JobKeeper Payments Legislation to Pass Parliament on Wednesday

Sunday 5th April,On Sunday Christian Porter, the Federal Attorney General, gave a commitment to Australian businesses that “the JobKeeper Payment legislation would pass parliament on Wednesday, no matter how late the parliament needs to sit to get the bill passed.”

“This is one of the most important drafting exercises post WW2, with $130 billion of economy and job saving expenditure to be passed. Five hundred thousand businesses have already applied for the payments. The application process will rely on self-assessment and a high level of honesty is expected” the minister said.

Porter also explained that “11,000 enterprise agreements would require adjustment for the JobKeeper Payment to be implemented.”

To facilitate this, the government is working closely with the ACTU to pass temporary changes to Employee and Industrial relations law, to ensure businesses can pass on the payments without breaching existing legislation around the Fair Work Act.

“Any changes to IR laws will be subject to a six-month expiry date” he said, which could only be changed in future with parliament’s backing.

Union Concerns

Unions have expressed concerns that some employers may try to take advantage of the JobKeeper Payments by directing workers to run down their existing leave entitlements in order to get them.

Labour raised similar concerns last week, saying if employees were forced to exhaust their leave entitlements to get the payments, the fortnightly subsidy may be transformed from a “wage subsidy” for employees, into a “balance sheet subsidy” for employers.

Porter acknowledged these concerns and said he would share drafts of the legislation with the ACTU and work through the details “in a cooperative, open, frank and honest way.”

But he also acknowledged that “In some very distressed businesses, “it may well be that they need to close or pay the $1500 only.” He did however give assurances that if any employer did something wrong, Fair Work penalties would apply.

Porter stressed that the government hoped employers and employees would do the right thing by each other and said that within individual businesses, there should be discussions about the way the payments were going to be implemented, “with common sense, consultation and representation”.

At the end of the day, individual employees and employers would do well to remember the intention of the governments package, which is to be “as reasonable, inclusive and fair as possible,” and to work together to ensure that when the social lock-down provisions are lifted, people have a business and a job to go back to.

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