Lost your job because of the coronavirus pandemic? Here are the five calls you should make

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The impact of coronavirus on employment is expected to continue — and intensify — as cuts to the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme begin to be felt.

Hundreds of thousands of Australian workers have already lost their jobs in the past few months, and the nation’s unemployment rate climbed to a two-decade high in July.

While JobKeeper has been credited with helping keep unemployment beneath double digits, reductions to the wage subsidy came into effect on Monday.

“JobKeeper has provided a lifeline to millions of Australians and tens of thousands of businesses,” said Professor John Spoehr, the director of Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute.

“Any winding down of that will lead to a number of companies making a decision to let their workers go.”

Sydney-based employment expert Natasha Hawker is predicting a wave of retrenchments as a result.

“I believe it is going to be a bloodbath out there,” she said.

“You’ve still got a lot of businesses who are struggling. If their revenue is still zero or minimal, they’re just continuing to incur debts so their option is to reduce head count to reduce their costs.”

If you’re in that boat and find yourself out of work, there are several conversations that could reduce that burden.

1. Lost your job? Call your employer

If you lose your job, or have your hours cut, you should be notified by your employer, rather than simply having payments stopped.

Before applying for Centrelink support, it is probably worth speaking directly with your boss about available options, including the possibility of redeployment.

“It’s important to have a productive conversation with your employer as early as possible to work out the best possible arrangements,” Professor Spoehr said.

“One of the biggest conversations that’s going to go on between employees and employers at the moment is working hours.

“Hopefully most employers will do the right thing and not try and bargain wages down, in a way that will be contrary to the law.”

Professor Spoehr also recommended union members speak to their union representatives, to ensure they are not missing out on anything they are owed.

“It’s important that workers are aware of what their rights and entitlements are in their current environment,” he said.

Adelaide retail worker Daniel Sceeri was casually employed at a department store when he had his hours cancelled, and contacted the retail union to see where he stood.

“I then contacted Centrelink for the first time to try and apply for the government benefits to support myself out of work,” he said.

He also got in touch with managers from other department stores.

“Certain stores had more hours available and more room for staff members to work,” he said.

2. Got a mortgage or loan? Call your bank

If you are experiencing financial hardship, banks could be able to provide help or offer a temporary pause on debt repayments.

Many lenders are still offering financial assistance packages in which customers are able to apply for relief on their home, business and personal loans and credit cards, and restructuring or varying their loans.

The initial six-month deferral period was due to expire this month, and banks have warned extensions will not be automatic.

Any customer who can afford to start repaying their mortgage or business loan will be expected to do so.

But if you are already on a repayment deferral, you should not have to chase your bank to find out when it is ending — they should contact you.

“Lenders should make reasonable efforts to contact consumers prior to their repayment deferral expiring,” ASIC advises financial institutions.

“This contact should be timely and allow for consumers to have reasonable time to consider their options.”

Anyone who believes they have been unfairly dismissed should also consider contacting the Fair Work Commission, Natasha Hawker said.

She said a conversation with your boss about the potential for redeployment could prevent the need for any legal action.

“There are flexibility clauses now built into these temporary [JobKeeper] amendments to the Fair Work Act,” she said.

“Maybe explore that with your employer and say, ‘Look, I want to try and keep this job, can we explore some of these temporary changes’.”

3. Renting? Call your landlord

Tenants struggling to pay their rent were granted some reprieve earlier in the coronavirus crisis, when the Federal Government imposed a six-month eviction ban for those who’d lost substantial income due to COVID-19.

States and territories have announced different rental assistance schemes for renters and landlords, although recent research revealed tenants were still struggling to get relief.

“This pandemic has really amplified a lack of protection for renters,” said Emma King, CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“For some states, there is significant support available, particularly in terms of not being able to be evicted from your property, and also for the right to ask for a rental decrease.

“[But] those protections are not as strong throughout Australia, so it is a mixed bag in terms of where you live.”

Ms King said it was worth getting in touch with your property manager, speaking to your landlord or calling a tenancy support service to check on your options.

“I would absolutely recommend that people explain their circumstances,” Ms King said.

“You hope that human nature comes to the forefront here — there are great landlords who will do the right thing, there are others on the flipside who won’t.

“If you’ve lost your job or you’ve had a significant loss of income, go and ask your landlord and your agent for a rental deduction.

“For many people, that is the difference between being able to rent their current property or not, and the difference between homelessness or not.”

4. Preparing for the future? Call a financial planner

There are a few things financial planners can do to assist those who find themselves out of work.

Financial planner Tony Skinner said one of the first things to do is check the terms and conditions of the redundancy.

“I always go through and check the redundancy numbers provided,” Mr Skinner said.

“Often they contain errors — so by double checking you can often pick up more dollars for the client.

“Checking the tax taken and applicable to a redundancy is very important.”

A financial planner can also assist by accessing superannuation benefits.

“Checking the superannuation for the client is important, as many superannuation funds contain insurances within them,” Mr Skinner said.

“Some employers offer insurance outside of superannuation.”

Financial planners can also help clients with filling in Centrelink forms.

“Rather than doing it over the phone or trying to fill out applications online, it’s actually a lot more helpful to go in there and speak direct to someone,” said Adelaide chef Chloe Kelemen.

The mother-of-three was working up to 35 hours per week when she had her hours cut, and recently went through the process of seeking support.

“There was no way that I would’ve been able to afford to pay my mortgage during that time without extra income coming in,” she said.

5. Need a new job? Call a recruitment agency

If you’re searching for a new job and responding to advertisements hasn’t worked, a recruitment agency could help.

Nick Deligiannis, who manages one such agency, said by partnering with a recruiting expert, you would have an advocate who will promote your strengths to potential employers.

“You don’t know what opportunities are available unless you start looking, so take action as soon as possible,” Mr Deligiannis said.

He said jobseekers may need to gain experience in a new industry and be prepared to “develop new skills”.

“You may even decide you want to take your career in an entirely new direction,” he said.

“By considering the bigger picture, you’ll have a clear understanding of what your next job should be and will be able to focus your job search accordingly.”

By Natarsha Kallios (Original ABC Article)

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