Understand your rights
A job can end in different ways. It can be made redundant, an employee can be dismissed or resign, or the business can become insolvent or go bankrupt.
Depending on the type of role and how employment ends, there are generally different rights and obligations related to:
- notice period
- final pay provisions
- redundancy entitlements
- the issuing of a separation certificate
Notice, pay and entitlements
Not all employees receive notice of their job ending or are entitled to redundancy pay.
Check your award, enterprise agreement or employment contract and any workplace policies to learn more.
An employment contract or workplace policy cannot provide less than the National Employment Standards, or any award or enterprise agreement that applies.
Before any major changes happen in a workplace, including redundancies, employers should consult with any employees who may be affected. This will usually involve:
- providing information about the proposed changes to the workplace and their expected impact
- discussing steps to avoid or minimise negative effects on employees
- considering employees’ ideas or suggestions about the changes
Workers who usually don't receive notice
Not all workers are entitled to a notice period. These include:
- casual and seasonal workers
- daily or weekly hires
- employees dismissed for serious misconduct
- most employees on fixed term contracts
Notice for full and part-time workers
When employment ends for full and part-time workers, employers generally need to provide at least the minimum amount of notice as outlined in the award, enterprise agreement or employment contract.
In most situations, this is based on how long they have worked with that employer.
If eligible employees are not given proper notice, an employer still has to pay for that notice period, even if the employee is no longer working there. This is called payment in lieu of notice.
Final and redundancy pay
Redundancy is when an employer doesn’t need an employee’s job to be done by anyone, or if the employer becomes insolvent or bankrupt.
The amount of redundancy, or severance, pay an employee gets is usually based on their period of continuous service with their employer, excluding any unpaid leave.
An employee's final pay must be paid within 7 days of their employment ending, and generally includes:
- outstanding wages
- any accumulated annual or long service
- if applicable, redundancy pay or payment in lieu of notice
But not everyone is eligible for redundancy pay if they lose their job, including:
- employees whose continuous service is less than 12 months
- those employed for a certain period of time or for a particular project or season
- employees of most small businesses with fewer than 15 staff
- those terminated because of serious misconduct
- those terminated due to ordinary and customary turnover of labour
- a casual employee or apprentice
Learn more about who does not get redundancy pay at the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Any claim for an unfair dismissal needs to be submitted within 21 days of a dismissal taking effect
Unfair dismissal is when an employee is dismissed from their job in a harsh, an unjust or an unreasonable manner.
The Fair Work Act protects eligible employees from losing their job in a range of circumstances, including:
- if they’re temporarily away from work due to illness
- because of discrimination
You may be able to make an unfair dismissal claim at the Fair Work Commission if you:
- feel your job loss was not lawful or fair
- had served the minimum employment period
Before submitting a claim, you should:
- check whether you're eligible to make an application with the Fair Work Commission
- learn more about the unfair dismissal claims process
Other than a claim for unfair dismissal, a dismissed employee may be eligible to claim for other workplace rights including protection from:
- adverse action
- undue influence or pressure
NSW public sector and local government employees
NSW public sector and local government employees are not protected from unfair dismissal by the Fair Work Act.
Instead, they may be protected by the NSW Industrial Relations Act, where any claims are held before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
Submitting a claim
Any claims for unfair dismissal, whether in the Fair Work Commission or the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, need to be submitted within 21 days of a dismissal taking effect.
If you're unsure whether you're eligible to commence any of these claims, you should seek legal advice. See the Legal and support services section below for more information.
If you're a visa holder
If you need help with employment issues related to your visa status, pay or other entitlements, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman for more information.
Changes to visa conditions due to coronavirus (COVID-19)
The Australian Government has made a number of changes to several visa categories as a result of coronavirus.
One change relates to possible extensions for certain visa holders employed in critical sectors, including health, aged care or agriculture.
Another change allows businesses to reduce the hours of 482 and 457 visa holders without:
- you being in breach of your visa conditions or
- the business being in breach of their employer obligations
If your employer can't pay their debts
A business is insolvent if it can't pay its debts. An insolvent business may go into liquidation, or the owner of that business may declare bankruptcy.
If this happens, your employer may not have the money to pay you the wages and entitlements you’re owed.
If eligible, you can make a claim to the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme for payment of some of your entitlements, including:
- unpaid wages (up to 13 weeks) capped at the FEG maximum weekly wage
- unpaid annual leave and long service leave
- payment in lieu of notice (up to 5 weeks)
- redundancy pay (up to 4 weeks per full year of service)
The FEG scheme does not cover:
- unpaid employer superannuation contributions
- reimbursement payments
- bonus or commission payments
Contact the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) if you’re owed any superannuation.
If the business has been abandoned but isn’t in liquidation
If the business isn't in liquidation but your employer has abandoned it without paying what you're owed, you can apply to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for help to recover any unpaid entitlements.
Legal and support services
- Community Legal Centres NSW is a not for profit that provides legal and related services to people in NSW
- LawAccess NSW or call 1300 888 529 for information on employment and other legal matters
- Legal Aid NSW for factsheets, resources, legal advice and help at court
- the Human Rights Commission provides advice and actions to take if you feel discrimination impacted your job loss
- the Fair Work Ombudsman has information and independent advice about your workplace rights and obligations
- the Fair Work Commission is Australia's national workplace relations tribunal dealing with unfair dismissal and unlawful termination claims
Get financial support
If you lost your job as a result of coronavirus, you may be entitled to a range of specific government payments.
To find out more, see the Get financial support section in If your job has been affected by coronavirus.
JobSeeker and other government payments
If you’re unemployed, or not in full-time work, you may be able to get the JobSeeker payment.
Eligibility requirements depend on your situation. As a minimum, these 3 conditions need to be met:
- you’re between 22 and age pension age
- you meet residence rules
- your income and assets are under the limits set by Services Australia
Additional criteria and exemptions may apply, including if you're now caring for someone affected by coronavirus.
Applying for JobSeeker
- Complete your registration to claim online or if that is not possible, call the JobSeeker helpline on 132 850
- For online applicants, Centrelink will then contact you about setting up a MyGov account (if you don't already have one), and what documents you'll need to finalise your claim
- Finish your application online using your MyGov account. You’ll be given a link at the end of your application so you can track the progress of your claim online.
Other government support services
The Australian Government provides a range of additional financial help and support services you may be eligible for if you've lost your job and are looking for work. These include:
- Parenting Payment if you care for a child and are trying to find work
- Youth Allowance, which is an income support payment if you're 21 or younger
- Child Care Subsidy to help with the cost of approved child care
- concession and health care cards to help with medical and healthcare costs
Additionally, there are specific services and support programs to find and maintain employment for:
Early access to superannuation
You may be able to access your superannuation early if you're experiencing financial hardship after losing your job. Certain eligibility requirements need to be met.
How you apply and who you should contact depends on the reasons you need to access it.
Managing your money
Budgeting and bills
Budgeting is a practical way to see where you spend your money, and can help to:
- get a clearer picture of your overall financial position, which can make you feel more in control
- prepare you for unexpected expenses
- spot areas where you can cut back spending and save money
Moneysmart also has tips and guidance to help you when:
- paying council rates, bills and fines
- planning and making a budget
Get help with energy costs
Some energy providers are extending payment periods for customers who've been financially affected by coronavirus.
Talk to your energy company about options if you’re having trouble paying your bill.
Depending on your eligibility, there are rebates available in some situations for:
- retail customers (if you get your bill from an energy retailer)
- on supply customers (if you get your energy bill or invoice from a strata manager or community village operator)
Changing loan and credit arrangements
Most banks and other creditors have policies to help customers experiencing financial hardship.
If you find yourself in this situation after losing your job, contact your lender or credit provider to discuss options as a first step.
If you have more than one unsecured loan, like a personal loan and credit card debt, one possibility is to consolidate (or refinance) them into a single loan.
This could make it easier to manage repayments as long as you ensure the new interest rate or fees are lower than before.
Home loans and a hardship variation
To make changes to any home loan repayments, you can apply for a hardship variation. This is a letter you submit to your lender that sets out reasons for wanting to:
- alter the terms of your home loan, or
- temporarily pause or reduce loan repayments
To apply for a hardship variation, contact your bank or lender to find out what's required.
If you have a mortgage and lost your job due to coronavirus
In this situation, many banks and non-bank lenders have announced measures to support eligible customers who may fall behind on their home loan repayments. These include:
- repayment deferrals of between 3 and 6 months
- fee waivers
- offset account withdrawals at no cost
To work out the best option for you, get in touch with your lender to find out what they offer and how to apply.
Financial Information Service (FIS)
FIS is a free, confidential service provided by the Australian Government where financial experts can help you plan for your future financial needs.
They are not licensed advisers. What they can do is help you make more informed financial decisions, including:
- increasing your knowledge and confidence when dealing with money matters like debt reduction, superannuation and investments
- how to use credit sensibly
- finding a financial planner and how to best use their services
Zero and low interest loans
Good Shepherd is a faith based, microfinance organisation that works with communities across Australia to improve the economic wellbeing of people on low incomes.
Its services include no-interest loans (up to $1,500) and affordable low interest loans (between $800 and $3,000) to cover expenses such as:
- whitegoods, including fridges and washing machines
- household furniture
- education and medical bills
- low cost insurance policies
Eligibility requirements apply.
Upskilling and retraining
There is a wide range of courses and training programs available to help people boost their chances of getting a job, including:
- What's Next? helps you decide what to do if you've been retrenched and looking for work
- Smart and Skilled - assistance finding new work or career advancement through affordable training
- Vocational Education and Training (VET) offers over 770 qualifications
- Skills Match - identifying how your existing skills and experiences might set you up for new or different roles
- TAFE NSW and university short courses
- community and continuing education colleges
What's Next? if you lose your job
What’s Next? is run by the Australian Government and helps you decide what to do after you've lost your job or are looking to start a new career. It follows a 3-step process:
- Where do I stand? - helps you navigate the retrenchment process
- Get your next job - tips on understanding your local job market and how to go about finding work
- Try something new - information on education and retraining options as well as identifying transferable skills
Smart and Skilled
Smart and Skilled aims to help people in NSW get the expertise they need to find a job, and advance or change their careers.
The training courses were developed by industry, community and job market experts, and cover many workplace sectors in NSW. Eligible students can receive:
- access to subsidised training across 4 levels of certificates
- funding for higher-level courses (Certificate IV and above) in priority areas of demand
Eligible students pay only a portion of the training cost. Fee exemptions and concessions are also available for disadvantaged students.
Vocational Education and Training (VET)
VET partners with industry and government to provide people with workplace skills and technical knowledge to advance or change their careers, effectively offering a pathway to around 500 occupations.
With an emphasis on hands-on experience, courses concentrate on those occupational skills and competencies that employers increasingly demand.
Vocational Education and Training covers 8 of the 10 occupations predicted to have high jobs growth over the next few years. These include:
- carers for children, the aged and disabled
- software and application programmers
- hospitality workers
- advertising, public relations and sales
In addition to short courses, plus fee-free traineeships and apprenticeships, VET's qualifications range across Certificate I, II, III and IV, as well as Diploma courses and Advanced Diploma courses.
Skills Match is an interactive online tool from Job Outlook. It helps identify how your existing skills can be transferred to new employment options.
First, you enter jobs you’ve held, including any unpaid work. Then:
- Skills Match lists a broad selection of abilities and expertise, broken down into various categories, associated with these past jobs
- next, it outlines a range of new job ideas that use similar skills for you to consider
In addition to its regular courses, TAFE NSW has developed a number of free online courses that can generally be completed in just days or weeks. Note that:
- eligibility requirements apply
- there is a limit of 2 free courses per person
- each short course requires various levels of commitment and time to complete
The free short courses are broadly divided across these categories:
- developing administration skills
- enhancing your digital impact
- increasing health and medical knowledge
- improving leadership performance
- strengthening practical business skills
Apart from the free short courses, other subsidised training is also offered, including:
University short courses
The Australian Government is funding a range of higher education online short courses at reduced prices.
The aim is to help unemployed people gain new skills via remote learning. The full-time courses:
- offer either Undergraduate Certificates or Graduate Certificates
- are targeted at specific industries, including teaching, allied health, science and information technology
- take up to 6 months to complete
Entry requirements and start dates vary for each course. If you need help with costs, you can defer payment through the existing HECS-HELP program.
Open Universities Australia (OUA)
OUA - a partnership between many Australian universities - offers a wide range of single subject units for study that do not have entry level requirements.
They cover a range of subjects, including:
- arts and humanities
- business, education and health
- information technology
- law and justice
- science and engineering
These short course single subjects, many of which can be completed in weeks, also allow you to:
- expand your existing knowledge base
- upskill to boost your chances of getting a job
- earn credits towards a degree
- consider a possible career change
Community and continuing education colleges
The community and continuing education sector has a unique focus on making learning affordable and accessible. Its wide variety of courses and training can help you:
- improve or expand existing skills
- gain new training in preparation for a career change
- explore a personal interest for individual growth or development
Classes are often scheduled across multiple weeks and can be held during the day, evening and on weekends.
An increasing number of courses are now being offered online as adult and community education (ACE) providers:
- update courses with a greater mix of digital content
- develop their technical and teaching resources to improve online delivery
Free information technology courses online
The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has compiled a list of free online technology courses.
They're offered by Australian and overseas universities as well as teaching academies from across the world in response to coronavirus.
Courses cover many topics, from digital transformation and coding to 3D game development, and are aimed at all levels of learning.
Some of the participating institutions include:
- Oracle University
- Microsoft Learn
- University of Queensland
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) OpenCourseware
Open Colleges is an Australian company providing online and face-to-face training and education services.
Their online courses cover a wide range of workplaces and skills that help students retrain, change or take the next step in their careers.
There are both certificate and diploma level courses plus nationally recognised qualifications offered across:
- childhood education
Looking for a new job
If you're thinking of changing the type of work you do, see the topic, Starting a new career, for more information, guidance and resources
Understanding your strengths and being aware of any gaps in your skills and experience can help you plan your next steps in finding work.
There are several online tools to help you get a clearer picture of what that next job could be, including:
- Job Outlook, which uses a Q&A format to filter and fine tune possible career pathways
- myfuture, an Australian Government resource where you list all your interests, skills, education and training experience to build a career profile and employment roadmap
In addition, any former work colleagues can be helpful in finding your next job. Their contacts and network may reveal opportunities that you are not aware of. So keeping those relationships going can be valuable.
Also see Section 3, Upskilling and retraining, for information on matching skills with job types.
How to get job ready
Preparing to rejoin the workforce after finding yourself unemployed, or if you're looking to change careers, can involve several tasks that you may be unfamiliar with. These could include:
- assessing how your current skills and experience might be applied to other jobs (see more in Section 3 Upskilling and retraining)
- deciding on the type of job you’d like and the roles available
- finding where jobs are listed plus how to search for suitable vacancies
- writing a resume or cover letter, and preparing for an interview
Job Jumpstart provides resources and activities to help you work out what jobs might suit your skills and experiences.
It combines information on employment planning and recruitment insights from Australian employers.
The site aims to help job seekers, no matter their life stage, better understand how to:
- build work experience and skills to boost the chances of getting a job
- investigate career options
- connect with employers
Writing a resume and cover letter
A resume or CV and cover letter are your first opportunity to make a good impression with recruiters and employers.
Even if your work experience is limited, a poorly presented or badly written resume could make it more difficult to progress your application or even get an interview.
The Australian Government's jobactive website has resources to help you get job-ready. Its find a job blog has:
- templates and suggested examples of resumes and cover letters
- career advice and how to stay positive during your job search
- an email subscription service so you can receive regular tips to help you get a job
Job interviews can be stressful. Practising your interview technique beforehand can:
- help reduce any nerves or anxiety
- boost your confidence of performing as well as you can
- highlight gaps in your knowledge so you can be as fully prepared as possible
Another important pre-interview task is to research the company you're looking to join.
If you do this, you'll have information to relate specific to the company and the role, which can show a future employer you have initiative and enthusiasm.
It could improve your chances of succeeding or at least advancing to the next stage of the recruitment process.
As for the interview, there are common questions that are often asked. Prepare your answers in advance and practise out loud how you’d respond.
Where to look for work
There are many online resources advertising job vacancies. It's best to try several, rather than limit yourself to one.
This is because some offer only specialist roles in select industries while others combine job listings from a wide range of sources.
Job search websites
- search for jobs using keywords and filters
- set up job alerts
- create a profile or store a resume online
The Australian Government jobactive website and app also provides hints and tips to:
- help your job search
- make your resume and cover letter stand out
If there are specific employers or companies you’d like to work for, visit the careers section of their website or one of their social media channels, like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Even if there are no suitable jobs advertised, you can often register your interest and preferences, and be notified if a role that matches your criteria becomes available in the future.
Employment or recruitment agencies are companies that match people to jobs. Some specialise in particular kinds of roles or industries.
Visit their websites to search for available roles and other job finding resources.
If there are no jobs that match your skills and experience, you can often upload your resume or register an expression of interest.
Jobs in government
There is a wide range of jobs, careers, professional development options, as well as training and education opportunities offered across local, state and federal governments.
Jobs in government cover many areas of work, including:
- business or community services
- communications and human resources
- economic development and infrastructure
- science and the environment
- finance and treasury
- tourism and recreation
You can find general information, application checklists, vacancies and more resources for jobs in:
- Local government - careers at council
- NSW State Government - I work for NSW
- Commonwealth Government - jobactive and Jobs Hub
Gig or collaborative economy roles
The gig economy is when customers and service providers come together via a digital platform such as a website or mobile app. The Uber ride sharing service is an example.
People offering their services in the gig economy are sometimes known as contingent workers. They usually work on a temporary or on-demand basis.
The work can often be an interim measure to earn income until a more permanent or preferred role comes along.
Apart from the likes of Uber, other gig-type work could include:
- Airtasker, an online peer-to-peer marketplace to outsource small jobs, find local services or hire flexible staff
- short-term freelancing or business consulting roles
- hospitality and on-demand labour hire
- caregiver roles that look after the elderly, or babysitting and even pet sitting
- renting out a spare room or home on Airbnb
Starting a small business
There is a range of government financial assistance packages and mentoring services to help you start your own small business:
- NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment outlines what you need to start a business
- Service NSW is making it easier for you to do business with a free, dedicated Business Concierge
- Jobs for NSW provides grants and loans for startups and emerging businesses
- business.gov.au lists government funding and support programs from across government to help businesses grow
New Business Assistance
If you are unemployed, not studying or training, and interested in running your own business, the Australian Government offers New Business Assistance with NEIS.
NEIS is the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. It provides eligible people with:
- accredited small business training
- mentoring and support programs
- financial support options including an allowance and rental assistance
Volunteering and timebanking
Volunteering provides a chance to take on new experiences as well as give something back to the wider community.
Your contribution can be part-time, casual, or even full-time. Other possible benefits of volunteering include:
- making new friends and contacts
- improved health and wellbeing
- the chance to rediscover a long-lost passion or hobby
- gain experience that could help you get a job
An organisation like GoVolunteer has general information and lists of organisations that may have a shortage of volunteers.
You can also search for a position based on keywords, your availability and location at the Centre of Volunteering.
Timebanking is a community program where members exchange their services or skills for jobs needed to be done. It is free to join.
When you voluntarily perform a task for a member, you earn time credits. Later, you can use those credits to receive services you’re interested in. It creates community connections through shared experiences.
For example, if you have computer or IT skills, you could:
- give an hour of time to someone needing this
- then use that hour of ‘credit’ to have someone help you move furniture or repair your car
Get mental health support
If the impact of losing your job is placing pressure on your family, finances or relationships, and causing you mental health concerns, consider talking to your doctor or trusted health professional.
Additionally, there is a wide range of support services you can reach out to for help.
- Beyond Blue or 1800 512 348 for help with depression and anxiety
- Head to Health for a range of mental health resources
- MensLine on 1300 789 978 - telephone and online counselling services for men
- NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 for professional help, advice and referrals to local mental health services
For your family
- Relationships NSW for family and relationship support services
- Reach Out helps parents support their teenagers through everyday issues
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 - free, confidential phone and online counselling anytime for young people aged 5 to 25
- Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health provides self help resources for people living outside metropolitan areas
You can also get in touch with a social worker through Services Australia. This free and confidential service can help with:
- short-term counselling
- support information
- referrals to other services