Each diocese will have or be developing measures to address the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is recommended that policies are developed addressing:
- Distancing efforts in offices e.g. reviewing need for face to face meetings, working from home, rotating staff
- Hygiene in offices, bathrooms, kitchens, lunchrooms, high contact surfaces
- Working from home arrangements
- What to do if a staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19
- Sick leave, annual leave, leave without pay, flexible work policies
- Staff access to counselling
- Policies on staff travel. Note that the government has imposed a ban on all international travel effective 25 March 2020)
Government Assistance to Business
Boosting cash flow for employers
The Government has announced several measures to support business and is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses, and not-for-profits (including charities) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help businesses’ and not-for-profits’ cash flow so they can keep operating, pay their rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff.
The first payment is the cash flow boost, which provides a tax free payment to employers (up to $50,000) and is automatically calculated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on lodgement of activity statements. There are no new forms required. Eligible employers that withhold tax to the ATO on their employees’ salary and wages will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of the amount withheld, up to a maximum payment of $50,000.
Additional payments will be delivered as an automatic credit in the activity statement system, following lodgement of activity statements from June to September 2020 (up to $50,000).
##ISSUE: The eligible employer will be different from diocese to diocese. Where payroll is centralised and the diocesan office is the eligible employer, the diocese would receive a maximum of $100,000 cash flow boost payment irrespective of the number of parishes.
In comparison, where payroll is decentralised and there are multiple eligible employers in a diocese, each eligible employer is eligible for the maximum of $100,000.
The Commonwealth has announced $130 billion for JobKeeper support designed to assist employers to retain staff and minimise the significant economic and social impact from the coronavirus. The program, commencing from 30 March, provides 6 months subsidies to businesses throughout the coronavirus pandemic as social distancing and public gathering restrictions impact on business operations.
The legislation and accompanying Treasurer’s rules were made available on 9 April 2020, providing clearer guidance as to key aspects of the package.
Please continue to refer to the Treasury website (https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper) and the ATO website (https://www.ato.gov.au/general/jobkeeper-payment/employers/eligible-employers/) in relation to JobKeeper.
Information for employers Factsheet: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-04/Fact_sheet_Info_for_Employers_2.pdf
Frequently Asked Questions: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-04/JobKeeper_frequently_asked_questions_2.pdf
Register your interest on the ATO website to keep updated on information about the JobKeeper Payment. If you register you will receive updates and information from the ATO about how and when to claim the JobKeeper Payment.
The ATO opened enrolments on 20 April 2020. Eligible employers need to elect into the scheme. From 4 May 2020 you will need to confirm eligible employees each month through the ATO business portal
Key changes at 9 April 2020:
- For charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), they will be eligible for the subsidy if they estimate their turnover has or will likely fall by 15 per cent or more relative to a comparable period.
- For registered charities, turnover may also include donations they have received or are likely to receive in their turnover for the purpose of determining if they have been adversely affected.
- Most businesses would be expected to establish that their turnover has fallen in the relevant month or quarter relative to their turnover in a corresponding period a year earlier. Where their turnover a year earlier was not representative of their usual or average turnover (for example, their turnover is typically highly variable), the Tax Commissioner will have discretion to consider additional information that the business can provide to establish that they have been adversely affected by the impacts of the Coronavirus.
The turnover calculation is based on GST turnover, but there are some modifications, including disregarding GST grouping where two or more associated business entities operate as a single GST group. The ATO will provide further information soon about applying the turnover test.
Dioceses should continue to provide advise to parishes on determining eligibility for JobKeeper:
- Register interest with the ATO – ato.gov.au/job-keeper-payment and subscribe for updates
- Determine if you are an eligible employer – check BAS, consider ATO discretion for atypical circumstances
- Determine who are your eligible employees – check STP reporting at 1 March 2020 and other requirements
Update as at 24 April 2020:
The Treasurer has provided additional information about eligibility for special purpose entities and specific groups including religious leaders.
- Employees employed through a special purpose entity, rather than an operating entity: Changes will address the circumstances where business structures use a special purpose entity to employ staff rather than staff being directly employed by an operating entity. The Government will provide an alternate decline in turnover test for the eligibility of special purpose service entities that provide employee labour to group members and that have not met the basic test for decline in turnover. This alternate test will apply where an entity provides the services of its employees to one or more related entities, where those related entities carry on a business deriving revenue from unrelated third parties. The alternate test will be by reference to the combined GST turnovers of the related entities using the services of the employer entity.
- Religious practitioners: Changes will allow JobKeeper Payments to be made to religious institutions in respect of religious practitioners (with the exception of those that are students only), recognising that many religious practitioners are not ‘employees’ of their religious institutions.
The full update can be accessed here: https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/josh-frydenberg-2018/media-releases/jobkeeper-update
The Anglican Church of Australia has written to the Prime Minister and Treasurer in regard to the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the financial viability of church operations and access to funding through government initiatives – Boosting Cashflow to Employers and JobKeeper.
The letter can be accessed here.
Information on State government economic support for business and not for profit operations can be found here:
Information on workplace entitlements and obligations from Fair Work Australia: