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COVID-19 Resource Hub

Your central Hub for all Perks COVID-19 FAQs.

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Banking & Finance FAQs

The ATO suggests you speak to your financier as they are encouraging banks to use JobKeeper payments as "security" so to speak. Having said that, the ATO now states they have discretion to deem payment to have occurred - so there is leniency leading into the scheme.  
Each bank has a different eligibility criteria to access this support. Generally, this will apply to Small and Medium Enterprises with total lending limits up to $3m, less than $10m turnover and less than 100 employees. We suggest that  you support any request with an explanation as to how your business has been impacted by the COVID—19 pandemic, explaining what costs you have managed to contain or remove and, if possible, assess the impact that the pandemic is likely to have on your revenue and cash flow. If you can provide a 3 - 6 month forecast to support your request this would be very helpful and may speed up the process. If you are a current client of Perks, no matter what services you currently use, we can work with your bank on your behalf.
As the banks grapple with the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals and businesses we are seeing high wait periods with all the banks. The principle focus for banks at this point in time is assisting their customers who are impacted. Loan applications already ‘in the system’ (both residential and business) are being delayed. We continue to work very closely with the banks for all our clients. If you want us to take a look at your loan, you can expect the initial review and feedback from the Perks Finance team to take up to 5 business days.
Most banks have been contacting customers direct to explain what is on offer. If you are confident in negotiating directly with your bank, you should proceed. If you are not confident, you can talk with our Perks Finance Team (either direct or via your Perks Adviser); they will be able to advise and/or work with your bank on your behalf.
All banks are offering various kinds of support with the majority offering Small and Medium Enterprises the opportunity to do one of two things:
  • convert Principal & Interest (P&I) facilities to Interest Only (IO) for up to 6 months; or,
  • defer P&I repayments on your Business, Asset Finance or Equipment Loans for up to 6 months.
Our primary concern is to support our clients to be as equipped as possible to weather the current economic environment brought on by COVID-19. Even if we do not currently act as your Finance Broker, we can still work with your bank on your behalf. Before we can do so, we would need to review your circumstances and then we would let you know if we think we can be of assistance. From there, if we are able to assist, you would be quoted a fixed fee for service, depending on the complexity of your situation.
Coronavirus Assistance Available

To view your bank's response measures to COVID-19, click on their logo

Commercial Leases

Some of the restrictions to be contained in the code of conduct include:
  • Landlords will not be able to terminate leases;
  • Landlords will not be able to draw on their tenants’ security;
  • Landlords must reduce their rent commensurate to the trading reduction of the tenant’s business. This “reduction in rent” can take the form of a waiver to account for at least 50% of the reduction in business, or a deferral of rent that must be covered over the balance of the lease term, but for no less than 12 months;
  • Tenants must honour their leases, and landlords reducing rent proportionate to the trading reduction of the tenant’s business.
At a high level, the mandatory code of conduct will provide tenants a waiver or deferral on their rent where the tenant:
  • Has a turnover of $50M or less; and
  • Is entitled to participate in the JobKeeper Payment programme.
Yes. It is mandatory.

The code of conduct is to be legislated by each State and Territory and will bind both landlords and tenants.

It is up to the landlord and tenant to determine how the code is implemented having regard to their lease agreement.

The arrangements will be overseen by a binding mediation process administered by the States and Territories.

Banks are also being implored to “come to the table” and provide support for landlords.

More details will be known once the code of conduct is released.

Stimulus Boost Payments

There are no grouping provisions from our review of the Bills and Explanatory Memorandum.  Again however, there are anti-avoidance provisions designed to prevent the artificial obtaining of increased or additional boost payments.
A recent announcement from the ATO (22/04/20) has confirmed that instead of applying any excess credit from the activity statement that received the cash flow boost amount against other tax liabilities you may have, they will be refunded to you. It’s important to note that any excess amounts may still be applied against outstanding debts you have with other Australian Government agencies.
There are integrity measures in order to attain the cash flow boosts. The relevant employer must satisfy the following:
  • The employer must have held an ABN on 12 March 2020; and
  • The employer must have either:
  • Derived assessable income from a business in the 2018-19 income year; or
  • Made one or more supplies for consideration in the course of carrying on an enterprise within Australia in tax periods commencing after 1 July 2018 and ending before 12 March 2020; and
  • The Commissioner was notified of the income or supplies before 12 March 2020 (i.e. the income or supplies were appropriately returned).
See also the next question.
There is an anti-avoidance measure in the Bill designed to deny the cash flow boosts where the entity (or an associate or agent of an entity) has engaged in a scheme for the sole or dominant purpose of seeking to make the entity entitled to the cash flow boost or increase the entitlement to the cash flow boost.

Stimulus Accelerated Depreciation

Yes, it applies for new assets only. That is:
  • No other entity has held the asset other than as trading stock;
  • No other entity has claimed depreciation deductions with respect to the asset; and
  • No other entity has installed the asset ready for use in a business and the asset has only been installed and ready for use from 12 March 2020 and before 1 July 2020.
Generally, an entity is eligible for accelerated depreciation deductions if the:
  • Income year is the year that the entity starts to use the asset, or has it installed ready for use for a taxable purpose;
  • Entity has an aggregated turnover of less than $500M for the income year; and
  • Asset is a qualifying asset.
An asset will not be eligible for accelerated depreciation where the:
  • Asset is not a new asset.
  • Decline in value of the asset has already been deducted under the instant asset write-off rules.
  • Decline in value of the asset is determined under subdivision 40-E (low-value and software development pools).
  • Decline in value of the asset is determined under subdivision 40-F (primary production assets).
  • Decline in value of the asset is determined under subdivision 40-G to 40-K (pooled amounts).
The measure does not apply to assets where commitments to hold, construct or use the asset were entered into before 12 March 2020. The incentive is intended to stimulate new investment rather than benefiting investment that has already been committed.
Generally, a depreciating asset is a qualifying asset if, between 12 March 2020 and 30 June 2021:
  • The entity starts to hold the asset; and
  • The asset was first used, or
  • Installed ready for use for a taxable purpose.
An asset held by an entity is not a qualifying asset if at any time before 12 March 2020 the entity:
  • Entered into a contract where they would hold the asset;
  • Started to construct the asset; or
  • Started to hold the asset in some other way.
To qualify for Accelerated Depreciation, the asset has to be purchased and installed by 30 June 2021.

Stimulus Instant Asset Write-off

No, the instant asset write off is for all assets.  Note that the instant asset write-off will revert back to assets valued at $1,000 from 1 July 2020 and only be available for Small Business Entities.
The Instant Asset Write-off requires the asset to be purchased and installed by 30 June 2020.

JobKeeper 2.0

Post 27 September 2020, a new JobKeeper Regime will commence, which will run until 28 March 2021.
Yes.  If your business qualifies for the new JobKeeper scheme, you will be required to make sure that eligible employees are paid the minimum subsidy amount per fortnight (see below for the amounts under the new scheme).
An employer is eligible for the period 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021 if they pass the GST Turnover Test for the September 2020 quarter.  The turnover test is based on actual GST turnover, that is, the actual reduction experienced for the September 2020 quarter.
No, the following payment schedule/ amounts apply:
  • From 28 September 2020 - 3 January 2021, eligible employees of eligible businesses receive: • $1200/ fortnight for employees who worked more than an average of 20 hours/ week during one of two qualifying periods: — The 4 weeks preceding February 2020; or — The 4 weeks preceding June 2020 If both are applicable, then you can choose the higher of the two. • $750/ fortnight for employees who worked less than 20 hours/ week during both the February and June 2020 periods
 
  • From 4 January 2021 - 28 March 2021, eligible employees of eligible businesses receive: • $1000/ fortnight for employees who worked more than an average of 20 hours/ week during one of two qualifying periods: — The 4 weeks preceding February 2020; or — The 4 weeks preceding June 2020| If both are applicable, then you can choose the higher of the two. • $650/ fortnight for employees who worked less than 20 hours/ week during both the February and June 2020 periods
Employees employed as of 1 July 2020 (previous eligibility date was 1 March 2020) are now eligible under the new and current regime. This change takes effect from 3 August 2020, i.e. the 1 July 2020 eligibility date is effective for the current JobKeeper regime (not just from 28 September 2020 and JobKeeper 2.0).
Casuals are still required to be “long-term casual”, so will need to have been employed from 1 July 2019. Permanent/part time employees need only be employed as at 1 July 2020.
No, the JobKeeper scheme (1 May to 27 September 2020) will remain in place until the previously announced deadline of 27 September. Eligibility for the current scheme has not changed and eligibility will not be lost due to the changes mentioned above (except for as provided for above in relation to eligible employees as at 1 July 2020).
Yes, payments will cease for employers post the current JobKeeper scheme (1 May to 27 September 2020) unless they satisfy the criteria for the new JobKeeper scheme (28 September 2020 to 28 March 2021).

JobKeeper 1.0

Employers will be eligible for the 29 March to 27 September 2020 payments if:
  • Their business has a turnover of less than $1B and their turnover will be reduced by more than 30% relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); or
  • Their business has a turnover of $1B or more and their turnover will be reduced by more than 50% relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); and
  • The business is not subject to the Major Bank Levy.
The payments will commence from 1 May 2020, being paid in respect of the prior two fortnights.  The payment on 1 May 2020 is therefore in respect of the fortnights 30 March to 12 April and 13 April to 26 April 2020.  The payments will continue for 6 months until 27 September 2020 when the first scheme ends.  The new scheme commences 28 September 2020 and ends on 28 March 2021.
To receive JobKeeper Payments, employers must:    
  • Provide information to the ATO regarding their eligible employees.  Eligible employees are those that:
    • Have been employed as at 1 March 2020, including those that have since been stood down (or rehired after 1 March).
    • Are full time, part time or casual (a casual employee must have been employed for over 12 months to 1 March 2020).
    • Are at least 16 years of age.
    • Are an Australian citizen or certain visa holder.
    • Are not in receipt of a JobKeeper Payment from another employer.

(The ATO will use data from one-touch payroll to populate employees for the employer in the system)

 
  • Ensure each employee receives $1,500 per fortnight (before tax).  For employees:
    • Earning less than $1,500 a fortnight, they must be paid $1,500 a fortnight.
    • Earning more than $1,500 a fortnight, the employer may provide them with a top-up.
 
  • Notify every eligible employee that they are receiving the JobKeeper Payment.
 
  • Continue to provide the ATO with all information monthly.
Not legally. It is up to the employer to decide whether it wishes to access JobKeeper for eligible employees. It is important to bear in mind that the key principle behind the scheme is:
  1. To allow employees to access payment outside of Centrelink; and,
  2. To allow employers and employees to remain connected, so that businesses can get up and running again quickly when the crisis has passed, without having to re-hire staff.
So whilst there is no legal obligation, there are some excellent benefits for both employers and employees which should be taken into consideration.
No. Under the JobKeeper scheme (1 May to 27 September 2020), the $1,500 is before tax and it is subject to pay as you go withholding amounts (PAYGW). It is worth noting that the PAYGW on the $1,500 JobKeeper Payments will also have an impact on Boost Payments (effectively increasing them).
TAX perspective:

It will be up to the employer if they want to pay superannuation on any additional wage paid because of the JobKeeper Payment.

HR perspective:

  • Where an employee is paid more than $1,500 per fortnight for work they are performing, the employer’s superannuation obligations will not change –you pay super on the full amount
  • Where an employee earns less than $1500 for work they are performing and so is having their wages topped up to $1,500 per fortnight by the Jobkeeperpayment, it will be up to the employer if they want to pay superannuation on any additional wages.
  • If an employee is receiving the $1500 but not performing any work, superannuation is not payable
As eligibility is determined according to turnover, the first step will be to speak to your accountant who can assist in demonstrating eligibility. We would then encourage you to seek HR advice about how to manage the implications for and communications with your employees.
Under the JobKeeper scheme (1 May to 27 September 2020), businesses without employees will need to provide an ABN for their business, nominate an individual to receive the payment and provide that individual’s TFN and provide a declaration as to recent business activity. People who are self-employed will need to provide a monthly update to the ATO to declare their continued eligibility for the payments. Payment will be made monthly to the individual’s bank account.
There is no requirement for it to be COVID-19 related.
The JobKeeper scheme is described as a “one in, all in” scheme, which means that once an employer is eligible for the JobKeeper scheme (1 May to 27 September 2020), it must pay the $1500 per fortnight to all of its eligible employees. It can't “pick and choose” which of its eligible employees it will claim the subsidy for.
That will help administratively, but it is not a requirement.
The ATO suggests you speak to your financier as they are encouraging banks to use JobKeeper payments as "security" so to speak. Having said that, the ATO now states they have discretion to deem payment to have occurred - so there is leniency leading into the scheme.  
Yes, but note that only one Director of the company can be nominated under the JobKeeper scheme (1 May to 27 September 2020).  The nominated director must also satisfy other criteria, including being actively engaged in the business, aged 16 or more, are an Australian resident, and not receiving any Government payments such as parental leave or Dad and Partner pay.
At this stage it appears that it is assessed based on your BAS timing. For example, if you are a monthly BAS lodger you need to assess turnover reduction month by month, whereas if quarterly then quarter by quarter basis.
To be eligible the employee must have been on the payroll books as of the 1 March 2020. If you stood down your employee on 29 Feb they are still legally your employee and therefore provided the business and the employee meets the remaining criteria then they would be an eligible employee. You will need to pay them at least $1500 (before tax) from 30 March 2020.
If you are speaking about a payment for redundancy then no, as it is a wage subsidy.
Until the employee takes maternity leave you could look at the JobKeeper payment currently provided they meet the eligibility criteria. When they look at taking maternity leave then they will need to decide which payment to receive, they cannot collect both. If they are not receiving any other government payments and are planning on going on unpaid parental leave - then yes you can pass on the $1,500 to the employee if you wish but you are not required to.
There are two different alternative tests, depending on the relevant comparison period the entity uses and how long you have been in business.

Broadly, the first alternative test compares the entity’s projected GST turnover for the relevant 2020 period with the average turnover since the entity commenced business.

The second alternative test compares the entity’s projected GST turnover for the relevant 2020 period with the average turnover of the 3 months immediately before the applicable turnover test period.

Please note that the above answer is general in nature and businesses will also need to meet other eligibility criteria in order to apply an “Alternative Turnover Test”
New businesses are able to apply for JobKeeper through an alternative turnover test. These tests only apply to entities that were not operating any business in the relevant 2019 comparison period. It does not apply to an entity that was operating one or more businesses and commenced a new additional business.

Please note that the above answer is general in nature and businesses will also need to meet other eligibility criteria in order to apply an “Alternative Turnover Test”
You will need to apply an alternative test to compare the entity’s projected GST turnover for the applicable turnover test period, with the current GST turnover for the month following the month in which the acquisition occurred. If there is no whole calendar month after the last acquisition, then the month immediately before the applicable turnover test period is used. This is also applicable for a disposal or restructure of a business.

Please note that the above answer is general in nature and businesses will also need to meet other eligibility criteria in order to apply an “Alternative Turnover Test”
The test you will need to apply compares the entity’s projected GST turnover for the applicable turnover test period, with the average or total turnover from the 3 months immediately before the test period. The calculation will depend on the relevant comparison period the entity uses and how long they have been in business.

Please note that the above answer is general in nature and businesses will also need to meet other eligibility criteria in order to apply an “Alternative Turnover Test”
As drought and bushfire are events outside the usual business setting, you will need to apply an alternative test to compare the entity’s projected GST turnover for the applicable turnover test period with the current GST turnover for the same period in the year immediately preceding the year when the drought or natural disaster was declared rather than 2019.

Please note that the above answer is general in nature and businesses will also need to meet other eligibility criteria in order to apply an “Alternative Turnover Test”
To compensate for the irregularities in turnover your business experienced, you will need to apply the alternative test that compares the entity’s projected GST turnover for the applicable turnover test period with the average turnover from the 12 months immediately before the applicable turnover test period.

Please note that the above answer is general in nature and businesses will also need to meet other eligibility criteria in order to apply an “Alternative Turnover Test”
There are two different tests, depending on your relevant comparison period:

One calendar month: use the current GST turnover for the month immediately after the month in which you (or your partner) returned to work, instead of the current GST turnover of the relevant comparison period.

One quarter: Multiply the current GST turnover for the month immediately after the month in which you (or your partner) returned to work by three and use that figure instead of the current GST turnover of the relevant comparison period for the purposes of the basic test in section 8 of the Rules.

The same tests apply for a small partnership, if one of the partners did not work for all or part of the relevant comparison period. The reason for not working could include sickness, injury or leave during the relevant comparison period. The circumstances must have affected the turnover of the sole trader or partnership.

Please note that the above answer is general in nature and businesses will also need to meet other eligibility criteria in order to apply an “Alternative Turnover Test”
You should be able to obtain one JobKeeper payment for a director / shareholder, in addition to payments for employees on the books.
The projection was accurate at the time of lodging and was therefore correct upon application. Over the coming weeks, restrictions will undoubtedly continue to change, so it would not be expected that your projection be updated each time. Keep in mind, you only need to satisfy the turnover test once; you do not need to reapply every month. Importantly, however, if you are relying on projections rather than actuals you need to ensure however that projections are justified with reasonable assumptions which are documented and retained as these will need to be provided to the ATO on subsequent audit.
To be eligible for JobKeeper as a sole trader, you cannot be an employee (other than a casual employee) of any other entity. A permanent role at a public hospital would preclude you from claiming JobKeeper as a sole trader.
You can only provide JobKeeper payments to those employed through the payroll and one business owner who is not on the payroll. Contractors are running their own businesses and need to apply in their own right as sole traders for JobKeeper support

HR & Workforce

Whilst you can’t unilaterally reduce an employee’s pay (to do so would effectively amount to a termination of their contract, as their pay is a fundamental condition of their employment) you can enter into an agreement with an employee who agrees to take a “pay cut” by consent. Employees should not be coerced or forced to accept a pay cut, and any agreement that you do reach should be recorded clearly in writing, signed by both parties, and be clear about the duration of the temporary variation to pay. You also need to ensure that at no stage are you paying employees below their minimum Award entitlements.
Firstly consider whether they are able to perform their work at home. If they are, then that is preferable, and you would pay them their ordinary wage. If they are not able to work from home during a mandatory period of self-isolation (and they are not unwell), you may adopt to choose one of the following options:
  • Choose to pay them discretionary payment;
  • Allow the employee to use accrued entitlements such as annual leave, long service leave, time in lieu or rostered days off; or
  • Consider whether you are prepared to grant the employee annual leave in advance (if the relevant Modern Award provides).
  •  
Yes -  this is like any other situation if the employee is unwell – you can direct them to leave the workplace and ask them to obtain the medical certificate saying they are fit to return to work. You need to pay the employee for the period that you have sent them to go home to obtain a medical certificate – if they are certified as fit for work you would pay the employee as usual for the time they are away. If they are certified unfit for work and they need time off work then they can access personal/sick leave.
This second proposed variation would add additional flexibility in respect of annual leave. Namely, an employer may allow an employee to take up to twice as much annual leave at half the rate of pay. The agreement would need to be recorded in writing, to avoid any disputes at a later date. The Fair Work Commission has called for submissions from interested parties by 6 April 2020, with a view issuing a determination by Wednesday 8 April 2020.
The Fair Work Commission, on its own initiative, has proposed to introduce “Pandemic Leave” and Annual Leave at half pay into approximately 103 Modern Awards, effectively providing an additional entitlement to millions of Award covered employees, to deal with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed variations are:
  1. Pandemic Leave; and
  2. Annual leave at Half Pay
“Pandemic Leave”:
  1. Provide two (2) weeks’ unpaid “pandemic leave” for employees who are required to self-isolate or are otherwise prevented from working because of measures taken by government or medical authorises in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. This will be available in full immediately, rather than accruing progressively during a year of service
  3. It will only be available until 30 June 2020 (unless extended by further variation dependant on the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic)
  4. It  will be available to full-time, part-time and casual employees (not pro-rated); and
  5. it will not be necessary for employees to exhaust their paid leave entitlements before accessing unpaid pandemic leave.
In a statement released by the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (which can be accessed here) it stated that the changes are in response to the "unique circumstances pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic" and acknowledged that there is a ‘gap’ in the award safety net concerning employees who are required to self-isolate, when it comes to accessing leave.
The request to work from home is a lawful and reasonable direction within the context of the employment relationship. Ensure that you are providing (paying for) any necessary equipment for them to work from home; computer, internet, phone etc to facilitate working from home.
First assess from a practicable perspective, can the employee work from home? If “yes” the employee should work from home and be paid their ordinary wages. If the employee is unable to work from home, then the employee can access their personal leave - an employee may take personal leave to provide care and support to an immediate family or household member, where the care or support is required because of an unexpected emergency. The unexpected emergency being the school closure.   A grey area arises when schools are open, however it has been encouraged, where you can to keep your children at home. Personal leave is not a legal entitlement in this situation, so an employee can either apply for annual leave, take leave without pay – or as an employer you could allow them to access some of their accrued personal leave on a discretionary basis.   
As an employer you have the same Work Health and Safety obligations to your employees whilst they are working from home as you would have whilst they are in the office.  That obligation is to take all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure health and safety whilst that person is working from home as well as others in the workplace – and that could include children. Many business may not have done much to ensure workplace health and safety, so at the very least you want to ensure you have a working from home checklist. If people are working from home for long periods of time, you may want to go to further measures. Another issue is productivity – employers may need to issue some guidelines to employees about what they are agreeing on and whether hours need to alter given they are balancing family responsibilities.
Significant changes in employees’ work environment and how they carry out their duties can cause unease and stress. It is encouraged that employers take active steps to minimise unease, stress or anxiety by:
  • Establishing regular check–ins. It is vital that employers continue to check in with their teams - there are many platforms that will enable video-conferencing such as Microsoft teams and Zoom. Where possible it is encourage that team members use video and show their faces to make the meetings feel more personalised.
  • Always encourage employees to take breaks, walk outside and step away from the ‘home office’.
Not legally. It is up to the employer to decide whether it wishes to access JobKeeper for eligible employees. It is important to bear in mind that the key principle behind the scheme is:
  1. To allow employees to access payment outside of Centrelink; and,
  2. To allow employers and employees to remain connected, so that businesses can get up and running again quickly when the crisis has passed, without having to re-hire staff.
So whilst there is no legal obligation, there are some excellent benefits for both employers and employees which should be taken into consideration.
Before reducing work hours, it is imperative that any applicable industrial instrument such as an enterprise agreement, award or employee contract is reviewed and complied with. An employer should be mindful of the following steps when coming to an agreement with employees to reduce hours:
  • Consult with the employee and get their agreement
  • Communicate the estimated duration of the reduction in hours
  • Address the issue of leave entitlements, e.g will they accrue leave at their new reduced hours?
Reductions in hours or pay require mutual agreement in order to be lawful. If an employee does not agree, and as a business you are not financially able to retain their role due to business downturn, then you may have little option but to make the employee redundant. Ensure you always seek advice before proceeding with a redundancy to ensure that you are complying with relevant Award provisions and the Fair Work Act in doing so.
Genuine casuals are engaged day to day and so if there is no more work to offer them going forward then they are not stood down (nor made redundant or terminated) legally. However you need to check that your casual employees are genuinely classified as casual (not working regular and systematic hours) as that then raises the question of whether the casual is actually genuine. You will need to seek advice specifically regarding the circumstances of your casuals and their working patterns.
No – there is no legal entitlement to be paid annual leave during a true stand down. It is at the discretion of the employer if they are willing and able to allow employees to access accrued annual leave entitlements during a stand down. It is important to keep in mind that any agreement to do so should be recorded in writing.
Yes – If you stand down employees under the Fair Work Act, your employees are still entitled to be paid for public holidays that fall during a stand down period – but only where the public holiday falls on a day that the employee would have ordinarily worked. For example, a permanent part time employee who works Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays would not be entitled to be paid for a public holiday that falls on a Monday or Friday. However, a full time employee who would usually work Monday to Friday would be entitled to be paid for the public holiday during stand down.
Stand Down: Employees who cannot be usefully employed by a business as a result of a stoppage of work for reasons outside of the employer’s control, can be lawfully “stood down” without pay. Effectively this means they are still employed by the business, but are stood down temporarily until the stoppage is lifted and the employer can recommence operations.   Redundancy A redundancy is effectively a termination – the employer has decided that due to financial downturn, that it no longer requires the employee’s role to be performed by anyone, and there is no other role that the employee can be redeployed into. In some circumstances, the employee will be entitled to a redundancy payment.
If you are forced to temporarily close down your business due to a stoppage of work that you as an employer cannot be held responsible for (such as a Government ordered closure), then under the Fair Work Act you can stand down employees without pay. Events such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, can place businesses in circumstances where they are unable to usefully employ an employee or group of employees. It is critical that there is a stoppage of work to trigger a stand down. That is, all or part of the business must cease operations in order to lawfully stand employees down without pay. Employers should ask:
  • Is there a stoppage of work?
  • Is it for a reason reasonably outside my control?
  • Can the affected employees be employed to perform useful work?
Always seek advice before utilising the stand down provisions in the Fair Work Act, to ensure they apply to your business.

Scale Down & Stand Downs

Stand Down: Employees who cannot be usefully employed by a business as a result of a stoppage of work for reasons outside of the employer’s control, can be lawfully “stood down” without pay. Effectively this means they are still employed by the business, but are stood down temporarily until the stoppage is lifted and the employer can recommence operations.   Redundancy A redundancy is effectively a termination – the employer has decided that due to financial downturn, that it no longer requires the employee’s role to be performed by anyone, and there is no other role that the employee can be redeployed into. In some circumstances, the employee will be entitled to a redundancy payment.
Yes – If you stand down employees under the Fair Work Act, your employees are still entitled to be paid for public holidays that fall during a stand down period – but only where the public holiday falls on a day that the employee would have ordinarily worked. For example, a permanent part time employee who works Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays would not be entitled to be paid for a public holiday that falls on a Monday or Friday. However, a full time employee who would usually work Monday to Friday would be entitled to be paid for the public holiday during stand down.
No – there is no legal entitlement to be paid annual leave during a true stand down. It is at the discretion of the employer if they are willing and able to allow employees to access accrued annual leave entitlements during a stand down. It is important to keep in mind that any agreement to do so should be recorded in writing.
Genuine casuals are engaged day to day and so if there is no more work to offer them going forward then they are not stood down (nor made redundant or terminated) legally. However you need to check that your casual employees are genuinely classified as casual (not working regular and systematic hours) as that then raises the question of whether the casual is actually genuine. You will need to seek advice specifically regarding the circumstances of your casuals and their working patterns.
It does not necessarily need to be caused by COVID-19 (not the only reason to stand down) however under Section 524 of the Fair Work Act a stand down is when some or all of the employees of a business are temporarily unable to be usefully employed due to a stoppage of work outside of the employer's control. If you are an eligible employer then you can use the pandemic stand down provisions up to 28 September 2020. You should seek advice if you are not sure.
A stand down under Section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 applies when a business is forced to temporarily close due to a stoppage of work that the employer cannot be help responsible for (such as a Government ordered closure) and employees are unable to be usefully employed. If the employee cannot perform any useful work somewhere else in the business (and/or reduce hours) and you are not an eligible employer under the JobKeeper subsidy it is most likely the position (the employee holds) is no longer required and the employee is entitled to redundancy. This is not a straight forward situation and we would recommend seeking some advice about your options before you take any steps.
Are they eligible for the JobKeeper Payment - if yes it would not be unreasonable to direct employee to perform any reasonable work that is present. If not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment and you have stood them down - it may not be a true stand down if there is useful work available for them. If they perform any work during a stand down there would be an expectation they will be paid for the work carried out.
If you are forced to temporarily close down your business due to a stoppage of work that you as an employer cannot be held responsible for (such as a Government ordered closure), then under the Fair Work Act you can stand down employees without pay. Events such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, can place businesses in circumstances where they are unable to usefully employ an employee or group of employees. It is critical that there is a stoppage of work to trigger a stand down. That is, all or part of the business must cease operations in order to lawfully stand employees down without pay. Employers should ask:
  • Is there a stoppage of work?
  • Is it for a reason reasonably outside my control?
  • Can the affected employees be employed to perform useful work?
Always seek advice before utilising the stand down provisions in the Fair Work Act, to ensure they apply to your business.
To be eligible the employee must have been on the payroll books as of the 1 March 2020. If you stood down your employee on 29 Feb they are still legally your employee and therefore provided the business and the employee meets the remaining criteria then they would be an eligible employee. You will need to pay them at least $1500 (before tax) from 30 March 2020.
They have been receiving payment so you could rely on the payments made from 30 March 2020 and credit the employee's annual leave balance.
JobKeeper payments are counted as income for the income testing of JobSeeker, so JobKeeper payments will reduce the JobSeeker payments, if not eliminate them all together.
Through consultation and mutual agreement you can reduce their working hours, you must still meet any hourly rate under the applicable Award. You need to ensure that the agreement is in writing and the employee signs off on the agreement. In the letter you would want to include the duration of the reduction of hours, that their leave will accrue, at the reduced hours and that it is temporary and subject to review given the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensure you check any consultation requirements with the applicable Award.
Before reducing work hours, it is imperative that any applicable industrial instrument such as an enterprise agreement, award or employee contract is reviewed and complied with. An employer should be mindful of the following steps when coming to an agreement with employees to reduce hours:
  • Consult with the employee and get their agreement
  • Communicate the estimated duration of the reduction in hours
  • Address the issue of leave entitlements, e.g will they accrue leave at their new reduced hours?
Reductions in hours or pay require mutual agreement in order to be lawful. If an employee does not agree, and as a business you are not financially able to retain their role due to business downturn, then you may have little option but to make the employee redundant. Ensure you always seek advice before proceeding with a redundancy to ensure that you are complying with relevant Award provisions and the Fair Work Act in doing so.
If you are speaking about a payment for redundancy then no, as it is a wage subsidy.

Awards & Leave Changes

Restaurant Industry Award 2010
On the 31st March 2020, the Fair Work Commission varied the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 to increase flexibility during the outbreak of Coronavirus.   The approved determination will now enable the following:
  • Allow employees to work more flexibly across classifications and perform duties different from their ordinary duties
  • Allow full-time employees to work an average of 22.8 to 38 ordinary hours per week, as directed by their employer.
  • Allow part-time workers to work an average 60% of their guaranteed weekly hours.
  • Employees will continue to accrue annual and personal leave (and be paid personal leave) based on ordinary hours of work prior to the variation
  • Permits employers to direct employees to take annual leave upon 24 hours' notice
  • Allows annual leave at half the rate of pay.
The determination came into effect on 31 March 2020 and is operational until 30 June 2020.
The only COVID-19 Award changes that have been release as of 3 April 2020 are for Hospitality and Clerks Awards.  It is anticipated that other Award changes will be released in the coming weeks.
Clerk Award – Private Sector 2010
The variations will now enable the following:
  • By a 75% majority vote from employees, allow full time and part time employees in a workplace, or part of a workplace, to agree to temporarily reduce ordinary hours for a specified period for the whole workplace or relevant part of it.
  • Employers and employees may agree to take twice as much annual leave at half the rate.
  • Employers will be able to direct employees to take annual leave upon one weeks’ notice or any shorter period as agreed. 
  • Allow employees to work more flexibly across classifications, provided it is safe to do so and the employee has the necessary qualifications; and
  • Allow employees and employers to agree to change ordinary hours of work whilst an employee is working at home (where work hours are reduced, the ordinary hourly rate will remain the same).
The determination came into effect on 28 March 2020 and is operational until 30 June 2020 (which may be extended).
This second proposed variation would add additional flexibility in respect of annual leave. Namely, an employer may allow an employee to take up to twice as much annual leave at half the rate of pay. The agreement would need to be recorded in writing, to avoid any disputes at a later date. The Fair Work Commission has called for submissions from interested parties by 6 April 2020, with a view issuing a determination by Wednesday 8 April 2020.
Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010
Through proper consultation between employers and employees, the amendments will:
  • Allow employees to work more flexibly across classifications, provided it is safe to do so and the employee has the necessary qualifications;
  • Allow full-time employees to work an average of 22.8 to 38 ordinary hours per week, as directed by their employer
  • Allow part-time workers to work an average 60% of their guaranteed weekly hours.
  • Permit employers to direct employees to take annual leave upon 24 hours' notice,
  • Allowing an employer and employee to agree to that annual leave can be taken at half pay.
Whilst these changes will obviously lead to some employees earning less as a result of reductions in hours, it provides employers with an ability to maintain employees in secure employment, even if at a reduced capacity.
The determination came into effect on 24 March 2020 and is operational until 30 June 2020 (which may be extended).
“Pandemic Leave”:
  1. Provide two (2) weeks’ unpaid “pandemic leave” for employees who are required to self-isolate or are otherwise prevented from working because of measures taken by government or medical authorises in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. This will be available in full immediately, rather than accruing progressively during a year of service
  3. It will only be available until 30 June 2020 (unless extended by further variation dependant on the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic)
  4. It  will be available to full-time, part-time and casual employees (not pro-rated); and
  5. it will not be necessary for employees to exhaust their paid leave entitlements before accessing unpaid pandemic leave.
In a statement released by the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (which can be accessed here) it stated that the changes are in response to the "unique circumstances pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic" and acknowledged that there is a ‘gap’ in the award safety net concerning employees who are required to self-isolate, when it comes to accessing leave.
The Fair Work Commission, on its own initiative, has proposed to introduce “Pandemic Leave” and Annual Leave at half pay into approximately 103 Modern Awards, effectively providing an additional entitlement to millions of Award covered employees, to deal with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed variations are:
  1. Pandemic Leave; and
  2. Annual leave at Half Pay

Life Insurance

It depends on when your policy commenced. For any new life insurance policy issued after 1 March 2020, there may be an exclusion imposed under your policy if your occupation is of a high-risk nature (i.e. front line medical workers who have a high risk of exposure to the virus). Please check the wording of your policy document to determine if an exclusion exists but if you’re still unsure, contact your Perks life risk specialist advisor. For any policy issued prior to this date, there are no specific exclusions for COVID-19.
COVID-19 is not a specified condition under any trauma policy. However, a payment may be considered if you are placed in intensive care for a minimum of 10 consecutive days and meet the requirements of the intensive care trauma event or are diagnosed with chronic lung failure (please refer to your Policy Document for the requirements to meet these Trauma events.
Unless a specific exclusion isn’t applied to your policy as mentioned above, an Income Protection payment would be considered if you have contracted the virus and meet the terms and conditions that apply to your policy.

Key Contacts

Finance & Banking, Tax Consulting, HR Consulting & Life Risk Insurance

Bruce Debenham

Bruce Debenham

Bruce provides clients with tailored banking and finance solutions to best meet their business and personal requirements.

Neil Oakes

Neil Oakes

Providing tax consulting advice to small, medium and large enterprises, with specific focus in the aged-care and property industries.

Cecilia White

Cecilia White

With a background in legal practice, Cecilia has developed strong technical expertise in all matters relating to workplace law, including awards, contracts, disciplinary matters, investigations, equal opportunity and HR policy development.

Eddie Bell

Eddie Bell

Eddie provides tailored advice to clients on their personal and business risk insurance needs. His client’s unique situation is at the forefront of every risk protection strategy he puts forward.

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