The Australian Government’s $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy will end on March 28 2021, what challenges will this bring businesses and employees?
JobKeeper, JobKeeper 2.0— there’s been many JobKeeper changes and JobKeeper extensions over the past year that caused businesses and employees a fair bit of anxiety in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the nation begins to bounce back from lockdowns and border closures, it’s time for the subsidy to come to an end.
In this blog, we’ll give both businesses and employees insight on how to move forward in a post-JobKeeper world.
Firstly, let’s recap what exactly JobKeeper did:
What is JobKeeper?
The JobKeeper Payment scheme is a subsidy for businesses across Australia significantly affected by COVID-19. JobKeeper is a wage subsidy that is paid directly to employers by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to help cover the cost of wages they have paid to some employees.
As the payment is not made directly to employees, employees do not claim the JobKeeper Payment. Rather, if your employer has JobKeeper eligibility, they can choose to apply. Depending on your wage, a portion of it might be subsidised by the JobKeeper Payment.
From the start of JobKeeper in April 2020 until 28 September 2020, the amount of JobKeeper Payment your employer can receive for wages they have paid to you is $1,500 per fortnight. This means some employees who were earning less than this amount per fortnight, may have received this full payment and benefited from a temporary wage increase, while others might have been limited to receiving this amount in total, regardless of their usual wage prior to April.
On 28 September 2020, a JobKeeper 2.0 update was rolled out with two payment tiers. This meant the amount of JobKeeper Payment an employer can receive for wages they have paid to an employee is generally based on how many hours the employee worked.
The JobKeeper Payment scheme was designed to keep the Australian economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while it served an important role in assisting the eligible population during this difficult time, there are concerns some industries haven’t fully recovered enough to survive without the subsidy after it comes to an end.
When will JobKeeper end?
The Federal Government will bring the $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to an end on March 28, 2021.
The ABC reports that the number of Australian workers that receive JobKeeper has continued to drop, “new figures from the ATO show that 1.54 million employees collected the wage subsidy between October and December last year, compared to 3.6 million between April and September.”
The economy is reported to, for the most part, be bouncing back after the devastation caused by COVID-19 restrictions. And, with the first vaccines starting to be administered around the country, the situation is finally starting to turn around. But what does that mean for those sectors and industries still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, border closures and lockdowns?
What will happen to businesses?
The idea of JobKeeper was to help keep the economy moving and keep small to medium-sized businesses—the lifeblood of our economy—pumping the best they could. There’s no denying the pandemic has brought many changes to how businesses operate—some becoming more agile by selling products online, moving to inventive take-away options, or having their staff working remotely and saving on commercial rents.
After March 28, businesses will revert back to paying permanent staff their pre-COVID salaries and hours. Businesses are not able to alter a permanent full-time or part-time employee’s hours without their consent and should be openly having conversations with their employees to put to rest any questions around the end of JobKeeper and what that might mean for their job security.
What will happen to employees?
No one can know for sure how many people will lose their jobs when JobKeeper ends, and while experts are predicting that the figure will be lower than first expected, it’s estimated that up to 250,000 people may be pushed out of work as a number of businesses that relied on JobKeeper could shutdown.
The Sydney Morning Herald quotes that a “recent Treasury analysis estimates about 100,000 jobs are at risk when the scheme ends, but forecasts overall unemployment to continue declining this year.”
If you’ve been on JobKeeper and are worried about what your future employment might look like, it’s reassuring to know that provided transmission of COVID-19 in Australian remains low, the economy will continue to recover and unemployment rates will drop.
What to do in preparation
In a post-JobKeeper world, many businesses will have to adapt in order to survive, here are some key tips for businesses:
- Think ahead - Businesses should speak with their accountants to plan for various scenarios and modelling cash flow if profits decline.
- Take stock - ask the tough questions about what essential to survive and thrive short to long term.
- Cut costs - after taking into consideration 1) & 2) it’s time to make the call about where funds and resources need to be adjusted. Most importantly, if this means letting go of employees, transparency and providing support is key.
- Rebuild - if a restructure is on the cards, make a redundancy plan and be sure to follow legal protocols.
For employees, those studying or looking for work, regardless of what your employment status is or could be in the future, it’s important to have a handle on your finances. If you need some help getting on track, LoanU can help you focus on your financial goals by providing an auto or personal loan that can help consolidate your debt and plan for your future.