COVID-19 (coronavirus)


The coronavirus (COVID-19) is posing significant challenges for MEAA members in all industries.

At this stage in the health emergency, MEAA’s message to all members is one of harm minimisation: protecting the health of those working in our industries; and helping rather than penalising those impacted by the virus.

We remind all employers and contracting parties of their clear responsibilities to provide safe and healthy working environments for those working on their premises or in their name. MEAA will step up its monitoring of workplaces potentially affected by the virus as this health emergency unfolds. Our priority is our members’ personal health and wellbeing.

On this page you will find a package of resources to help MEAA members during the health crisis.

MEAA members seeking more information, advice or assistance about coronavirus should contact MEAA Member Central on 1300 656 513.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is posing significant challenges for MEAA members in all industries.

Many of the industries MEAA covers rely in large part on audiences turning up and touring, so the coronavirus represents a cruel double-pronged threat for performing arts workers.

At this stage in the health emergency, MEAA’s message to all members is one of harm minimisation: protecting the health of those working in our industries; and helping rather than penalising those impacted by the virus.

We remind all employers and contracting parties of their clear responsibilities to provide safe and healthy working environments for those working on their premises or in their name. MEAA will step up its monitoring of workplaces potentially affected by the virus as this health emergency unfolds. Our priority is our members’ personal health and wellbeing.

The bottom line must be to minimise loss of employment and financial disadvantage for all workers in the media, entertainment and arts industries.

MEAA believes that under these circumstances, contractors and employees should have the same rights, protections and entitlements. MEAA however acknowledges that the full extent of coranavirus is not yet known.

MEAA urges action at two levels, for employers and for governments.

Employers

Beyond occupational health and safety obligations, MEAA implores employers:

•  to implement formal and informal leave arrangements in cooperation with staff, especially where casual employment is concerned;
•  maximise opportunities to work from home for those able to work;
•  compassionately review carer leave arrangements for workers caring for an infected or quarantined person;
•  ensure continuity of employment is unaffected by breaks in duties caused by the virus; and
•  look for alternative work to be performed where employees or contractors cannot undertake duties at the usual place of work.

Government

Ultimately, MEAA members and the community at large expect federal and state governments to manage issues proactively.

MEAA strongly supports the ACTU’s call for a further two weeks leave to be made available to employees and that equivalent entitlements be extended to individual contractors who are impacted by the virus.

Many media workers are already working at the economic margins as a result of intermittent work and relatively low levels of income security.

The capacity of this virus to incapacitate whole sectors is perhaps unrivalled. We urge those in control of public purses to use their best instincts and imagination to chart a course through these difficult times.

Additional advice for journalists

For journalists assigned to cover coronavirus, there are additional professional pressures to concerns about their own and their families’ health. During this time we urge all members to take care of themselves, by being aware of overwork, and to follow medical advice on self-isolation if they believe they have been exposed to infection.

The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma has published useful resources for journalists covering coronavirus, which are available here.

MEAA welcomes media employers who have been on the front foot to make contingencies for potential quarantine periods, while continuing a ‘business as usual’ approach. This is consistent with government public health advice.

Journalists permanently employed at large media organisations which have union collective agreements in place will in most cases be entitled to paid sick leave and carer’s leave. MEAA urges all media employers to show maximum flexibility in making leave available to affected staff, and to show restraint with respect to standing down employees and terminating contractor services.

Casuals and freelancers are not automatically protected under Australian workplace law with the same paid leave entitlements as permanent employees. More information on your employment rights is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

MEAA members seeking more information, advice or assistance about coronavirus should contact MEAA Member Central on 1300 656 513.

MEAA, along with other organisations in these sectors, is calling for targeted industry support and a national scheme of paid leave for any workers who are self-employed, casual or whose employer cannot provide them with paid leave in the event of a stand down.

Tell us your story so we can help you and to build a strong case about the economic, financial and social impact on the arts of coronavirus. 

Even if you have not suffered a direct cancellation, please participate — we want your story too.

All information collected is confidential but will be collated by MEAA for submission to governments and other campaigning purposes. You may be contacted by MEAA at a later date in regard to your responses to this survey. Please indicate below if you give consent for your name and other details to be used. You can read our full privacy policy here. Please note that MEAA is only able to provide individual assistance to financial MEAA members.

Take the survey here

MEAA’s National Industrial Team has produced this fact sheet to answer all your questions about coronavirus.

Cancellations and stand down

What if my workplace shuts down? Can I be stood down without pay?

MEAA’s view is that a workplace shut down should be the last resort for employers, only to be utilised where a closure or cancellation is unavoidable and outside of the employer’s control.

Before entering into a workplace shutdown, employers should consult with employees and the union and discuss the effect of the shut down on employees and measures to reduce adverse effects of the shutdown.

If a workplace is shut down due to COVID-19, best practice would be for employers to pay workers during shut down to minimise the impact on the workers although we note this is not legally enforceable.

However, employees need to be aware that section 524 of the Fair Work Act states that if an employee cannot be usefully employed, and the stoppage of work (or a shut down) is outside of the employer’s control, the employer is not required to pay employees that are stood down.

If you are covered by an enterprise agreement, other provisions may apply (though most EAs do not have alternate shut-down provisions). If you are covered by a contract, refer to the contract to see if it contains a “force majeure” or “Act of God” clause, because this may affect your legal entitlements.

If employers decide to shut down in accordance with section 524, MEAA will consider asking for the employer or government funders of the employer to pay employees during a shut down.

Unions are seeking that the federal government provide necessary financial support, including additional paid leave to workers, so that workers can meet immediate needs.

If you are stood down without pay, you can contact the MEAA for advice on your specific circumstances.

What if a producer or employer cancels a performance or tour – will I still get paid out the full amount of my contract?

Permanent employees – In normal circumstances, if a producer cancels a tour and it is within the cancellation period, you may be paid out in accordance with your contract which may provide for either payment in full, cancellation fees or notice periods.

Please refer to the contract to see if it has specific terms about a shutdown of “force majeure” or “Act of God”. This means that if the reason for the closure is beyond the control of the employer, they may argue that they are not required to pay their workers the full amount of the contract.

If a section 524 stand down applies, you are not lawfully required to be paid.

Casual employees – As casual employees are engaged on an hourly or daily basis, it is not likely to be paid out beyond this engagement. However please check your contract or terms of engagement. Some enterprise agreements will have roster cancellation notice periods which may apply.

MEAA is advocating for employers to mitigate the losses to casual employees by honouring payments for rostered shifts, notice periods and other ongoing payments where applicable.

Payment of leave

Do I get paid leave to take time off to self-isolate?

Where possible, employers should make provisions for you to work from home. However, we recognise this is not likely to be feasible for some workers such as performers and production crew.

Permanent employees – In the event an employee is directed by the employer to self-isolate, MEAA’s position is that the employer should continue to pay the employee “special leave”. Special leave is the term given to paid leave that is provided in addition to legal entitlements including annual and personal leave.

Casual employees – Casual workers have no legal entitlement to paid sick leave. However, unions are advocating for workers including casuals to be granted paid “special leave” by employers to minimise the financial impact of COVID-19. We are asking employers to grant paid leave due to the significant public health risk should employees be forced to come to work for financial reasons. Employers should provide paid leave to ensure that there are no barriers or disincentives to self-report, which in turn would assist in minimising risk to others. Some employers are already doing this.

Independent contractors – Like casuals, paid leave generally does not apply to independent contractors; however, again we are asking employers to pay discretionary amounts to mitigate losses to contractors.

Do I get paid leave if I suspect I may have COVID-19 (self-exclusion)?

This is a more complex issue. If you take time off because you fear that you may have contracted COVID-19, it is advisable to seek medical advice immediately and obtain a doctor issued medical certificate to provide to your employer.

Permanent employees – If an employer directs you to remain at home until you have medical clearance, then your employer should continue to pay your wages. If you are unwell, and have enough personal leave remaining then you should be paid personal leave for the time off work. However, unions are advocating for workers including casuals to be granted paid “special leave” by employers to minimise the financial impact of COVID-19. We are asking employers to grant paid leave due to the significant public health risk should employees be forced to come to work for financial reasons. Employers should provide paid leave to ensure that there are no barriers or disincentives to self-report, which in turn would assist in minimising risk to others. Some employers are already doing this.

Casual employees – Casual workers have no legal entitlement to paid sick leave. However, unions are advocating for workers including casuals to be granted paid “special leave” by employers to minimise the financial impact of COVID-19. We are asking employers to grant paid leave due to the significant public health risk should employees be forced to come to work for financial reasons. Employers should provide paid leave to ensure that there are no barriers or disincentives to self-report, which in turn would assist in minimising risk to others. Some employers are already doing this. You cannot be discriminated against if you are absent from work for having an illness.

Independent contractors – Paid leave generally does not apply to independent contractors, however please check the terms of your contract.

Do I get paid to take time off to care for family members who may be affected by illness?

Permanent employees – You can access paid carer’s leave to care for any immediate family member affected by an illness, which comes out of your personal leave accrual.

Casual employees – Casual workers have no legal entitlement to paid carer’s leave. However, unions are advocating for workers including casuals to be granted paid “special leave” by employers to minimise the financial impact of COVID-19. We are asking employers to grant paid leave due to the significant public health risk should employees be forced to come to work for financial reasons. Employers should provide paid leave to ensure that there are no barriers or disincentives to self-report, which in turn would assist in minimising risk to others. Some employers are already doing this.You must advise the employer that you are taking the time off for that reason immediately and may need to provide evidence that your family member is sick. You cannot be discriminated against for taking time off to care for immediate family members.

Independent contractors – Paid leave generally does not apply to independent contractors, however please check the terms of your contract.

I don’t have enough sick leave accrued to cover me if I need to take time off due to illness – what will happen?

Permanent employees – If you are a permanent worker and become unwell and have run out of accrued paid personal leave you may seek to access your annual leave or unpaid personal leave.

Casual employees – Paid sick leave does not apply to casual workers.

Independent contractors – Paid sick leave generally does not apply to independent contractors, however please check the terms of your contract.

Unions are advocating for workers including casuals and contractors to be granted paid “special leave” by employers to minimise the financial impact of COVID-19. This is not a legal entitlement but we are asking employers to grant this given the significant public health risk should employees be forced to come to work for financial reasons. Employers should provide paid leave to ensure that there are no barriers or disincentives to self-report, which in turn would assist in minimising risk to others. Some employers are already doing this.

You cannot be discriminated against if you are absent from work for having an illness.

Workers’ compensation may be a consideration should you contract the disease in connection with your employment. However, this may be difficult to prove if the virus becomes widespread within the community. As this is an uncharted application of workers compensation law – we can’t advise on it specifically but you can speak with a workers compensation lawyer.

This is now impacting my ability to make a living – what can I expect from existing or future employers in relation to work I’ve committed to later in the year?

The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. The impact and spread of the virus is still uncertain. Unions will be seeking that the federal government provide necessary financial support to make sure workers can meet immediate needs, reduce further risk to coworkers and for the overall benefit to the economy.

Personal health and safety

I’ve been in contact with someone who has been in contact with someone else who has tested positive for the virus. What should I do?

As of March 15, 2020, NSW Health advises the following course of action.

If you have been in contact with a person identified as a close contact of another person with confirmed COVID-19 infection, you do not need to self-isolate (although the close contact does) and don’t need to take any other special precautions.

If a close contact develops symptoms and is confirmed as a COVID-19 case, public health authorities will determine who, if anyone, has been in close contact with them while they were infectious, and these people will be directed to self-isolate.

Check federal and state/territories health department websites for the latest information.

What happens if there is a reported case on my production?

If you have become aware that there is a reported case of COVID-19 in the workplace — whether it be a fellow worker or an audience member — your employer must take steps to protect workers from exposure and provide a healthy and safe workplace. The following advice applies to all workers including permanent, casual and contractors. Independent contractors are considered ‘workers’ under work health and safety legislation and are entitled to the same consideration as employees in these circumstances.

We recommend that you ask your employer to provide information on the section or department the person was working in, so that you can determine your proximity to the person who has been diagnosed and what measures they intend to implement.

Employers have an obligation to provide information and training to workers regarding potential health risks. Employers also have obligations to ensure that co-workers are not exposed to known cases or contacts and will be required to provide any contacts of cases to public health authorities.

Workers have obligations to take reasonable care that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect other colleagues (for example, by failing to observe health department advice or recommendations).

Under Work Health and Safety legislation, you have the right to refuse to carry out, or cease work, if you have a reasonable concern that the work would expose you to a serious risk to your health and safety, emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard. A serious risk could mean the risk of coming into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, however, it may not include a ‘suspected case’. If your employer is requiring you to work in circumstances where you think you are exposed to serious risk, please contact your elected Health and Safety Representative (“HSR”) or the MEAA.

Can I be sacked for refusing to attend work?

Under Work Health and Safety legislation, all workers have the right to refuse to carry out, or cease work, if you have a reasonable concern that the work would expose you to a serious risk to your health and safety, emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard. A serious risk could mean the risk of coming into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, however, it may not include a ‘suspected case’.

However, it is very important to obtain advice before refusing to attend work, and communicate with your employer in writing should you need to stay home. If your employer refuses to permit you to stay home, seek advice.

Permanent employees – If you are a permanent employee and you obtain a medical certificate because you feel unwell, whether physically or psychologically, your employer cannot lawfully terminate your employment because you are sick.

Seek advice about your particular circumstances before refusing work where your employer is requiring you to continue.

Casual employees – If you are a casual employee and you obtain a medical certificate because you feel unwell, either physically or psychologically, your employer cannot legally terminate your employment for that reason, however there is no legal requirement that you be paid.

While casual employment is an insecure form of work, an employer cannot discriminate against you because you have caring obligations for an immediate family member.

Independent contractors – Please check the terms of your contract. Best practice would be to speak to your employer about how to manage the situation. Employers have the same obligation to you to provide a safe and healthy workplace and cannot discriminate against you for exercising your right to a safe workplace.

I have an underlying health condition that puts me at higher risk – what should I do? Is my employer required to do more for me?

Some workers — such as older workers, people with chronic health conditions and those who are immuno-compromised — may be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. As the situation with the spread and behaviour of the virus is yet unknown, it is wise to consult regularly with your doctor and seek medical advice about the various risks of attending work and how to take all necessary precautions to avoid exposure. Your doctor can write a medical certificate should they believe you should either work from home, or not attend work at all, if working from home is not a possibility. Unions will seek that special leave be granted for high risk workers and the MEAA can advise on a case-by-case basis if needs be.

How does this affect work-related international travel?

Do I have the right to refuse to travel for work?

Under Australian Work Health and Safety legislation you have the right to refuse to carry out, or cease work if you have a reasonable concern that the work would expose you to a serious risk from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard. A serious risk would mean the risk of coming into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, however, it may not include a ‘suspected case’. This applies to all categories of workers i.e. permanent, casual and independent contractors.

If I refuse to work, will I still get paid out the full amount of my contract?

Permanent employees – Seek advice if your employer does not consent to ceasing at-risk duties including travel. Whether you get paid would depend on the terms of your contract, how much notice you provided and the particular circumstances of your case.

Casual employees – As casual employees are engaged on an hourly or daily basis, it is  not likely to be paid out beyond this engagement.

Independent contractors – Whether you get paid would depend on the terms of your contract, and how much notice you provided.

How do I keep up-to-date with the situation changing so rapidly in relation to COVID-19?

The Australian Government Department of Health releases the latest information and advice on their website. Please refer to the site for regular official updates and for details on how to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.

State/territory specific information can be found here:

•  Australian Capital Territory
•  New South Wales
•  Queensland
•  South Australia
•  Tasmania
•  Victoria
•  Western Australia

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COVID-19 and your rights at work: A MEAA fact sheet

1.50 MB 124 downloads
Last update: March 19, 2020
What is COVID -19 – Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a group of viruses which normally cause mild illness, with symptoms similar to a common cold. A new strain, COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Hubei Province, China.

It is very different from, and more serious than, the usual seasonal influenza outbreaks that happen every year.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include a fever, fatigue, dry cough, difficulty breathing and will be accompanied by a fever. Symptoms take an average of 5 days to begin – this differs to flu viruses which tend to incubate very quickly. The virus is transmitted by breathing in droplets that go into the air during coughing and sneezing. The virus needs to be in living beings to survive however, it will survive on surfaces and appropriate cleaning and disinfectant should be applied.

Over 80% of people infected with COVID 19 will experience mild symptoms similar to the common cold and may not be aware that they have the virus – this is one of the reasons it spreads easily. A smaller group [15%] will experience more severe symptoms with a minority [5%] suffering from pneumonia.

At risk people?

The illness is more severe in older people [over 65 years] or people who chronic diseases such as heart and lung conditions. About 5% of infected people will have a “flu” like illness. It appears that children get very mild symptoms. As this is a new virus the health information is continually being updated. 

How does it spread?

The main way the virus spreads is by contamination when someone carrying the virus coughs or sneezes. The air droplets are breathed in by another person or can be transferred to another person

Before going to a doctor or hospital, which are under strain from the large numbers of patients needing treatment for coronavirus and related illnesses, you should conduct a self-assessment. This guide has been produced by the Victorian Deparment of Health.

Source: ACTU Coronvirus Updates.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our members and the arts and entertainment industry across Australia.

MEAA’s position is that employers should be doing everything in their power to keep employees, casuals, contractors and freelancers on their payroll. This includes passing on the stimulus benefits they have received from the government, to you, rather than standing you down on unpaid leave, terminating your employment or requiring you to access Centrelink.

However, if you have been stood down, or have ceased receiving shifts, these are the basics you should know.

The Federal Government announced on March 15 and March 22 that it will:

• pay (for the next six months) a fortnightly $550 Coronavirus Supplement from April 27 if you’re getting an eligible payment
• the $550 per fortnight payment will also be available to permanent employees who are stood down or lose their jobs; sole traders; the self-employed; casual workers and contract workers;
• extend eligibility for the first $750 Economic Support Payment to pay it from March 31 if you’re getting an eligible payment on any day from 12 March to 13 April 2020.
• pay a second $750 Economic Support Payment from July 13 if you’re getting an eligible payment or have an eligible concession card on 10 July 2020.
• expand eligibility for some (unspecified) payments and make them easier to claim
• make Crisis Payment available if you need to self-isolate, are in severe financial hardship and you can get an income support payment.

MEAA is fighting to make sure that the $20,000 and $100,000 grants to small and medium sized businesses are devoted to keeping workers employed. There is no requirement at the moment.

Frequently asked questions

Can I apply for Centrelink if I am stood down on unpaid leave?

Yes. A person on unpaid leave can be considered unemployed for Centrelink purposes if they are unable to resume their employment and they are willing to look for suitable work, or meet other participation requirements during the period of leave.

If Centrelink argues that this is not the case, direct them to Section 3.2.2.20 of the Social Security Guide and the heading “Leave from employment (including stand downs without pay)”. This can be found here.

I’m a casual employee, have I been stood down? How can I access Centrelink?

As a casual, you haven’t necessarily been stood down. At law, if you are a casual and have stopped receiving shifts, then your employer does not have to stand you down as they do not have an obligation to provide you with ongoing work.

Given the circumstances, you can request a letter from your employer confirming that due to COVID-19, there is no availability for shifts, which can be provided to Centrelink.

Generally speaking, employees who have been ‘stood down’ are permanent employees who have been stood down without pay under section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). They still remain employed by their employer.

Will I receive an employment separation certificate to provide to Centrelink?

We understand that some employers are issuing casuals with formal letters (on letterhead) confirming that they are not offering shifts due to COVID-19, for example due to temporary closures of buildings. This may be sufficient for Centrelink’s purposes. We will continue to update you as we hear more on this.

If you are a permanent employee who has been stood down without pay, you should not receive a separation certificate, as your employment has not ended. In this circumstance we recommend seeking written confirmation from your employer (on their letterhead) that you have been stood down without pay to provide to Centrelink.

If your employment has been terminated or cancelled and you will definitely not be returning to work, your employer should provide you with an employment separation certificate so you can provide it to Centrelink.

Can I ask to be on annual leave whilst I am stood down?

Generally speaking, yes, you should be able to access it immediately, subject to your employer’s acceptance.

If your employer does not agree to allow you to access leave, please inform the MEAA.

However, you cannot receive Centrelink payment and annual leave at the same time.

Can I receive Centrelink and be on annual leave, personal (sick) leave or long service leave?

No. As far as MEAA is aware, you cannot access employer entitlements, including annual leave, personal (sick) leave, long service leave, or income protection insurance at the same time as receiving a JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance for job seekers.

What happens if you’re not already getting a payment and need to claim?

If you claim one of the eligible payments and Centrelink approves your claim, you’ll also get the supplement. You can claim online through myGov using a Centrelink online account, or phone them.

The Government will also waive asset testing from 27 April for 6 months, except for the Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

Income testing will still apply.

Centrelink has now implemented a three month waiving of the Ordinary Waiting Period. This will continue while these temporary arrangements are in place.

What to do now

• Given the current health warnings, we recommend that if you intend to apply to Centrelink that you do so remotely either via phone or online.
• Begin your application for Centrelink here.
• Get confirmation (such as a letter) that you have been stood down without pay on letterhead. Some employers have provided this already. If you are stood down, your employment hasn’t ended and you will not get a ‘separation of employment letter’.

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Accessing Centrelink payments during coronavirus

739.99 KB 953 downloads
Last update: March 24, 2020

On March 30, the Federal Government announced a new JobKeeper payment, following loud and united advocacy from the union movement.

At a basic level, the scheme works by providing $1500 (before tax) per fortnight to eligible employers, to pass onto eligible employees directly, rather than requiring people to go through Services Australia (Centrelink).  The scheme is currently set to operate for six months only.

The following information provides a general guide as to how this will work for some of our members.   MEAA is still in active talks with the ACTU and the government as to how this will apply for those in certain freelancer employment arrangements and we will keep you updated as we learn more.

Eligibility for the payment

To receive the payment, both you and your employer must meet certain eligibility criteria.

Eligible employers

Eligible employers are businesses (including companies, partnerships, trusts and sole traders), not-for-profits and charities:

•  With a turnover of less than $1 billion that have lost 30% or more of their revenue compared to a comparable period a year ago; or
•  With a turnover of greater than $1 billion or more, who have had a 50% or greater reduction in revenue compared to a comparable period a year ago.

Eligibility – Full-time and Part-time employees

You must have been employed by an eligible employer at March 1, 2020, and be over the age of 16.  You do not have to have been employed for 12 months.

Eligibility – Casual employees

You must be a long-term regular casual employed by an eligible employer.  A long-term regular casual, according to the government, is a casual employee who has been employed on a regular basis for longer than twelve months as at March 1, 2020.   MEAA is currently advocating for ‘regular’ to be clarified, and for the period of eligible casual work to be significantly reduced from the current 12 month requirement.

Eligibility – Sole traders/freelancers

Self-employed individuals will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment where they have suffered or expect to suffer a 30% decline in turnover relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month).

Businesses without employees will need to provide an ABN for their business, nominate an individual to receive the payment and provide that individual’s Tax File Number and provide a declaration as to their recent business activity. People who are self-employed will need to provide a monthly update to the ATO to declare their continued eligibility for the payments. Payment will be made monthly to the individual’s bank account.

MEAA is aware of many workers in our industry who operate as freelancers without an ABN. We are urgently seeking clarity around this arrangement from the government and advocating for all freelancers to be included.

Frequently asked questions

How does it work?

Employers must elect to participate in the scheme. They will need to make an application to the ATO and provide supporting information demonstrating a downturn in their business. In addition, employers must report the number of eligible employees employed by the business on a monthly basis.

MEAA will be contacting some employers over the next few days to seek clarity about which employers are applying.

You can also ask your employer directly, and if you have any questions arising out of their response, you can contact your union for assistance.

What if I earn less (or more) than $1500 per fortnight normally?

The employer must pay eligible employees at minimum $1500 per fortnight before tax.  This is a flat rate.  Therefore some employees, particularly part-time and casuals may receive more than their ordinary pay. The employer may top up the $1500 payment if you would normally receive more than this amount per fortnight.

What if I’m on a visa?

You must be either an Australian citizen, a holder of a permanent visa, a protected special category visa, a non-protected special category visa who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a New Zealander on a special category (subclass 444) visa to be eligible.

If you are a union member based in NSW, and have questions about your visa arising out of changes to your work MEAA can refer to you to the Unions NSW Visa Assist program for free legal advice on immigration matters. Contact MEAA Member Central for a referral.

What if I am a casual who has worked less than 12 months?

Under current government policy, you would not be eligible for the JobKeeper payment.  However, the government had stated that it may change the criteria as the COVID-19 situation develops.  MEAA is continuing to advocate for this requirement to be changed.

You may be eligible for different assistance from Services Australia (Centrelink) including the JobSeeker payment.

What if I was stood down as a result of COVID-19?

If you have been stood-down, but are eligible for the JobKeeper payment then you will receive it, even though you are not working.

What if I was dismissed or made redundant as a result of COVID-19?

If you were employed on March 1, 2020, but have subsequently had your employment terminated, you may be able to get re-engaged by that employer, and receive the JobKeeper payment.  Contact MEAA Member Central for assistance if you have been terminated but you think your employer would be eligible for the payment.

What if I have applied to receive the JobSeeker payment (Newstart) from Services Australia (Centrelink)? Can I get both?

MEAA’s understanding is that you cannot receive the JobSeeker payment (Newstart), and the JobKeeper payment simultaneously.

If you have tried to access the JobSeeker payment because you have been stood down or had your hours reduced, and you are eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment, you should advice Services Australia (Centrelink) of your change in circumstances over the phone or the internet.

What if I’m employed by multiple businesses?

Only one employer will be eligible to receive the payment.  You need to notify your primary employer that they are your primary employer, and that they should claim the JobKeeper Payment on your behalf.  Generally speaking, your primary employer will be the employer that you claim the tax free threshold from.

What about fixed term contracts, for example a six week event, where the event has been delayed indefinitely?

MEAA is seeking clarity from the government and employer bodies about these circumstances, which particularly affect our crew, cast and musician members in live performance and screen.  We will keep you informed once we have further information.

What if the contract (Run of a Play or fixed term) has been signed but was not set to commence until April or later?

MEAA is seeking clarity from the government and employer bodies about these circumstances. We will keep you informed once we have further information.

What if I am both self-employed and eligible for the JobKeeper payment through an employer?

MEAA is seeking clarity from the government and employer bodies about. what you should do in these circumstances. MEAA’s understanding is that you can claim through either your own business or through an employer but not both. You should seek advice from an accountant or the ATO about the method that is best for you. We will keep you informed once we have further information.

When does the payment kick in?

The subsidy starts on March 30, 2020, with the first payments to be received by employers in the first week of May.  Businesses (including self-employed individuals) can register their interest on the ATO website.

How is the payment made?

You will receive payment from your employer in the course of normal payroll processes. However, your employer will be paid the JobKeeper payment by the ATO.

What about superannuation?

If you previously earned less than $1500 per fortnight (pre-tax), and as a result of JobKeeper, you now receive a greater amount, your employer has the discretion as to whether they pay superannuation on the additional sum you receive.

What if I am not eligible for the JobKeeper payment?

You may still be eligible for the JobSeeker payment (formerly Newstart), or for other assistance from Services Australia.

More information

•  Treasury fact sheet for employers
•  Treasury fact sheet for employees
•  ACTU fact sheet

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JobKeeper income subsidy fact sheet

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Last update: April 1, 2020

Income support measures

The Federal Government on March 22 announced a package of economic stimulus measures, including income support for workers, including casuals and sole traders, impacted by coronavirus.

The government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight.

Go to the Treasury website for more information.

Counselling and medical assistance

The Equity Wellness page on this website has a range of resources, including a database of GPs, Psychiatrists and Psychologists who have self-identified as having a special interest in or affiliation with the arts and/or artists.

Counselling services include:

•  beyondblue: aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/seven days a week.
•  Lifeline: 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. 13 11 14.
•  SANE Australia: support, training and education enabling those with a mental illness to lead a better life. 1800 18 7263, 10am-10pm AEST (Mon-Fri).

For a full list of mental health counselling services go to this page.

Benevolent funds

MEAA has relationships with several benevolent and support funds which have been established to help members of our industries who are in need.

NSW Journalists Benevolent Fund

The NSW Journalists Benevolent Fund is managed by a group of trustees and is affiliated with the Media section of MEAA. The trustees meet regularly to review applications and status of their investment portfolio. Donations and bequests can be made online at: nswjbf.org

Queensland Journalists Benevolent Fund

The Queensland Journalists Benevolent Fund exists to support journalists in need. Requests for support can be sent to Queensland Media branch president Terry O’Connor.

Canberra Journalists Benevolent Fund

The Canberra Journalists Benevolent Fund provides grants or interest-free loans to journalist members of the ACT Branch experiencing financial hardship and, at the discretion of the trustees, can pay a benefit to the next of kin of a deceased member or former member. Contact MEAA ACT Branch President Don Cumming or trustee Greg Friedwald.

Actors Benevolent Fund of NSW
actorsbenevolentfund.org.au
Phone: 02 9333 0915
Email: info@actorsbenevolentfund.org.au

Actors & Entertainers Benevolent Fund (QLD)
abfqld.com.au
Phone: 07 3846 0044
Email: info@abfqld.com.au

Victorian Actors Benevolent Trust
vabt.com.au
Phone: 0411 524 929
Email: enquiries@vabt.com.au

Performing Arts WA
performingartswa.org.au/benvolence
Email: benevolentsubcommittee@gmail.com

New Zealand Actors Benevolent Fund
nzabf.org.nz

Other Support Funds that may assist MEAA members

Support Act is a fund that exists to assist singers, songwriters, composers, musicians, roadies, techies, managers and staffers. This Fund is not connected with MEAA, though many MEAA members would be able to make an application for assistance. Donations and bequests can be made online at: supportact.org.au

Entertainment Assist aims to assist people working in the entertainment industry, particularly those with mental health issues. The MEAA Equity Director sits on the board of Entertainment Assist. Donations and bequests can be made online at: entertainmentassist.org.au/ocd.aspx

You may be eligible for COVID-19 fee relief.
INQUIRE HERE
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