Life After JobKeeper

Wednesday March 24, 2021

After being introduced in March 2020, JobKeeper is due to come to its official end on March 28, 2021. With the loss of the JobKeeper safety net, many businesses will need to reassess their workforce requirements, with HR departments being fully aware of the legalities around restructuring the workforce post-JobKeeper. The HR Dept can certainly help with this.

It’s likely that small- to medium-sized businesses will be most significantly affected by the end of JobKeeper in Australia, with business owners and HR departments forced to make difficult decisions. If you think that you may need to restructure your workforce, have a chat to the HR Dept beforehand, and begin the process as soon as possible – making sure you’ve ticked all the relevant boxes before making anyone redundant or reducing anyone’s hours.

Consider the following points if you’re restructuring your workforce post-JobKeeper:

Redundancies: A position can be made redundant if the employer no longer needs the particular job to be done by anyone, or the employer becomes insolvent or bankrupt. When making employees redundant, ensure you have grounds for a genuine redundancy, otherwise you could be at risk of an unfair dismissal claim. Check also that you’re providing enough notice, calculating and paying out any redundancy payments or entitlements, and communication appropriately with all staff.

Redundancy payments (and payments in lieu of notice) need to be paid at the employee’s rate of pay prior to the implementation of any JobKeeper Enabling Stand Down Direction. Employees who are working reduced or zero hours as a result of a JobKeeper Enabling Stand Down Direction are still entitled to redundancy pay based on their pre-JobKeeper hours/pay.

Reducing hours: As part of JobKeeper, changes were made to the Fair Work Act 2009 to allow employers to reduce the hours of employees eligible for the JobKeeper subsidy by the use of a JobKeeper Enabling Stand Down Direction. These changes won’t continue past March 28, 2021. Once JobKeeper ends, employees will have an automatic right to return to the hours they were working prior to any JobKeeper Enabling Stand Down Direction being issued.

If you don’t want an employee to return to their pre-JobKeeper hours, keep in mind that employees’ hours can’t be varied without their consent. For this reason, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and start negotiations before JobKeeper ends. Don’t forget to consider any modern award or enterprise agreements that apply to the business as these sometimes have rules about changing employees’ hours. Importantly, put everything in writing!

Casual employees: With casual employees, employers are generally able to vary their hours as they see fit. If this means that a casual employee can no longer be offered any hours due to JobKeeper ceasing, then employers should be able to do this with little risk of legal comeback. Having said that, it always pays to have frank, open and honest conversations with employees. No one wants a disgruntled ex-employee!

If you’re unsure about your rights and responsibilities as an employer, or just want to make sure you’re doing the right thing by your employees, then have a chat to the friendly team at the HR Dept. We can help with all HR issues that may arise once JobKeeper ends on March 28.

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