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Photograph: Melissa Walker Horn/Creative Commons, Unsplash

Your JobKeeper allowance questions, answered

By
Cassidy Knowlton
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The federal government has passed the $130 billion JobKeeper package into law, offering a much-needed lifeline to many industries that have been affected by strict physical distancing measures, including the hospitality industry. But who is the payment for, how much is it, and, crucially, how can you access some of that sweet government cash? 

What employers are eligible?

In order to be eligible for JobKeeper support, an employer with a turnover of less than $1 billion must be able to demonstrate a 30 per cent reduction in turnover for at least a month. Huge companies with turnover of more than $1 billion (companies like Qantas, eg) have to demonstrate a loss of at least 50 per cent. Oh, and one more thing: the employer can't be a bank. 

What employees are eligible?

In order to receive the payment, you have to be a full-time or part-time or a casual employee who has worked for your employer for at least 12 months as at March 1, 2020. You also have to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident, a New Zealand citizen on a 444 visa, on a special protected visa category or on a non-protected visa and have lived in Australia for the last ten years. 

That means, despite many calls from those in the hospitality industry and others to include foreign workers and those who have been with their employer less than 12 months, the government was implacable on this point and they are not eligible. 

What about sole traders?

Sole traders without employees who meet the same criteria as employers are also eligible, provided their business has been open for more than 12 months and they have suffered a loss of at least 30 per cent. 

Is there anything in this legislation for non-citizens? 

Not much, unless you are a New Zealander. Backpackers are able to extend their visas, and foreign workers will able to access their superannuation to be able to fund themselves. Additionally, seasonal workers are now allowed to stay with one employer for more than six months, rather than having to change jobs frequently. 

If I and my employer meet the criteria, how much do I get?

The government will pay employers $1,500 per employee per fortnight, and that amount must be paid in full to the employee. Employers can also top up the payment, up to the employee's regular salary (or, heck, more, if you can convince you boss now is the right time for a pay rise). Crucially, every employee must receive the entire government $1,500 per fortnight, no matter what their salary was before. That means if you worked one day a week at a shop, you will actually be paid more now under the JobKeeper scheme than you would have in the Beforetime. 

The caveat, though, is that one person can only receive the JobKeeper payment once, no matter how many jobs they have. So if you work part time at three or four different places, only one of them will give you the JobKeeper payment. 

What's the difference between JobKeeper and JobSeeker?

JobSeeker is the fancy new name for the dole (formerly called Newstart), which has now been doubled to $1,100 a fortnight. Although eligibility for the dole has been expanded, the scheme is for those without jobs. JobKeeper is designed to, well, help people keep the jobs they have. If you had a job on March 1, 2020, and your employer is eligible, you can access the JobKeeper payment, even if you were laid off in March. Your employer can rehire you and pay you at least $1,500 a fortnight. 

When will this money kick in? 

The money will start coming through the first week of May. 

Confused about what's still legal? Here's where you can and can't go under physical distancing laws.

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