The government has indicated a continuation of JobKeeper subsidies to support businesses through the continuing COVID19 pandemic. There have been some changes to the payment rates with some tiering for part-time employees and a step down in payment for the September – December quarter, and January – March quarter.
The busy HR specialist needs to start preparing for the changes these extensions entail.
Assess current business position
Companies are only eligible for the extension of JobKeeper if they have continued to experience the required drops in revenue compared to the previous year. To be eligible early next year – ie. From January – March, the business should have experienced continued relative decline in revenue for the Sept 2020 – Jan 2021 quarter.
Working closely with the financial function, the human resource team should make an assessment on the business situation and if JobKeeper eligibility will remain.
With some luck the Christmas period will add some life to the hardest hit sectors, but care will need to be taken when considering eligible for JobKeeper into the first quarter of 2021, a traditionally quiet time. With stimulus spending and support of various economic sectors filtering into the economy, revenue levels for businesses that might benefit from this will need to be monitored carefully to assess eligibility.
Define staffing needs, availability and rostering.
Business levels will dictate the staffing levels, but JobKeeper payments will also create constraints around availability. Many businesses with full time staff have reduced staff working hours to match the subsidy levels, with reductions in subsidies they might need to consider how they deploy staff and or if they top up the compensation based on hours worked.
The HR function will need to look carefully at hours worked in February 2020 by all staff being considered under JobKeeper and then consider suitable staffing plans to ensure any rostering is compliant and that compensation is adequate.
The tiering of the JobKeeper supplement will mean that part time staff who worked less than 20 hours in February 2020, will now be eligible for a lot less, than they have been getting, so may want to work extra hours to earn a little more. For other businesses, reduction the JobKeeper subsidies, may mean that companies need to further reduce hours worked by staff to keep the payments inline.
It becomes a juggle.
COVID19 has proven to be insidious and slippery, it is not possible to know where an outbreak might occur or what the government’s response will be and for how long. With this in mind, establishing contingency plans around various possibilities is essential.
Develop a communication plan
JobKeeper has given most employees a sense of security and parameters by which to manage their lives. Changes under JobKeeper 2.0 will impact each employee in a different way, so developing a consistent communication plan is crucial.
Initially establishing a high level plan and message for the management team is preferred as this allows them to communicate consistently with their teams and field and direct any questions to the human resource practitioner.
Documenting communication, changes and arrangements should be consistent and thorough not only for the benefit of staff, but to mitigate any claims down the path.
Timing of communication around changes in light of adjustments to the JobKeeper subsidy is up to the discretion of management. However given the pace of change, making announcements too early may create problems if things change. It is however important to be prepared in the event that questions are raised by employees.
Engaging the workforce and keeping them appraised of the business situation, and of any changes is vital for businesses looking to emerge positively from the extended impact of the COVID pandemic.
Link to JobKeeper 2.0 Checklist
Link to ATO page Job Keeper Payment updates.