Losing your job

Dealing with unemployment

Losing your job isn't just about your career. It can affect your health and relationships.

The first thing to do is sort out your finances for the next 2 months. After that, you can start thinking about the longer term.

Look after yourself

Research shows that job or financial loss can increase the risk of health problems such as anxiety or depression. Signs you may not be coping include:

  • Sleeping badly
  • Feeling overwhelmed or anxious
  • Drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs more than before you lost your job

Talk about issues with your family and friends - don't bottle things up. If you have emotional support, you'll be better able to deal with the financial consequences of unemployment. You can get free financial counselling for your money problems.

A useful booklet is available from Beyond Blue: Taking care of yourself after retrenchment or financial loss or call 1300 224 636. If you're feeling stressed, you might be interested in getting a free assessment and finding out more about mental health disorders from Mental Health Online.

If things are really getting on top of you, it's best to get professional help. Ignoring the signs may only make things worse. Talk with your GP. If you think you might hurt yourself or are having thoughts about suicide, call the Lifeline 24-hour support service on 13 11 14.

Know where you stand financially

You will feel able to make clearer decisions once you know how much money you really have. Find out what you have in savings, then list every expense you'll have to meet for the next 2 months. Use our budget planner and include necessities like mortgage payments, loans, health care, medicines, car and home maintenance and insurance premiums.

Budget planner

To work out how long your cash will last, it's best to assume you'll have no income for the first few weeks.

Limit your spending

If your income drops, bite the bullet and change your spending habits as soon as possible. These cutbacks may be hard but, remember, they are probably temporary.

Bringing your spending into line will mean changing your habits and plans. You may have to postpone holidays; cut down on things like coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, pay TV or mobile phone calls; spend more time shopping around for the best prices; and hold back on buying clothes and eating out.

Resist the temptation to use your credit card to cover shortfalls. The interest you'll have to pay will only add to your financial burden in the long run.

Check if you're owed anything from your past job

Are you entitled to any payments from your employer? Australian Unions may be able to provide information about your entitlements or help you to negotiate with your employer. Read their blog or call 1300 486 466.

If you lost your job because your employer went into liquidation or went bankrupt from 5 December 2012, then you may be able to make a claim through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG).

If your employer's insolvency or bankruptcy happened before 5 December 2012, then you may be able to make a claim for any unpaid employee entitlements through the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS). For more information about FEG or GEERS you can also call 1300 135 040.

Emergency help

If you don't have much cash on hand and didn't get a redundancy or termination payout, you may need emergency help immediately. It can be hard to ask for help if you're used to being independent. But emergency help will ensure you don't fall behind on your mortgage or rent, or bills for essentials like electricity and water. To find out more see our urgent money help webpage.

Get back on your feet

Short-term work

Think about getting temporary or part-time work while you look for another permanent job. Put your name down with temp agencies, ask family and friends if they know of any jobs, or ask local businesses if they need an extra set of hands. Visit Australian JobSearch to see a list of job vacancies around Australia. 

For more training or work experience to help you find and keep a job, contact Job Services Australia.

Government benefits

Talk to the Department of Human Services to find out what government assistance you may be entitled to. Some benefits have waiting periods, so contact the department as soon as you can.

You can also get free help from the Department of Human Services' Financial Information Service (FIS) officers and social workers, or attend a FIS seminar held in your local area on retrenchment and financial issues.

Finally, your reduced income might mean you're eligible for the Family Tax Benefit - or a bigger benefit payment. Contact the Department of Human Services to find out.

Super for the short and long run

If you get retrenched, you might be entitled to benefits through your superannuation fund.

If your super includes your life or disability insurance, also check whether that will continue when your employer stops contributing. Some funds allow you to continue your insurance cover but may only give you a short timeframe to change your arrangements.

Talk to your lenders

Do you have a serious budget shortfall? Talk to your bank and any other organisation you owe money to. Contact them as soon as you can, especially if the lender has security over your home, car or other assets. Tell them you're having financial difficulties and want to discuss repayment arrangements.

If you can't agree on a new repayment arrangement with your credit provider, or want more information about speaking to household utility providers (for gas, phone, water and electricity), read about hardship variations on trouble with debt.

For general tips on keeping up with your bills, see making repayments.

Losing your job can be a very stressful experience. Prepare a budget, find ways to cut back on your spending and always ask for help - both financial and emotional - if you need it.


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Last updated: 03 Feb 2014

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