Retail struggle in January 2020

The last few weeks have been bigger than any other challenge to confront Australia in living memory. While Australia has done an incredible job, relative to other countries, in containing the spread of COVID-19, the economic hit has been substantial. Indeed, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has forecast a $4 billion drop in economic activity for each week that the current level of restrictions remains in place.

However, there does appear to be some wedges of sunshine appearing on the horizon, with numerous state governments easing some restrictions. The Prime Minister also announced last week that the National Cabinet will bring forward its decision on what restrictions (if any) will be lifted to this coming Friday.

None of this means that we’re about to go back to life as normal or that the economy will rebound overnight to where it was, but it does demonstrate the prospect that the economic hit won’t be as bad as first feared. Many of you will continue to need ongoing government assistance and the NRA will continue to advocate for measures that save as many businesses as possible and keep people in jobs.

Moreover, last week also saw the Federal Government make immediate changes to the JobKeeper program. The changes include important clarifications to the “one in, all in” aspect of the JobKeeper scheme and the eligibility of junior employees.

Effective immediately, employers must notify their employees, in writing, that they have elected to participate in the JobKeeper program within 7 days of enrolling with the ATO. Failure to give this notice is an offence under taxation legislation which can be punished by fines, and even imprisonment of up to 12 months.

Moreover, from 11 May 2020, employees aged 16 and 17 are only eligible to receive JobKeeper payments if they are:

  1. independent; or
  2. not undertaking full-time study.

Further information on the details of the JobKeeper program can be found in the NRA’s JobKeeper Q&A Guide. Members can also contact the NRA by phoning 1800 RETAIL and pressing 1 to speak with one of the Workplace Relations team who can assist with any queries you have about changes to the JobKeeper rules.

With some restrictions starting to be lifted, the NRA has teamed up with other industry bodies to devise a Retail Recovery Protocol aimed at providing assurances to the community that businesses will maintain stringent safety measures.

The Shopping Centre Council of Australia (SCCA), National Retail Association (NRA), Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA) and Australian Retailers Association (ARA) have jointly developed the Protocol to provide a consistent, practical and public-health led guide for shopping centres and retailers that continue to trade, are re-opening or are preparing to re-open when COVID-19 restrictions start to ease.

The key principles guiding the development of the Protocol align with the retail industry’s approach to date, which continues to be prioritising public health and safety to protect people against infection, compliance with public health guidelines, working with governments and public health authorities, and helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

10 Key Actions that retailers and shopping centres should implement, along with further information on the Protocol, can be found at the NRA website.

As we have done so throughout this crisis, the NRA will be providing ongoing updates on any developments related to COVID-19, in particular announcements that affect retail.

All the best for the week and keep well.