JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme

Published 1 May 2020 | Updated 8 July 2020

Update on Victorian restrictions

Temporary restrictions and border closures have been announced in response to the spread of coronavirus in Victoria.

If you’re an employer or employee affected by these restrictions or border closures, you can find information in this section about:

See the List of enforceable government directions during coronavirus to check current enforceable directions in Victoria.

For information on border crossing closures and restrictions, including current restrictions and border closures, check your state and territory information through the Australia.gov.au website external-icon.png.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme gives qualifying businesses and not-for-profit organisations access to an Australian Government wage subsidy (JobKeeper scheme). The JobKeeper scheme helps employers significantly affected by coronavirus to keep paying their employees. It also gives them the ability under the Fair Work Act to give directions (called ‘JobKeeper enabling directions’) and make agreements with their employees to help manage their business in certain circumstances.

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On other pages in this section, you’ll find information about:

JobKeeper scheme – an overview

Under the JobKeeper scheme, qualifying employers significantly affected by coronavirus can access an Australian Government subsidy to help them to keep paying their employees.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) administers the JobKeeper scheme.

Qualifying employers can claim a reimbursement of $1500 (before tax) per fortnight from the Australian Government for each eligible employee who:

  • was employed on 1 March 2020
  • is employed for the fortnights that the employer is claiming the reimbursement for (including those who are stood down or re-hired).

This reimbursement is referred to on this page as a ‘JobKeeper payment’.

If an employer chooses to participate in the JobKeeper scheme, they need to give all their eligible employees a notice telling them that they intend to participate, and asking them if they agree to be nominated and receive payments from them as part of the scheme. They have to do this within 7 days of enrolling. This step allows eligible employees to agree to be nominated. For more information about timeframes and nomination notices, go to the ATO website - Enrol for the JobKeeper payment external-icon.png and employee nomination notices external-icon.png.

The ATO says that an employer who decides to participate in the JobKeeper scheme should nominate all their eligible employees who agree to be nominated (also known as ‘one in all in’). See the ‘Your eligible employees’ page in the JobKeeper Employers section on the ATO website external-icon.png for more information.

The ATO pays JobKeeper payments to qualifying employers for eligible employees, as a reimbursement monthly in arrears, beginning in May 2020. To claim the JobKeeper payment, the employer must have already paid their eligible employees an amount that is at least equal to the JobKeeper payment per fortnight. The ATO can make JobKeeper payments to employers in relation to payments they’ve made to employees, backdated to the fortnight starting on 30 March 2020.

JobKeeper enabling directions and agreements under the Fair Work Act

To support the implementation and operation of the JobKeeper scheme in Australian workplaces, temporary JobKeeper provisions have been added to the Fair Work Act (Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions). These provisions apply to employers who have qualified for the JobKeeper scheme and their eligible employee. They started on 9 April 2020 and end on 28 September 2020.

The Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions enable qualifying employers to give ‘JobKeeper enabling directions’ to eligible employees. In certain circumstances, this means that employers can temporarily:

  • stand down an employee (including by reducing their hours or days of work)
  • change an employee’s usual duties
  • change an employee’s location of work.

The new provisions also enable qualifying employers and eligible employees to make agreements to change their days and times of work and take annual leave in certain circumstances.

To give a JobKeeper enabling direction or make an agreement under the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions, an employer needs to:

  • qualify for and enrol in the JobKeeper scheme
  • be entitled to JobKeeper payments for the employee to whom the direction or agreement applies
  • be a national system employer in the Fair Work system.

Qualifying employers can only give JobKeeper enabling directions or make agreements under the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions for the time that they’re claiming the JobKeeper payment for an eligible employee.

JobKeeper directions and agreements can’t reduce minimum pay rates under the Fair Work Act, and terms and conditions not related to the direction or agreement continue (for example, sick and carer’s leave) while the direction or agreement is in place.

The Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions end on 28 September 2020. When this happens, any directions or agreements made under them will also end. Employees’ terms and conditions will revert back to what they were without the directions or agreements in place.

The Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions don’t remove or change employees’ general protections (such as the right to exercise or refuse a workplace right) or protections from unfair dismissal or discrimination.

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Who is eligible for the JobKeeper scheme?

Employer eligibility

Eligible employers can enrol and apply for the JobKeeper payment with the ATO external-icon.png .

Employers need to satisfy certain criteria to qualify for the JobKeeper scheme. You can find details about the eligibility criteria for employers, including calculating aggregated turnover and a list of excluded categories of employers, on the ATO JobKeeper payment – Eligible employers page external-icon.png.

For information about sole trader eligibility see ATO JobKeeper payment – Sole traders and other entities page external-icon.png.

If an employer isn’t eligible or doesn’t apply

An employer can choose not to participate in the JobKeeper scheme. It isn’t compulsory.

If an employer chooses to participate in the JobKeeper scheme, the ATO says that they should nominate all of their eligible employees (also known as ‘one in all in’). See the ‘Your eligible employees’ page in the JobKeeper Employers section on the ATO website external-icon.png for more information.

If an employer doesn’t participate in the JobKeeper scheme, they can’t use the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions for their employees. All the usual rights and obligations under the Fair Work Act and the applicable award, still apply.

If an employer isn’t eligible, they can’t enrol for the JobKeeper scheme. There could be other government assistance they can access. Go to our Government information about coronavirus page for more information.

Employee eligibility

Employees are eligible to be nominated by their employer for the JobKeeper scheme if they satisfy certain criteria. You can find details about the eligibility criteria on the Australian Tax Office (ATO) JobKeeper payment – Eligible employees page external-icon.png. For information about satisfying eligibility criteria, including who is considered a long-term casual employee eligible for JobKeeper payments, go to the ATO’s eligible employees page external-icon.png.

If an employee was made redundant after 1 March 2020, an employer can choose to re-hire them and claim the JobKeeper payment on their behalf if they both meet the JobKeeper eligibility criteria. The employer doesn’t have to re-hire the employee.

From 1 May 2020, employers who have decided to participate in the JobKeeper scheme need to inform their eligible employees within 7 days of enrolment and detail the steps the employee has to take to agree to be nominated. You’ll find more information about the nomination process on the ATO’s eligible employees page external-icon.png.

How an employee is paid under the JobKeeper scheme

Qualifying employers need to pay their eligible employees $1500 (before tax) per fortnight to be reimbursed by the ATO. The ATO will reimburse the employer monthly in arrears.

An employer must pay an employee each fortnight the higher of:

  • the amount of the JobKeeper payment, or
  • their usual pay for work performed (including any paid leave or public holiday pay).

Employers can’t pay their employees less than the JobKeeper payment per fortnight and keep the difference, or just pay the employee the amount of the JobKeeper payment if the employee is entitled to more.

Employers can’t ask their eligible employee to pay a fee or pay part of their wage (including in cash) to access the JobKeeper scheme.

Employers need to deduct tax from their employees’ pay.

Employers stop being eligible for the JobKeeper payment if they pay their eligible employees less than the JobKeeper payment per fortnight.

JobKeeper and the Annual Wage Review 2020

The Fair Work Commission has announced a 1.75% increase to minimum wages. This applies to all award wages. The new national minimum wage is $753.80 per week or $19.84 per hour, starting from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2020.

The Fair Work Commission has decided to stagger the start date of this increase across all awards. Awards have been divided into 3 groups and the 1.75% wage increase starts on the first full pay period on or after:

  • 1 July 2020 for Group 1 awards
  • 1 November 2020 for Group 2 awards
  • 1 February 2021 for Group 3 awards.

Most employees are covered by an award. If you're not sure which award applies, use Find my award.

A full list of the awards in each group is available at The Commission has announced a 1.75% increase to minimum wages.

You can find the new rates for Group 1 awards in our Pay and Conditions Tool. Just choose your Group 1 award and set the date to 1 July 2020 or after.

The increase doesn't affect employees who already get paid more than the new minimum wage.

Interaction with the JobKeeper payment

Under the JobKeeper scheme, each fortnight employers need to pay their employees the higher of:

  • the amount of the JobKeeper payment ($1500 before tax), or
  • their usual pay for the work they perform during the fortnight (including any paid leave or public holiday pay).

When calculating the amount an employee in the JobKeeper scheme needs to be paid, the employee's usual pay for work performed in the fortnight could be affected by the minimum wage increase.

You can find the new rates for Group 1 awards in our Pay and Conditions Tool. Just choose your Group 1 award and set the date to 1 July 2020 or after.

Check which group your award is in at The Commission has announced a 1.75% increase to minimum wages.

Overpayments & the JobKeeper scheme

If an employer mistakenly pays an employee under the JobKeeper scheme (for example, because they think they’re eligible for payments but they’re not), the usual rules about overpayments apply.

Under the Fair Work Act, employers can only deduct money from an employee’s pay to fix an overpayment in limited situations, for example if it’s allowed under an award, an agreement (and the employee agrees to it), legislation, or a court or Fair Work Commission order. Otherwise, employers and employees should agree on a repayment arrangement instead.

Employers can’t make employees pay money or give back their wages (sometimes known as ‘cashback’) if it’s unreasonable and the payment is for the benefit of the employer or someone related to them.

For more information about overpayments and how to fix them, see Deducting pay & overpayments.

How the JobKeeper scheme affects an employee’s work

In certain circumstances, qualifying employers can give a JobKeeper enabling direction to change an eligible employee’s hours, duties or work location while they’re receiving JobKeeper payments. Find out more at:

  • JobKeeper enabling stand down directions
  • Changing duties, location or days and times of work under the JobKeeper scheme.
  • For more information about how payments and leave entitlements work under the JobKeeper scheme (including agreements to take annual leave under the Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions), see:

  • Pay and the JobKeeper scheme
  • Leave and the JobKeeper scheme.
  • Employers who are enrolled in the JobKeeper scheme don’t have to use the JobKeeper enabling directions or agreements under the new Fair Work Act JobKeeper provisions. They can continue to give reasonable and safe directions for their eligible employees to work their normal hours of work (if they aren’t on authorised leave or absence). When an employee is working, they need to be paid either the amount of the JobKeeper payment or their usual pay for any hours that the employee does work in each fortnight – whichever is more.

    When directing an employee to perform their normal hours of work, employers need to comply with their work health and safety obligations, and any flexible working arrangements that may apply.

    If an eligible employee hasn’t been given a JobKeeper enabling stand down direction to perform no work (or isn’t already stood down on another basis), the normal rules about following directions to work apply. An employee can’t refuse an employer’s direction to perform work if it is reasonable and lawful (including having regard to work health and safety obligations and flexible working arrangements).

    If an employee isn’t eligible or their employer doesn’t apply

    An employer can choose not to enrol in the JobKeeper scheme. It isn’t compulsory.

    The ATO won’t be able to make JobKeeper payments to an employee’s employer if:

    • their employer doesn’t enrol in the JobKeeper scheme
    • their employer enrols but doesn’t qualify, or
    • they aren’t eligible to be nominated for the JobKeeper scheme.

    The ATO says that an employer who decides to participate in the JobKeeper scheme should nominate all their eligible employees who agree to be nominated (also known as ‘one in all in’). See the ‘Your eligible employees’ page in the JobKeeper Employers section on the ATO website external-icon.png for more information. If an employee refuses to agree to be nominated for the scheme they cease to be an eligible employee.

    Former employees (including employees made redundant after 1 March 2020 and not re-hired) who aren’t eligible for JobKeeper payments may be eligible for other support payments such as the JobSeeker scheme. Read more about JobSeeker payments on the Services Australia website external-icon.png.

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    More information and how to apply

    Visit the ATO website for detailed information external-icon.png about:

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    Enforcement and dealing with disputes

    We help employers and employees understand and follow Australian workplace laws. We do this by:

    • providing information and education
    • providing tools, templates and guides
    • helping you resolve workplace issues.

    Our Resolving workplace issues during coronavirus page has information and resources to help you resolve workplace disputes. It also has information about our enforcement role under the JobKeeper scheme and who can help with:

    • questions about eligibility for the JobKeeper scheme
    • disputes about directions or requests under the JobKeeper scheme.

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