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Have you lost your job due to coronavirus? You’re certinaly not alone, as hundreds of thousands of Australians face redundacy or reduced working hours during the pandemic. Here we’ll explore some of the options available to you when trying to bounce back from getting the sack.

 

What You Should Do First

The first thing to do is make sure you’re not getting a rough deal from your former employer. COVID-19 has likely had a negative impact on the business, but they’re still obligated to treat you fairly when terminating your contract. And your contract is the best place to start when checking this – read through the terms concerning termination, especially any points about notice periods and payouts. If your employer has violated any of the terms or given you less than you’re entitled to, you should raise this with them or seek legal advice if required.

Did my employer have the right to stand me down in the first place?

  • If you were a casual employee, the answer is almost certainly yes, as you unfortunately don’t have much protection from this. An employer can effectively stand you down immediately simply by leaving you off the roster.
  • For permanent employees (whether full-time or part-time), it’s a little more complicated. You have rights, but an employer can stand you down if your role isn’t viable due to circumstances beyond their control. For example, gyms and nightclubs would fall under this category, since they’ve been forced to close by the government.

What if I was made redundant?

You’re entitled to a notice period, redundancy pay, and any other entitlements owed to you (such as unused annual leave). If your employment is ended with no notice, you should be paid out for that notice period on top of the regular redundancy pay.

What if I was fired because I had COVID-19?

Employees have rights that protect them from being dismissed for unfair or discriminatory reasons. Along with age and gender, this also covers temporary illness. This means you can’t be fired just because you have a virus – including COVID-19.

How can I look after my mental health after getting fired?

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Losing your job is tough at the best of times. Being unemployed during a global pandemic is going to be stressful, but there are some things you can do to prioritise your emotional wellbeing during this time:

  • Consciously acknowledge that losing your job was not your fault. It’s not a reflection on your talents or attributes. It’s just an unfortunate by-product of the coronavirus.
  • Try to focus on the road ahead and the opportunities you might be able to pursue now, rather than dwelling on the job you’ve lost. Losing a job is always a bit of a shock, but it can also be the push you need to take a new professional step or seek a much-needed career change.
  • Keep yourself occupied. You’ll obviously be spending a fair bit of your free time searching for a new role. But this is also a chance to discover new hobbies or indulge in some R&R between jobs.
  • Seek help if needed. These are strange and trying times. Don’t be afraid to seek out a counsellor or talk to your GP if you feel your initial sadness about losing your job has developed into depression or ongoing anxiety. Many psychologists offer video/over-the-phone consultations.
  • Stay active, eat healthy and sleep well. A strong body will help your mind stay positive.
  • Speak with friends and family online/on the phone. Isolation is depression’s best friend, so be sure to reach out regularly to your loved ones for both serious support and casual chats.

 

Check if You’re Eligible for Government Support / Stimulus Packages

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The Centrelink program you’re most likely eligible for after losing your job is JobSeeker. These payments can help you stay afloat financially while looking for new employment or waiting for the economy to recover so your employer can hire you back.

Once you’re receiving JobSeeker Payments, you’ll be able to access the government’s coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight. You may also be eligible for the two $750 support payments, but this will depend on your circumstances. You can read more information about JobSeeker Payments and the coronavirus supplement here or get a general overview of the government’s COVID-19 stimulus package here.

If you’ve lost your job because of the pandemic, rest assured there is financial support available to you. The government’s coronavirus stimulus package is one of the largest packages in Australia’s history and the biggest since the dole’s introduction in the 1940s. Many measures have been put in place to ensure individuals and families can manage until they’re able to re-enter the workforce.

 

What if you’re out of a job because you’re caring from someone affected by COVID-19?

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If you’re missing work while caring for someone with COVID-19, you may be able to access sick leave or paid annual leave from your employer. Some businesses are offering leave benefits beyond the usual amounts and even extending these allowances to casual workers in some cases.

However, if you’ve had to leave your job due to these circumstances, you may still be entitled to Centrelink (e.g. JobSeeker, Youth Allowance or Parenting Payment).

Anyone directly looking after someone who has COVID-19 should self-isolate and not attend their workplace.

 

Accessing Your Super

One option available to some people is to take up to $20,000 from their superannuation account (in 2 separate withdrawals). While this may seem tempting, it’s important to consider the long-term effects. The immediate financial relief may not be worth a significant impact on your retirement fund. Read more about this option here.

 

Other Resources for Budgeting and Decreasing Your Expenses

Need some help with managing your money while unemployed? Here are some of our blog articles that might come in handy: