A few months ago I lost my job. I had been ill for a prolonged period and when it came time for my contract to be renewed, management deemed me a high-risk venture and terminated my employment. I was out of work for several months before finally finding a suitable part time position and eventually full time again.
It’s a sickening feeling, not knowing where your next paycheque is going to come from, and I confess I moped for more than a couple of days. There were times when I simply didn’t know how I was going to survive. But this is no time to go into a downward spiral. If you are looking, you will find another job. In the meantime, you need damage control! It’s sink or swim right now and you need to stay afloat in an ocean of uncertainty. Start paddling!
First, the Legal Stuff
This is the first and most important thing you do because the time limits are so short. Was your termination legal? If it wasn’t you may be able to commence a legal action for the reinstatement of your position or compensation.
So how do you know if you were dismissed legitimately? If you were fired for being a particular race, religion, sex or sexuality, it’s most likely not legal. If you’re fired for being sick, that’s illegal too. If you’ve been fired for something you did that wasn’t listed in your contract as being grounds for immediate dismissal and you haven’t had any warnings, that could be an illegal dismissal too. Redundancies can happen at any time, for no reason, but the job itself but actually be redundant for it to be legal, not just the employee.
Of course, all of this only applies to permanent staff or staff with current contracts, and it can be very complex so if you have the slightest suspicion your termination wasn’t lawful, call your local legal aid office immediately. Under federal law, you have only two weeks to commence an unfair dismissal claim so if you think this could be you, act fast.
Ok, so you’ve lost your job and you’re not getting it back. Now that we’ve established this, let’s look at other sources of money. Did you happen to set up income protection insurance back when you were working? If you did, congratulations you! This is the time to make a claim. Remember now, insurance companies don’t make their riches by handing out money so read the product disclosure statement and make sure you include any important detail in your application.
Make a Claim
Nobody wants to go to dole queue but there’s no shame in claiming when times are tough. When you were working away, your taxes were paying for this service so now that you need it, it’s time to put your hand up and make a claim. The Department of Human Services (or “DHS”, formerly known as Centrelink) will usually take a few weeks to process your claim, so it’s important to lodge an “intention to claim” straight away. That way, if your claim is granted, you’ll be back-paid to the date you first contacted the Department.
Visit https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/intent-claim to start the ball rolling or call 132 850 if you need to ask more questions.
Once you’ve looked into where your next dollar’s going to come from, it’s time to assess what you have right now and what you’re going to do with it. In times like these, I find budgets fairly useless as they rely on a regular income over a long period of time. Instead, I like to create what I call a “money diary”. I draw up a ledger with a row for every day, right up to my next payday and often beyond, sometimes for a few months in advance. I tally up all my resources and place them in the income column.
Then I write down every single anticipated expense for the foreseeable future and write it in the expense column. This includes food, bills, rent, transport, gifts, social events, etc. It is crucial in times of financial uncertainty that you predict costs and try to prepare for them. The last thing you need now is to withdraw your money from the bank, miss a direct debit and get slammed with an account dishonour fee.
Cut the Costs
It goes without saying, so I won’t labour the point, but you probably need to reduce your outgoings. Got a haircut booked? Cancel for now. Planning a holiday? Put it on hiatus. Don’t get yourself upset, it’s not forever, it’s just for the meantime.
Debt is a part of modern life and most of us are paying something off, one way or another. Whether it’s your mortgage or a monthly gym membership fee, you’re going to need to address these payments before they get out of hand.
Many gyms and similar ventures will allow you to put a membership “on hold” in case of dire circumstances. Research their website or ring and talk to a manager. Don’t just rely on what the receptionist says, oftentimes they don’t actually know.
For loan and mortgage repayments, I recommend contacting your financial institution ASAP and advising them of your situation. Most lenders would rather you notify them of a change in circumstance than wait until you default and are happy to negotiate a new repayment plan until things pick up again. If you have mortgage protection insurance, now would be a good time to claim it!
Sale of the Century!
Now that you’re jobless you’re probably a little bit time-richer than you were before. This is a great opportunity to give your life a bit of a Spring-clean and sell of any unwanted goods you have. Tennis racquet, telescope, old DVDs and books? These things are worth money! It might not raise your retirement fund but a little extra is a beautiful thing when you’re not earning.
The Hunt Is On…
Now that you’ve got your head around your fiscals, you can focus on looking for a new job without having all those money woes dominating your thoughts. Ok, so the worries won’t go away altogether, that would be weird, but at least you can rest asuured knowing you’ve done all that can be done and get on with doing what it is you do best, whatever that may be. Good luck to you!