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Government

Is there government assistance for international hospitality students or individuals on working visas?

A really good question and one that is hard to answer at this point due to the situation moving so quickly. What we know so far is that regardless of what VISA you are on you need to remain lawful, including application for a new visa before your current visa expires. In most cases, applicants will be granted a bridging visa that will allow them to remain in the country legally until the department decides on their application. There is a lot of information available on the Australian Home Affairs website regarding VISAs and what processes need to be followed in the short term to remain lawful.

There are a number of industry bodies and international governments requesting the government grant temporary access to welfare (Jobseeker and medicare) as well as bridging VISAs until the Coronavirus situation is lifted, this includes allowing those with clauses in their VISAs regarding sponsorship and type of work to search for other work temporarily.

For further information, please visit the Department of Home Affairs Website.

Worksmith is now raising money and accepting donations via Tip Jar Fund to assist Overseas Workers here in Australia who are without government support. Tip Jar Fund works directly with local initiatives to distribute money to those in need, with a focus on feeding, housing, employing, upskilling and supporting those in the food and beverage industry.

Find out more at TipJarFund.org

Last updated: 04.06.2020

Anyone know the deal with people that were full time that still aren't technically unemployed? Can we still have government assistance?

There are measures the government are putting in place effective from April 27 for government assistance, people will be eligible if you're:

  • A permanent employee who has been stood down or sacked (as detailed in another question, your Employer may need to provide you with an Employment Separation Certificate as evidence to access Jobseeker payments)

  • A sole trader, self-employed, casual worker or contract worker who now earns less than $1,075 a fortnight as a result of the economic downturn

  • You're caring for someone who has COVID-19

The Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments are tapered, meaning if you earn $0 for the fortnight you'll get the full welfare payment, but if you still have some income (but remain below the income threshold) you will receive a portion of the payment.

To note: As it currently stands, if you lose your job and your partner earns more than $1,850 a fortnight ($48,100 a year) you will not be eligible for the Jobseeker Payment.

To register for Jobseeker: The government have changed the rules so that more people can access Centrelink via phone and online (avoid the need to leave homes). You can now:

  • Prove your identity over the phone (this was previously the main reason new applicants were forced to attend service centres in person)

  • Lodge an intent to claim online through MyGov

    • If you have a MyGov account you simply log in and you will see a button that says 'Have you been affected by coronavirus? Do you wish to claim a payment?'.

    • You click on that and it will register your intent to claim, and government will then contact you to steer you through the process.

Last updated: 23.03.2020

If closing business till government says they can open, what do you do in regards to letters to your staff? Are separation letters still required for their employees?

Yes. You will need to provide your employees with a Stand Down Letter that includes the defined period (Stand Down Period) in which the employer beleives the employee will be unable to work. As detailed in a previous question your employees may require a Employment Separation Certificate in order to access Jobseeker payments.

If you are reducing wages but still providing some level of income that is not redundancy or being stood down then you will need to have employees complete an employment variation letter that details their consent to having the terms of their contract changed during a defined period.

Last updated: 23.03.2020

Human Resources

Can employers freeze your annual leave?

Technically your employer cannot freeze your pay unless there is reasonable grounds to do so. Generally, annual leave can be taken as soon as it is accumulated; it does not have to be taken each year. It is up to each employer and employee to agree on when and for how long annual leave can be taken.

However, the employer must not unreasonably refuse an employee’s request to take annual leave. There is no maximum or minimum period of annual leave that can be taken.

An empoyer may request that you delay annual leave but by law you have the right to take your annual leave. We are seeking further clarification regarding unreasonable grounds given the impact of the coronavirus.

In situations where a business goes into liquidation or becomes insolvent: When a business is bankrupt, also known as going into liquidation or insolvency, employees can get help through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG).

The FEG, previously known as the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme or GEERS, is available to eligible employees to help them get their unpaid entitlements. This can include:

  • wages – up to 13 weeks of unpaid wages (capped at the FEG maximum weekly wage)

  • annual leave

  • long service leave

  • payment in lieu of notice of termination – maximum of 5 weeks

  • redundancy pay – up to 4 weeks per full year of service.

It doesn’t include:

  • superannuation

  • reimbursement payments

  • one-off or irregular payments

  • bonus payments

  • non-ongoing or irregular commissions.

For more information, please visit Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) website, call the FEG Hotline on 1300 135 040, or email FEG@jobs.gov.au.

Last updated: 23.03.2020

As employers what do we need to supply to our staff for Centrelink payments?

Employers:
As an employer, if you have made someone redundant or if you have stood down staff you may need to provide evidence to Centrelink of the action you have taken.

You will need to provide an Employment Separation Certificate, which is a form signed you for any staff that have been employed by you in the last 12months.
It must include:

  • the date when the employee finished work;

  • the reasons they are no longer working in the company; and

  • the amount of leave and termination pay they received.

In most circumstances, employers must provide a Separation Certificate.

Former Employees: Some employers refuse to complete the Certificate or do not do so properly. However, Centrelink guidelines state that your payment should not be delayed or refused if you have difficulty obtaining a Certificate through no fault of your own. You should explain to Centrelink why you can’t provide the Certificate. Centrelink should then contact your employer directly for the Certificate or grant you payment and obtain the information later.

Last updated: 23.03.2020

Finance & Accounting

Do we still have to pay our GST balance of March Quarter?

Yes. To access some of the government's stimulus packages you need to pay your quarterly BAS (GST and PAYG). The Federal and State Government has announced refunds of the PAYG and GST through the ATO and to access them you will need to complete your quarterly activity statements.

Last updated: 23.03.2020

What to do when we can't pay back out loans?

Information regarding loans will be specific to the individual circumstances of each business. Each business should discuss their situation with their business bank as soon as possible to determine what support is available.

The government has offered support to small businesses through a number of initiatives including access to unsecured loans accessible through Australian Banks, which includes deferred loan repayments for 6 months for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The types of assistance can  include:

  • A deferral/reduce of scheduled loan repayments

  • Waiving fees and charges

  • Interest-free periods or no interest rate increases

  • Debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable.

Find your respective contact to each bank here.

Last updated: 23.03.2020

Licensing

What are the rules and regulations of delivering alcohol?

The rules for delivery of alcohol are similar to those in a licensed premises, in that the delivery driver/partner must ensure they check the identification of persons receiving orders that include alcohol to ensure they are not delivering to someone under the age of 18. For clarity, the liquor licensees are also responsible for verifying the age of their customers for liquor supplied from their licensed premises, including in the case of delivery.

In regards to the delivery of alcohol and allowable quantities, you will have to review the terms of the license that has been provided to the business by the relevant liquor licensing body. It is not practical to make generalised comments as licenses may vary between premises and states.

We recommend that you contact the relevant liquor licensing which you can find in our Contacts section.

Last updated: 23.03.2020

Leases

If I can't keep paying my rent, what should I do?

Step 1

  • Keep paying what rent you can afford

Work out your reduction in turnover associated with the premises during the relevant period (from 29 March 2020 to 29 September 2020).


Step 2

Apply for rent relief from your landlord in writing. This request must be accompanied by:

  • a statement that your lease is an eligible lease

  • evidence that your business is an SME entity with a turnover under $50m and

  • evidence that your business is participating in the JobKeeper scheme.

Step 3

  • After receiving your written request, your landlord must offer rent relief within 14 days, unless a different time frame has been agreed to by you and your landlord in writing.

  • Unless you and your landlord otherwise agree in writing, no less than 50 per cent of the rent relief offered by the landlord should be in the form of a waiver.

  • The offer must apply to the period between 29 March 2020 and 29 September 2020.

  • Your landlord is required to take several factors into account when offering you rent relief such as:

    • your reduction in turnover

    • any waiver of outgoings or other expenses for the premises

    • whether your capacity to pay rent under the lease would be compromised by not being offered sufficient relief

    • their financial ability to offer rent relief, including any support they might have access to such as mortgage relief or Victorian Government schemes that they might be eligible for

    • any reduction in outgoings for the premises.

Step 4

  • If an agreement is reached, document what has been agreed to in writing.

  • You can choose to document this agreement as a variation of the lease, but this is not necessary if the written agreement gives effect to the rent relief.

Last updated: 04.06.2020

What are the criteria to obtain rent relief?

You must:

  • have a commercial lease (including retail, office and industrial);

  • be an eligible business for the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper program;

  • suffer financial stress or hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Victoria, you must participate in JobKeeper, but in NSW, you only need to show if you are eligible for JobKeeper.

What is my entitlement to rent relief?

Your rent relief is based on your reduction in trade. For example, if you have a 60 per cent loss in turnover, then you will obtain, as a minimum, half being 30 per cent as a rent-free and the other half of 30 per cent as a rent deferral.

How do I show my turnover loss?

The COVID laws do not specify what documentation is required to show a turnover loss. Some landlords are asking for documents such as BAS, bank statements, EFTPOS statements, JobKeeper documents to prove your entitlement to claim the grant, and profit and loss statements. Provided you adequately show your turnover loss, with primary evidence, then this should be reasonable. It would even be arguable that a letter from your accountant is adequate, stating that they have viewed your financials and calculated your turnover percentage loss.