WA businesses fear skewed JobKeeper rules will end wage support

The West Australian
CMS Events director Richard Campbell with events co-ordinator Jess Saunders and sales and marketing manager Paige Stirton.
CMS Events director Richard Campbell with events co-ordinator Jess Saunders and sales and marketing manager Paige Stirton. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

WA businesses propped up during the pandemic with the help of JobKeeper fear they will fall through the cracks as the Federal Government shakes up eligibility rules for the wage subsidy scheme.

The payment has been extended until March 28 next year for businesses still significantly affected by the COVID-19 downturn. But from today, there are new qualifying thresholds and pay rates, split into two tiers, that will be gradually reduced.

To be eligible, employers must demonstrate a substantial decline in revenue each quarter.

CMS Events managing director Richard Campbell, pictured, said JobKeeper had helped to keep his business going but the most critical months were still ahead.

Mr Campbell said while the business would qualify for JobKeeper for the last three months of this year, support was likely to be withdrawn at the start of 2021.

“Events is a seasonal industry. We will be staging an event in November, but for our JobKeeper status it means the last quarter will be similar to what it was last year,” he said.

“It won’t bring returns up anywhere near where they should be, but it makes it look like we’ve been doing well for the last quarter.”

Mr Campbell said WA businesses were rebounding from the depths of the economic downturn but the recovery was not spread evenly across all sectors.

“Some people are doing OK, some are really struggling,” he said. “We will probably do it tough in the first quarter of next year. We need to get back to work and I don’t see that happening until the end of next year.”

Under the changes to the scheme, the higher tier payment will fall from $1500 to $1200 a fortnight to eligible employees who were working for 20 hours or more a week before either March 1 or July 1.

The lower tier rate, for people working fewer than 20 hours a week before July, will be halved to $750 a fortnight.

William Buck accounting firm principal Trent Antonio said many of his clients who had been on JobKeeper had now reached sustainable levels of trading.

“They’re back to the new normal, so not as good as where they were pre-COVID but they are at a level that is sustainable,” Mr Antonio said.

“Some of the business owners had to pivot a fair bit and some have found brand new revenue streams that have given them a competitive edge.”