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JobKeeper ending + a bungled IR Bill a double dose of pain for SMEs

Published March 28, 2021 (last updated on November 29, 2023) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Struggling business owners are facing the possibility of permanently closing their doors, now the JobKeeper safety net has come to an end.

The wage subsidy has assisted more than 3.5 million Australians over the past year, by giving eligible employers a wage subsidy to pass on to their employees during the COVID-19 downturn.

But with the scheme now ending at a time where businesses are still recovering, Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor to more than 28,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, says the move will result in unnecessary job losses and business closures.

“With no wage subsidy left to act as a financial backup, employers will be forced to let go of staff if revenue does not return to pre-covid levels,” said Employsure Business Partner Emma Dawson.

“Without JobKeeper supporting them, what we need to see now is more restrictions lifted to help support struggling industries. Those in the tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries depend greatly on international customers to turn a profit. While we wait for borders to open, these businesses need to rely on locals to turn a profit. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine presents an opportunity for customer capacities to be further lifted to better support employers who are desperately trying to stay open.

“While the country is in a better financial situation than previously projected, we will soon see just how much the stimulus package has been artificially propping up businesses.”

To assist in managing changes during this turbulent period, Employsure has seen engagement numbers in its BrightHR people management software quadruple in the past year. This suggests business owners are having to change and react more than ever, and that takes a toll on them and their business.

While employers have been preparing as best they can over the past months for JobKeeper’s end, others had been hoping the Federal Government’s industrial relations bill would deliver change to benefit them in the long recovery process ahead.

The bill, which was touted by the Government as a way to support struggling businesses and enhance worker rights, was gutted in the Senate, with all proposed changes scrapped except measures that deal with casual workers.

While the changes will help deny double-dipping claims by allowing employers to ask a court to reduce unpaid entitlements by the amount of casual loading paid to a misclassified casual employee, the bill has ultimately fallen short.

“What was the point of passing this bill if most of what was discussed with employer groups, unions and businesses was scrapped just for the sake of passing it,” continued Ms Dawson.

“The time and energy it took to come up with the bill in the first place, could have been better spent supporting SMEs with navigating the framework they are in, rather than going around in circles and ending up in the same spot.

“More needs to be done to support these small businesses who are the backbone of the Australian economy. Our Award system is one of the most complex in the world and must be simplified to help in our recovery.

“The Government needs to learn from their failure on the IR bill, assess where they’ve gone wrong, and hold more constructive talks with employer groups to continue to work toward change,” she concluded.

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