In addition to the JobKeeper wage subsidy, the Federal government has implemented a few other ways to support Australian organisations.
The past month has seen a flurry of stimulus packages and funding models announced as the Government grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout.
HRM has a longer article about the JobKeeper scheme, but there are a few additional resources available that will be helpful to HR.
Just to be clear, the following are merely outlines, in all cases there are links to more information and if you think you’re eligible for any of these payments please follow them to find out more.
HRM intends to update this article as events unfold.
Supporting Apprentices and Trainees package
As the name suggests, the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees package aims to help businesses keep apprentices and trainees employed.
Employers can receive a subsidy of up to 50 per cent of a trainee’s wage, worth up to $7,000 per quarter.
The package is aimed mostly at small businesses with a workforce of less than 20 people and those who had an apprentice or trainee engaged with the business on March 1 2020. Larger businesses who take on a displaced trainee or apprentice after March 1 2020 may also be eligible for the subsidy.
Businesses may still apply for the JobKeeper payments, but an apprentice cannot receive both payments. An employer can receive wage reimbursements for wages paid to their apprentice between January 1 until March 30, then switch the worker to the JobKeeper payments if they are eligible.
The package is available for a maximum of nine months, covering wages between January 1 and September 30, 2020.
Early Childhood Education and Care Relief package
This will be most relevant to working parents.
On 2 April the government announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief package to help child care centres remain open, part of the package means centres cannot charge families for their services.
All open child care services with at least one active enrolment are eligible for the package and all centres receiving the current Child Care Subsidy are automatically enrolled for the scheme.
Child care providers are also urged to prioritise care for children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and parents with existing enrolments.
According to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment fact sheet, “payments will be based on 50 per cent of services’ fee revenue or 50 per cent of the existing hourly rate cap, whichever is lower.”
In certain circumstances, higher payments might be made if a centre has to increase enrolments to meet the needs of essential workers or vulnerable children.
Centres that are forced to close due to health reasons can still receive payments, however, if a centre closes without a valid health and safety reason they will not.
The package is due to be reviewed in three months time.
Unfortunately, during this time there will be cases where workers will be let go, stood down or have their hours cut back. While many of these will be eligible for JobKeeper payments, that won’t be true for all of them.
Talking to workers about this can be painful, and should normally take place over several conversations. It’s important to help them manage the transition by helping them as best you can (for example, supporting them in finding another role, seeing if you can’t offer them extra leave, etc.) and by directing them to the relevant resources. If they are being let go, supplying them with a certificate of separation as soon as possible will aid the process.
The federal government is providing support for many people through the COVID-19 supplement to Jobseeker payments. The eligibility criteria has been widened and the amount paid to recipients will be increased.
Jobseeker payments have replaced several other forms of government welfare payments. It now covers Newstart Allowance, Widow B Pension and the Wife Pension. Bereavement Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance and Partner Allowance are also transitioning to JobSeeker.
Unlike before the pandemic, JobSeeker is now available to both the unemployed people and those who are still employed but can’t work due to COVID-19. This includes employees who have been stood down, sole traders, the self-employed, casual workers and contract workers – as long as they meet the criteria. This also applies to anyone who has had to leave their job to care for someone affected by COVID-19.
The federal government has announced an extra $550 per fortnight for those on the JobSeeker scheme, temporarily doubling the payments for those who are unemployed. How much you can receive depends whether you or your partner are receiving any income or other government payments. Previously an individual’s welfare payments could be affected if their partner earned more than $48,000 per year. However, in light of recent times the government has increased that threshold to nearly $80,000 per year.
The eligibility changes came into effect in March 2020 and the increase to JobSeeker payments will commence from April 27. The changes are set to apply for the next six months.
Mental Health Support
This is part of the government’s $1.1 billion COVID-19 National Health Plan and aims to bolster services providing mental health care.
The funding from this package will go directly to certain providers like Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Kids Helpline, headspace, Gayaa Dhuwi and others.
The government’s Head to Health website is the priority of the stimulus, but they will also provide assistance to:
- Beyond Blue’s 24×7 counselling line
- Dedicated mental health services for frontline workers
- Increasing funding for providers servicing indigenous Australians, new parents and Commonwealth community health clients
- Creating a targeted communications campaign to highlight the mental health impacts of the pandemic
There will also be additional investment in the Australian Psychological Society’s “Find a Psychologist” website so more people will have access to the help they need.
Additional support for employers
Much of the government’s support for employers revolves around the JobKeeper payments, however, there are a couple of additional measures in place. Most of them are focused on small and medium business but the full list can be found on the Australian government’s website.
It’s likely different policies and packages will be announced over the coming weeks and months. HRM will keep you updated with what matters to HR.
The rules are changing at a rapid pace. It can feel hard to keep up. AHRI’s webinar on the 9th of April covers managing employment law obligations and will get you up to speed. Register now.