On Wednesday 7th July, the lockdown for the Greater Sydney Region was extended to a third week. As a result of the ongoing number of new covid cases in Sydney businesses have begun calling for the re-introduction of JobKeeper.

The Treasury has responded to the requests by saying that workers in NSW who have been impacted by the new covid-19 outbreaks will receive the same level of support that Victorian businesses received in June during their recent outbreak.

On top of the request being made by businesses across the state, New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian herself has even asked the federal government to re-introduce the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which expired on Sunday 28th March 2021. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed that he had been approached by the state with a request for JobKeeper to be reintroduced, which he said was answered with a very strong “no”. 

“The treasurer of New South Wales has written to me asking for the reinstatement of JobKeeper,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters. “We are not bringing back JobKeeper.”

“We are not bringing back JobKeeper. That was an emergency support payment that we introduced at the height of the pandemic,” he said. “We then extended it beyond the initial six months to 12 months.” 

“We brought in a tiered payment to take into account the number of hours worked and that JobSeeker payment played a very important part in our economic recovery, particularly in keeping the formal connection between employers and employees.”

The Treasury said that NSW workers who have been impacted by the latest lockdown will receive the Australian Government’s Covid Disaster Payment the same support provided to Victoria when the state succumbed to its most recent lockdown just weeks ago.

The payment offers financial support to areas defined as Covid-19 national hotspots and are undergoing lockdown for over seven days.

Workers who are unable to work because of covid-19 enforced lockdowns will be eligible for $500 a week if they normally work more than 20 hours each week, and those who work less than 20 hours receive $325 weekly until restrictions ease.

Eligible workers will include Australian citizens, residents and visa holders who are permitted to work in Australia, and aged 17 and above.

In early June 2021 Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas announced around $450 million in business support. NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced up to $10,000 payments for businesses at the end of June.

Offering sympathy to business owners, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian hinted at further support.

“If we need to do more we will. The message to businesses is we know the business community would prefer to live in a certain environment without having to go into lockdown every few weeks and we are giving our community the best chance of not having another lockdown until the community is vaccinated” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Casual Workers Across Australia Are Left in Financial Limbo During Covid Lockdowns

While many Australians workers can do their jobs from home or draw on leave to get through a lockdown, it is a very different story for casual workers.

Casual workers don’t get sick leave or annual leave, and they’re supposed to get a higher pay loading as compensation. But no work during a lockdown simply means no pay.

How many casual workers are there currently in Australia?

According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were nearly 2.3 million casual workers in Australia last year.

Over 716,000 were in New South Wales. This figure makes up for 31.4 percent of all casuals in Australia.

More than 505,000 were in Victoria which adds up to 22.2 percent of all Australian workers. 486,000 were in Queensland making up for 21.3 percent.

How many casual workers are there in Sydney?

In May last year, after the first lockdowns began, the Parliamentary Library published detailed research on casual workers.

Using data from the ABS, it provided a snapshot of the landscape for casual workers in 2019, just months before covid-19 arrived in Australia.

Those numbers would have changed a little since then, because the number of casual employees shrank by 317,600 nationally last year, but they can provide a rough guide to the detailed level of casual employment in different regions of the country.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many casuals in Sydney (and New South Wales broadly) would currently be out of work due to the new lockdowns.

However, we know casual workers dominate industries heavily impacted by lockdowns, such as hospitality, retail and tourism, and education related jobs held by people working at universities.

Data from Deputy (a rostering software company) provides an immediate glimpse of the impact of the lockdowns on those highly impacted industries.

According to the data, in the NSW hospitality industry, there were 108,434 shifts scheduled via Deputy’s software last week.

However, that number dropped to 33,221 shifts last week. This is a decline of 69.3 percent from the first week of Greater Sydney’s lockdowns.

In the Queensland hospitality industry, there were 35,361 shifts scheduled in the week before its snap three-day lockdown, but that number has dropped to 8,899 shifts this week. This turns out to be a decline of 74.8 percent.

What safety nets are currently available for casual workers?

Casual workers who had been consistently working with their employers for more than 12 months were previously eligible for JobKeeper payments.

Under the scheme casual workers received the $750 a week in JobKeeper payments.

JobKeeper ended in March 2021 for all workers, and the Federal government has resisted calls to bring it back as Australia continues to go in and out of state-by-state lockdowns.

Casual workers without income can also apply for JobSeeker if any of the localised city lockdowns drag on.

JobSeeker was raised to a higher payment last year for covid-19 but it has since dropped back down to near its pre-pandemic payment level.

JobSeeker is currently set at $310 a week for a single, plus rent assistance.

Casual workers who are on existing welfare, like AUSTUDY or JobKeeper, may also see their welfare entitlements rise for the weeks when they are without work.

At the present time, the largest safety net for casual workers is the $500 disaster payments that the Federal government brought in last month in response to Melbourne’s first lockdown without JobKeeper.

The “temporary Covid-19 disaster payment” is only paid out for the second week of a city’s lockdown. Australians impacted by one-week snap lockdowns aren’t qualified to receive the payment.

The payments also have a strict eligibility criteria. The person wanting to receive these payments must be able to prove their lost income, cannot have access to sick leave, must have less than $10,000 in savings, and cannot be receiving any welfare support such as JobSeeker or the Parenting Payment.

The team at C&D Restructure and Taxation Advisory are here to help. As part of the Vault Group we can offer the full suite of financial products and advice to help you navigate the business landscape. Schedule a meeting here via Calendly or give us a call on 07 36086800. 

The team at C&D Restructure and Taxation Advisory are here to help. As part of the Vault Group we can offer the full suite of financial products and advice to help you navigate the business landscape. Schedule a meeting here via Calendly or give us a call on 1300 1 VAULT (1300 182 858)

Post Author: Craig Dangar

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