Last week, Frydenberg pointed to an additional $200 billion that households and businesses have accumulated on their balance sheets compared to the start of last year, which he said will give Australia’s economy “extra financial firepower”.
“This huge sum of money will help to create jobs and maintain the momentum of our economic recovery,” he tweeted.
To claim payments for the second extension period, retailers will need to show that their actual GST turnover has declined in the December 2020 quarter relative to a comparable period.
Georgie Chapman, partner, HR Legal told Inside Retail that businesses will need to inform their eligible employees which payment rate applies to them within seven days of notifying the ATO of their payment rate.
“Retailers should be prepared for questions about the reduced payment rates from staff. The reduction of pay is often a sensitive topic for staff,” Chapman said.
“Best practice is to be proactive and inform staff in advance where possible of the reduction to manage their expectations and allow them time to make necessary arrangements in view of the payment reduction if necessary.”
For the fortnights starting January 4 and January 18, retailers will have until January 31 to meet the wage condition. This extension of time supports retailers that may be taking leave over December and January.
Chapman said it is important that retailers ensure that employees are paid at least the minimum JobKeeper subsidy amount which applies to them by January 31 in order to receive reimbursement from the ATO.
“The sooner retailers complete and submit their decline in turnover and business monthly declaration, the sooner the ATO can process their JobKeeper payment,” she said.
What do the cuts mean for retail?
Chapman said the payment reductions are likely to impact the retail industry, particularly at this time when many experience drops in trade post-Christmas and many state borders remain closed.
Retail sales forecasts from Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan in December estimated that the retail industry will experience a drop in turnover from $54.8 billion pre-Christmas to $19.46 billion post-Christmas.
“With the JobKeeper wage subsidy reduction, retailers will need to consider ways to manage reduction in turnover and the costs of wages for which they will receive less support,” Chapman said.
She suggested that some retailers may want to consider adjusting hours of work to reflect the reduced JobKeeper rates, bearing in mind the requirements under the General Retail Industry Award, or any relevant enterprise agreement.
“[Retailers can do this] by entering into agreements with permanent staff to vary the hours of work stipulated in their employment contracts and/or reducing casual hours of work,” she said.
Those that are eligible for JobKeeper subsidies can also access the temporary JobKeeper flexibilities in the Fair Work Act to manage the impact of reduced payments.
“The flexibilities allow qualifying retailers to give their employees JobKeeper enabling stand down directions (for example, a direction to work less or no hours), give their employees JobKeeper enabling directions (for example a direction to change duties or work location), and make agreements with their employees to change their days or times of work,” she explained.
However, since September 28, 2020, employers who qualify for JobKeeper can no longer direct employees to take annual leave, unless this is permitted under the General Retail Industry Award or relevant industrial instrument.
Hope in hiring
The JobKeeper Payment remains open to new and existing participants that meet eligibility requirements until the end of the scheme in March 2021. However, the payment can only be passed onto eligible employees who were on the books on March 1, 2020 or July 1, 2020, Chapman explained.
“This means employees employed after July 1, 2020 are not eligible employees for the purposes of the JobKeeper scheme.”
Chapman advises that retailers consider the Australian Government’s recently announced JobMaker Hiring Credit, which may help mitigate the costs associated with hiring new staff who are not eligible for JobKeeper.
“The JobMaker Scheme is a new incentive for businesses to employ additional young job seekers, which is intended to improve the prospects of individuals getting employment in Australia and increase workforce participation as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Under the Scheme, retailers will be able to claim the JobMaker Hiring Credit for new jobs created on or after October 7, 2020 for up to 12 months from the date the new position is created.”