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'Can I be forced to take annual leave?' All your questions about JobKeeper, answered.

Over six million Australians will receive fortnightly payments of $1500 from the first week of May thanks to the federal government’s JobKeeper scheme – the biggest economic rescue package in Australia’s history.

The $130 billion scheme is set to support businesses significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with the aim to keep as many Australians as possible in their jobs.

With enrollment now open for employers, many employees are still confused about what exactly the JobKeeper scheme means, and what their entitlements are.

Can you be asked to do duties not normally part of your job, and can you be forced to take annual leave?

Here, we answer your questions about the JobKeeper scheme.

Can I be made to do other duties?

Basically, yes – but within reason.

Under JobKeeper, employers are permitted to direct their workers to do alternative duties from normal if it is within their skill and competency. They are also able to ask employees to work from a different location than normal – for example, at home.

The Fair Work Ombudsman stipulates that in the instance of changed duties, they must be safe, the employee must have any required licenses or qualifications for the duties and it must be within the scope of the employer’s business.

The Fair Work Ombudsman adds that the employer must be able to show that the new duties or location “is necessary to continue the employment of one or more employees.”

Side note… Listen to Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky. On today’s episode: should you download the COVID 19 tracking app? Post continues below podcast. 

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Can I be asked to take annual leave?

Under the JobSeeker scheme, an employer can ask their worker to take paid annual leave, however the employee must keep a balance of at least two weeks.

Or, an employer can also ask you to take annual leave at half your usual pay for twice the length of time.

This means if an employee has, for example, four weeks of paid annual leave accrued, the employer can ask them to take two weeks leave, or four weeks of leave at half their normal pay.

However, the Fair Work Ombudsman does add that if an employer asks their employee to take annual leave, the employee cannot unreasonably refuse the request.

If I earn less than $1,500 per fortnight normally, am I still eligible for JobKeeper?

Yes.

The $1,500 payment is a flat rate. Employers will receive the same amount for all eligible employees, even if the worker (for example, a part-time employee) does not normally earn that much. This means those eligible employees who normally earn less than $1,500 per fortnight will receive a little more income during this time.

It is illegal for the business to withhold any amount of that $1500 payment from the employee.

So will be you be required to work more hours to compensate for the extra pay? That is not what the JobKeeper scheme says.

What if I earn more than $1,500 per fortnight normally?

If you are still working and earn more than $1,500 per fortnight, you will still receive your normal income, according to workplace arrangements (i.e. unless there has been an agreed upon pay cut). Essentially, employers will use the JobKeeper payment to assist their financial requirements by subsidising part of your income.

What about if you’ve been stood down, or are working fewer hours or days?

Under JobKeeper employers can do this if the worker cannot be “usefully employed” due to the coronavirus pandemic or government restrictions.

In the case of an employee working fewer days or hours, the Fair Work Ombudsman states that the “the employer must pay them either the JobKeeper payment or their usual pay for any hours that the employee does work – whichever is more.”

What if my employer and I don’t agree?

Any disputes that arise from the JobKeeper provisions can be directed to the Fair Work Commission. They include information for both the employer and the employee.

When does JobKeeper end?

The JobKeeper Payment is available from March 30, 2020, and is not due to end until September 27, 2020.

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus – How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.


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