Federal attorney-general Christian Porter has announced today that the $130 billion JobKeeper scheme will not be extended to casual workers who haven’t been with the same employer for a 12-month period.
Currently, the government’s JobKeeper payment means affected employers will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee for a maximum period of six months. This subsidy from the government will allow employers to continue paying their employees, even if their place of employment is shut or their hours have been cut.
However, the JobKeeper Payment is currently only available to employees who have been in an "employment relationship" with their employers for longer than 12 months as of March 1, 2020. Eligible employees can be full-time, part-time or long-term casuals.
Since the JobKeeper Payment was announced last month, there has been considerable backlash over whether short-term casual workers who have not been employed for longer than 12 months would be eligible for any government assistance. As casual workers make up the backbone of many hospitality and arts businesses, many have been campaigning for proper support for these 1.1 million workers during the shutdown.
Despite these pleas, Porter said the government won’t be changing the eligibility for short-term casual workers. Speaking to Sky News this morning, Porter said that "the principle about what counts as a casual employee for the purposes of this scheme is a principle we have lifted from the Fair Work Act." Porter said making that change would mean making a change to the Fair Work Act, which the government was not willing to do at this time. “It is a sensible principle and that’s the one we will be sticking with,” Porter said.
Speaking at a press conference in Canberra this morning, Porter doubled down on his statements, claiming that a line needed to be drawn as the government didn’t want to “put the economy into complete carbon freeze.”
Despite what Porter has said, casual workers are still desperately trying to get the government to change the definition siting the hashtag #NoWorkerLeftBehind. If you too would like to see more support for Australia’s hospitality industry, consider signing this petition from the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) as part of its ‘Keep Our Venues Alive’ initiative.