Due to lagging economic recovery and a second wave in Victoria, the Government has enacted rules to extend the eligibility of its JobKeeper program so that more employees may be eligible than before. Given that JobKeeper is now to run until March next year, it is important to get any newly qualified employees into the system as soon as possible.

The way JobKeeper was originally set up was to determine employee eligibility as at 1 March 2020. However, this date has now been changed to 1 July 2020. The result is that any employees who were employed after 1 March (but before 1 July) can now qualify for JobKeeper. That is, it is available for new employees engaged after 1 March.

It also means that employees who did not qualify as at 1 March may do so as at 1 July. For example, this may be relevant for long-term casual employees who had not clocked up the requisite 12 months as at 1 March but have done so by 1 July.

The new rules cover individuals who have changed employers. For example, those employees who had nominated with one employer as at 1 March 2020 can re-nominate with another employer as at 1 July 2020. An individual who re-nominates as an eligible employee of a new employer is excluded from being an eligible employee of the old employer (ie no double dipping).

A key condition is that the individual must have ceased their employment with the first employer before 1 July 2020 and commenced their employment with the new employer by 1 July 2020.

The reason for the cessation of employment is not relevant, eg the employee could have had his or her employment terminated, he or she could have resigned, or the employer may have ceased to exist.

The changes also cover employees who were employed as at 1 March but who had been let go by their employer due to the COVID-19 downturn, but were subsequently re-employed by the same employer.

In fact, the rules cover employees who have been or will be re-engaged by the same employer after 1 July 2020, ie they can nevertheless qualify for JobKeeper. In other words, there is no time limit on when this can happen. However, the eligibility of an individual re-employed by the same employer is not preserved if the individual re-nominated for another employer.

Employers currently receiving the JobKeeper must review the status of all employees to determine if any are newly qualified and make the relevant business monthly declaration (due by 14 September). In addition, businesses will need to pay at least $1,500 for each of the 2 fortnights commencing 3 August to ensure the money is received by the employee(s) by 31 August. Those newly qualified employees will need to return the nomination notice to their employer as soon as possible.