Most awards and contracts set out employees' redundancy entitlements including required notice periods, time off allowances for job search activities and severance payments. Payouts vary slightly under different state awards and are based on the number of years a person has been employed at the company. Generally, people who have worked for at least one year are entitled to a payout of four weeks pay. Those who have been with the organisation for 10 years and over are entitled to 12 weeks. Some corporate high flyers receive very lucrative golden handshakes when they move on from an organisation.
If you have been with a company for less than a year, leave due to misconduct or are an apprentice, trainee, casual or contract worker then you're not legally entitled to a redundancy payout.
For some people, retrenchment is a financial boom as they suddenly receive a lump sum of severance pay and accrued entitlements. It may be worth seeking professional advice on what to do with the money, since tax, superannuation and insurance need to be considered.
You may also be eligible for Centrelink benefits whilst looking for a new job or undergoing retraining. Termination payments, spouse or partner income, and the level of your financial assets affect eligibility for government payments.
If you believe your redundancy is unfair, you can apply to your state's Industrial Relations Commission. If the business has gone bust and can't pay you any entitlements, contact the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) Hotline on 1300 135 040, or email GEERS@deewr.gov.au, as you might be eligible to receive money from the government.
With retrenchments now a fact of life, employers need to learn how to deal with them legally, ethically and with sensitivity. It is important to approach the redundancy professionally – it isn't about emotions or performance. Discuss termination dates and redundancy packages with the employee. While it isn't a legal obligation, it would also be good to discuss financial counselling or recruitment services. Make sure you keep other staff members informed about the situation so they know where they stand and can think about their own futures if need be.
Sometimes when a company has to lay off a large number of staff they will offer incentives for employees who volunteer to leave. Putting your hand up to take a redundancy is worth considering – especially if you have already been thinking about retirement or a change of job. The payout will generally include a sweetener, and it will definitely feel better psychologically than if you are dragged kicking and screaming to the door.
Being made redundant can be a huge blow to your career self esteem. Retrenchees can begin to question their worth, especially if it takes them a while to find a new job. It's important to remember that it isn't you who's been made redundant; it's the job. Especially in the current climate, redundancy is no longer a dirty word so, whatever you do, don't take it personally. Beating yourself up about it will not get the job back, but it will more than likely stall the process of getting a new one. Take advantage of any counselling services, as they will soften the impact and help you get back on the road again.
It may seem daunting but you have to get back on that career horse as soon as possible.
Start networking and touch base with all your industry contacts to see what positions are available. Join recruitment agencies and keep an eye on what's being advertised.
Being made redundant can be the perfect time to pursue that career path you have always dreamed about, or to challenge yourself in a new company. If the whole industry you are in is tightening its belt, then be smart about where you set your sights. While property, finance and retail are particularly vulnerable to the current economic climate, skills shortages still exist in many industries. Tailor your skills to a new area through further training and you could be scooped back into employment in no time – and with more money!
If your payout is substantial enough, you might decide that this is the opportunity you've been waiting for to start your own business. You should, of course, do this after some serious planning and consideration but, if you've always had the perfect business plan in the back of your mind, now could be the time to go for it.
If things really are getting too much and you're not sure what you want to do, perhaps this is the time to take a break. If your funds are sufficient, do some travelling or some volunteer work. Try to work out what you really want from life, and then get on with it.
Don't be ashamed of your redundancy when putting yourself back on the market. It's a world away from being sacked and most employers agree that it is better to have one redundancy on your CV than two short-term jobs, both of which you left of your own accord. Focus on what skills you bring from your old job and show a positive mindset about the new opportunities that present themselves.