enterprise Agreement).

Temporary changes have been made to the FW Act that allow employers who qualify for the JobKeeper Scheme and who are (or within the relevant fortnight, become) entitled to payments, to:

  • direct you to stand down (i.e. not work);
  • direct you to change duties;
  • direct you to change the location of your work (for example, to work at home).

Any of these directions must:

  • Be reasonable in all the circumstances;
  • Comply with any requirements to provide notice or consult that already apply at work; and,
  • Be in writing.

None of these directions, including a direction to be stood down, affect your entitlement to the JobKeeper payments.

There are other limitations on the directions that can be issued – see JobKeeper Scheme FAQs below.

The changes to the FW Act also allow an employer and employee, where the employer qualifies for the JobKeeper Scheme and who is (or within the relevant fortnight, becomes) entitled to payments, to enter into ‘flexibility agreements’:

  • changing the days or times when the employee is to perform work (but not reducing your hours); or
  • allowing an employee to take annual leave at half pay.

Employees must consider and not unreasonably refuse a flexibility agreement to change days or times. We recommend seeking legal advice before agreeing so such an arrangement.

The changes to the FW Act provide that an employer who qualifies for the JobKeeper Scheme and is entitled to payments may ask you to take annual leave provided that complying would not reduce your leave balance to less than 2 weeks’ paid annual leave.

You are required to consider and not unreasonably refuse such a request. What is an unreasonable refusal will depend on your individual circumstances.

 A stand down under JobKeeper may include a direction:

  • not to work on a day or days that you would usually work;
  • to work for a lesser period than you would ordinarily work on a particular day; or
  • to work fewer hours than your ordinary hours of work (including to nil).

 For such a direction to be lawful:

  • you must not be able to be usefully employed for your normal days or hours during the stand down period because of business changes attributable to COVID-19 or government initiatives to slow the pandemic; and,
  • the implementation of the stand down must be safe, having regard to the nature and spread of COVID-19.

Yes. At minimum, you should be receiving the $1,500 payment.

A change in duties must be:

  • within your skill and competency;
  • safe, having regard to the nature and spread of COVID-19;
  • where the duty requires you to have a license or qualification you should have the relevant license or qualification; and,
  • reasonably within the scope of your employers’ business.

Your employer must also hold a reasonable belief that the direction is necessary for your continued employment or the continued employment of other employees.

Your employer should ensure that the location is suitable to perform your duties. If the place is not your home, it must:

  • not require you to travel a distance that is unreasonable in all the circumstances, including the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • be safe having regard to the nature and spread of COVID-19; and,
  • the performance of the duties must reasonably be within the scope of your employers business operation.

Yes. A JobKeeper stand down won’t apply while you are on paid or unpaid leave authorised by your employer.

If you take paid personal leave, you should continue to comply with standard processes, including providing a medical certificate.

Yes. You will continue to accrue leave entitlements, and your service will be recognised as though the direction had not been given or the agreement had not been made.

Unfair dismissal, general protections and anti-discrimination laws all continue to apply.

If you believe your employer has, for example, selected which employees receive the JobKeeper payments based on age or a disability, you should seek urgent legal advice.

If you suspect your employer is not adhering to the JobKeeper Scheme rules, you should seek urgent legal advice.

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Normally, changes like that cannot be made without your agreement, subject to what your contract, enterprise agreement or award says.

Also, it is against the law for an employer to claim they are issuing you a JobKeeper direction when they are not actually authorised to do so.

Contact your union or a lawyer if this is occurring at work.  

General employment rights during the Covid-19 pandemic - FAQs

No, your pay cannot be reduced without your agreement and it cannot be reduced below what your award, enterprise agreement or the national minimum wage provides.

If your employer qualifies for and is eligible (or becomes eligible in that fortnight) for JobKeeper payments, while they can issue you a direction changing your hours and duties, you can’t be paid at a lower hourly rate than you would otherwise have been if the direction had not been given.

However, if your hours are reduced under a JobKeeper stand down direction and you are paid according to the hours you work, while your hourly rate won’t reduce, the total amount you are entitled to may be lower. If your employer is receiving JobKeeper payments for you, at minimum, even if you have no hours, you should be getting paid $1,500 per fortnight.

Before any worker accepts a pay cut, they should seek legal advice first.

The standard position in respect of annual leave is that it should be taken by agreement between the employer and employee.

If your employer qualifies for the JobKeeper Scheme and is entitled to a JobKeeper payment for you, then they can ask you to take annual leave. Employees are required to consider and not unreasonably refuse such a request. However, this won’t apply if the request would result in you having a balance of fewer than 2 weeks’ paid annual leave.

Otherwise, the JobKeeper Scheme allows employees and employers to enter into agreements which would allow employees to take annual leave at half-pay. Their annual leave, redundancy pay and notice entitlements will still accrue and be calculated as if no such agreement had been made.

For many workers, it depends on what your contract of employment, award or enterprise agreement says. It may contain a clause permitting your employer to change your duties, sometimes without your agreement. So check your contract or industrial instrument (if you have one).

Otherwise, if your employer qualifies for and is eligible for JobKeeper payments, they can issue a direction changing your duties.

These duties should be within your skill and competency; should be safe, having regard to the nature and spread of COVID-19; where the duty requires you to have a license or qualification you should have the relevant license or qualification; and should be reasonably within the scope of your employer’s business.

The direction must be reasonable in all the circumstances, and there are notice and consultation requirements that must be complied with.

Finally, your employer must also hold a reasonable belief that the direction is necessary for your continued employment or the continued employment of other employees.

Again, for many workers, it depends on what your contract of employment, award or enterprise agreement says. It may contain a clause permitting your employer to change your location of work, sometimes without your agreement. So check your contract or industrial instrument (if you have one).

Otherwise, if your employer qualifies for and is eligible for JobKeeper payments, they can issue a direction changing your location of work.

Your employer should ensure that the location is suitable to perform your duties. If the place is not your home, it must:

  • not require you to travel a distance that is unreasonable in all the circumstances, including the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • be safe having regard to the nature and spread of COVID-19; and,
  • result in the performance of the duties being reasonably within the scope of your employers business operation.

Again, the direction must be reasonable in all the circumstances, and there are notice and consultation requirements that must be complied with.

Finally, your employer must also hold a reasonable belief that the direction is necessary for your continued employment or the continued employment of other employees.

An employer should be providing employees with the tools and equipment they need to perform their roles safely.

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws continue to apply notwithstanding any direction made under the JobKeeper Scheme.

Under WHS laws, employers have obligations to provide safe workplaces. What this looks like in a workplace will vary depending on the nature of work and the type of workplace.

In respect of Covid-19, a number of formal restrictions have been put in place regarding spacing and distancing which may affect how work is performed.

Employers should comply with any laws in place and also have regard to the publicly available information about the risks in ensuring the safety of workers. 

If you are sick with Covid-19, you should take personal leave. Similarly, if you are caring for someone who is sick, you should take carers leave.

You should provide your employer with a valid medical certificate as soon as possible and focus on recovering. Once your doctor gives you the all-clear to return to work, and it is safe to do so, your employer must facilitate your return.

You may only be stood down if you cannot usefully be employed because of a stoppage of work. Whether you can be usefully employed will depend on your individual circumstances.

Additionally, your employer must not be responsible for the stoppage of work. In relation to the current pandemic, this means employers should be making every effort to ensure that their business is still operating as best as it can.

Your employer should comply with any requirements to provide notice and consult included in your enterprise agreement or award before standing you down.

How many employees can be stood down depends on the amount of work there is to be performed. Each employee must be providing some economic value to the employer.

This may mean that some staff are stood down and some are not.

While the employer may choose which staff are stood down, they must not make such decisions based on unlawful grounds, such as age, disability, gender or race.

Stand downs should be for a defined period of time.  If your employer has stood you down indefinitely, it might be unreasonable and you should seek legal advice.

There may be a number of different legal avenues available to employees where they are asked to do something unreasonable or have been treated unfavourably.

For example, employees whose pay is reduced without their agreement may have breach of contract claims.

Employees over 60, or who have a health issue, and who are stood down may have claims under anti-discrimination legislation.

Where an employer qualifies for and is entitled to JobKeeper payments, any of the directions an employer may issue to stand down, change duties, location of work or take leave can be disputed before the Fair Work Commission.

We suggest getting advice quickly so you know where you stand. 

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