COVID-19 and Insurance Update - 29/04/2020
We believe, the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces now more than ever, the importance of all general insurers standing by the commitments made in the 2020 General Insurance Code of Practice: to provide value, transparency and fairness, and to promote trust, integrity and respect.
Our team has been reaching out and contacting clients to provide information and support over the last several weeks – and we will continue to do so in the months ahead.
We would like to take this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to supporting clients who may be experiencing financial difficulties during COVID-19, including:
- Working with insurers to assist clients that have been affected or are experiencing difficulties;
- Supporting clients who are currently suffering hardship and financial distress; there are special arrangements for monthly Premium Funding including loan application fee waivers, discounted interest rates and longer grace periods for an agreed timeframe available to provide some respite in the short-term;
- Providing mid-term reviews to consider premium cost impacts and potential savings to your business (e.g. turnover, stock levels and wage forecasts);
As always, we will find the best result for you while taking a balanced and considered approach to ensure you have the insurance cover you need to protect essential assets.
We will continue to stay in regular contact to ensure you have the information and resources you need. Please do not hesitate to contact your Account Manager should you have any questions or concerns.
The Government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy program is designed to help businesses affected by COVID-19 to cover the costs of their employees’ wages, so that more employees can retain their job and continue to earn an income.
There have been several updates on JobKeeper payments recently, as outlined below.
JobKeeper payments and wages declaration
At this time, NSW JobKeeper, WorkCover Queensland and ReturnToWorkSA have advised of their position on JobKeeper Payments for the purposes of Workers’ Compensation premium calculations, as outlined below.
NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority – As of 29 April 2020, the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority has advised that an employer’s workers compensation premium is calculated based on the wages paid by the employer during the period to which the related workers compensation policy applies. The extent to which JobKeeper payments made by employers are considered ‘wages’ will impact the calculation of workers compensation premiums.
It has been determined that JobKeeper payments made to workers who performed no work during the period to which the payment relates will be excluded from the amount of wages used to calculate premium.
This decision has been taken on the basis that workers who do not perform any work are at a significantly reduced risk of sustaining a work-related injury compensable under the workers compensation system, and payments to these workers should therefore not impact premium. The Workers Compensation Market Practice and Premium Guidelines issued by SIRA have been amended to give effect to this decision.
It has been determined that JobKeeper payments made to workers who continue to perform work (whether in their usual or a reduced or otherwise augmented capacity) will continue to be included in the amount of wages used to calculate premium. This decision has been taken on the basis that workers who continue to perform work continue to be at risk of sustaining a work-related injury compensable under the workers compensation system, and payments to these workers should therefore continue to impact premium.
WorkCover Queensland does not consider JobKeeper payments to constitute ‘wages’ for the purposes of calculating premium. This is because WorkCover considers the JobKeeper payment in itself as a top-up payment and not a payment for work done. It is passed on for being an eligible employee who works for an eligible employer according to criteria set by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). WorkCover is ensuring all Queensland employers are treated fairly and equally by not considering JobKeeper payments when declaring wages for purposes of calculating premium. However, employers continuing to engage workers, should still declare wages ordinarily paid in exchange for labour or services or personal exertion, even where these amounts are supplemented by JobKeeper.
Please visit WorkCover Queensland for more information, including a table and specific examples outlining how payments made to workers by employers (including the JobKeeper payment), are to be applied.
ReturnToWorkSA (RTWSA) - As of 24 April 2020, the RTWSA Board has decided that wage subsidy payments received as part of the JobKeeper payment will be excluded from remuneration for calculation of premium for 2020-21. The Board has taken this action to support South Australian businesses to maintain economic viability and employment during the COVID-19 crisis. Please refer to the RTWSA website for further information, including remuneration scenarios.
As more information becomes available on JobKeeper payments and wages declaration for each state/territory, we will provide an update.
Extended time to enrol
The Commissioner has recently extended the time to enrol for the initial JobKeeper periods, from 30 April 2020 until 31 May 2020. Find out more about the JobKeeper Payment.
Clarification of rules
The Government is in the process of clarifying the operation of some JobKeeper Payment rules, including:
- employees employed through a special purpose entity, rather than an operating entity
- charities and the treatment of government revenue
- religious practitioners
- 'one in all in’ principles
- full time students aged 16 and 17 years old
- international aid organisations, and
The Australian Government Treasury have recently updated the Frequently Asked Questions. The update includes an overview of the above Policy Changes to the JobKeeper Payments.
Government initiatives for landlords impacted by COVID-19
The rights and responsibilities of landlords are becoming clearer each day, as state and territory governments announce amendments to tenancy acts.
On 29 March, the Australian Government announced landlords will be banned from evicting tenants under financial stress caused by the COVID-19 economic downturn for the next six months. This came amid concerns the jobless wouldn’t be able to afford rent.
The state and territory governments were asked to settle on the finer details of the eviction freeze and move to put official moratoriums in place – which they are doing with legislation being passed in all jurisdictions. In some cases, the legislation has been amended to also address matters other than evictions, such as rent increases.
In addition to these changes in legislation, state and territory governments have also developed programs, such as relief packages, to support landlords and tenants through this unprecedented time.
While EBM RentCover is still analysing the amendments that relate to the way rental properties are managed (and working out how insurance plays a part in all of this), they have compiled important information to help clients navigate this time. Read more about the government initiatives for landlords now.
Financial Hardship Relief packages provided by banks
If you are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, you may be able to access the relief packages provided by the banks. EBM Finance has compiled the latest Financial Hardship information to make it easy for you to access:
Should you require a review of your own finance arrangements and loan facilities, please contact Elliott Watkins from EBM Finance on 0410 144 574 or email@example.com to discuss your options.
New COVIDSafe app launched
The Australian Government has now launched a COVIDSafe app to help state and territory officials quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
For more information or to download the app, visit health.gov.au.
Here to help
As the situation is evolving quickly, we will do our best to keep you informed. If you have any questions, please contact your EBM Account Manager on 1300 755 112 for further information.