As the ending of JobKeeper looms, support for the Commonwealth Government’s argument that it has been discouraging people from working can be found in the decision of Howard v Pinnacle People  FWC 6975.
Pinnacle is a labour hire agency specialising in the supply of front of house staff in the hospitality industry.
With the onset of COVID-19 and its attendant restrictions, its revenue initially fell by 96%. Over time its financial circumstances improved as it found work in permitted industries and activities. Mr Howard was a Melbourne based casual employee who had worked as barman, waiter and busboy at various locations.
Pinnacle applied for JobKeeper on Mr Howard’s behalf in April 2020. It also wrote to employees, including Mr Howard, stating that casual employees should accept shifts offered to them and that if they declined three shifts consecutively and were unable or unwilling to work their employment would need to be reviewed.
Pinnacle also emphasised that for employees to remain eligible for JobKeeper they needed to remain employees.
Between April and August 2020 Pinnacle offered Mr Howard twenty-three shifts, of which none was accepted.
Correspondence to Mr Howard to “please explain” went largely unanswered with the result that on 11 September 2020, during Melbourne’s stage 4 restrictions, Pinnicle terminated Mr Howard’s employment with immediate effect.
Evidence given before Deputy President Masson showed that as a working casual Mr Howard was earning approximately $275.00 per week pre-pandemic. This contrasted with JobKeeper payments he received of $750.00 per week.
Although at his hearing Mr Howard maintained that he wanted to work, Deputy President Masson found this claim to be disingenuous and upheld the dismissal.
Vaccinations are hoped to return life to normal. Once JobKeeper goes, unless the economy picks up the slack, employers and employees alike who relied on it to get them through the economic downturn, especially in Melbourne, are going to face continuing challenges.
For further advice on how to face these challenges, please contact our experienced Workplace Relations team on (03) 9614 7111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.