For those self-Isolating and unable to work. If you already receive an income support payment – one of the three working-age payments below or another payment – and you are in severe financial hardship, you may be eligible to receive the Crisis Payment. Having to self-isolate as a result of coronavirus may be considered a ‘crisis’ for the purposes of this payment. Learn more here.
For those affected by workplace closures and unemployment. If you are:
due to coronavirus (COVID-19) you may be able to claim one of these payments, subject to meeting income tests. The assets test and the ordinary three-month waiting period has been waived. Click on the headings to learn more about these payments.
Each of these payments has a standard fortnightly rate, and receiving them may also trigger eligibility for other standard payments from the government.
This list is not exhaustive. You can use the Payment and Service finder to estimate what you may be eligible for. You may not claim these sorts of payments if you are also claiming paid leave benefits from your job or receiving payment from income protection insurance.
Under the current circumstances additional supplements are also available if you are eligible for other payments.
For those who have not claimed Centrelink benefits before, these instructions will help.
The JobKeeper payment will ensure eligible employers and employees stay connected while some businesses move into hibernation.
WHO: Businesses and non-profits who have:
If you were on the payroll as of 1 March for an entity that meets one of the above criteria, your employer – whether you were stood down or retrenched – is able to register the business for the Job Keeper assistance package via the ATO.
Businesses are able to claim the Job Keeper assistance package on behalf of:
WHAT: This $1,500 a fortnight payment is a flat rate paid to the employer to pay the employee through the business’s regular payroll system. It applies for workers who have not been stood down, as well as to those who have been stood down or retrenched. Payments from your employer will be backdated to 30th March.
If you ordinarily receive less than $1,500 in income per fortnight before tax, your employer must pay you, at a minimum, $1,500 per fortnight, before tax.
HOW: This payment is made to you through your employer, and your employer must register their interest with the ATO. Your employer must also inform you if they intend to claim the payment on your behalf.
In the majority of cases, you cannot get both JobSeeker and JobKeeper. If you have applied to the JobSeeker program, you should get in touch with your employer to find out whether they are registering for JobKeeper assistance.
For more information on JobKeeper Assistance as an employee, read the Federal Government’s factsheet here.
Working for Victoria Fund
The Victorian Government is establishing a Working for Victoria Fund in consultation with the Victorian Council of Social Services and Victorian Trades Hall Council.
The fund is to help workers who have lost their jobs to find new opportunities, including work cleaning public infrastructure or delivering food – providing vital contributions to our state’s response to the pandemic and affording those Victorians security when it’s needed most.
The partnership with the Sidekick App assists in matching available workers to jobs that suit them.
Individuals can register interest in the applying for work under the Working for Victoria Fund here.
Job matching services
The Victorian Government has indicated that it will facilitate job matching to help Victorians find short-term or casual roles. More information on this service should be forthcoming.
While many businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and are reducing their workforces, there are some areas of the economy which have an increased demand. This includes jobs in health care, transport & logistics, some areas of retail, mining and mining services, manufacturing, agriculture and government sectors, among others.
Jobshub is an Australian Government initiative for the recently unemployed. Available jobs can be accessed here.
Transition support network
A transition support network made up of representatives from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s national, state and territory offices and Employment Facilitators, is available to assist retrenched workers to find a new job as soon as possible.
Retrenched workers or employers who would like information about the support available can call the Employment Services Information Line on 1800 805 260.
Jobactive is a network of providers across Australia helping jobseekers find and keep a job, and employers find staff. Employment opportunities available through Jobactive can be accessed online here
The Victorian government also offers some services to jobseekers, including Skills and Job Centres located at every TAFE institute in Victoria. Jobs Victoria also has a page dedicated to helping jobseekers find work.
YOUR RIGHTS AS A WORKER
If you are sick with COVID-19
If you are sick with COVID-19, going to work is a violation of health & safety obligations that apply to both you and your employer. Consequently, employers can direct employees who are sick with COVID-19 not to come to work, based on the Australian Governments health and quarantine guidelines.
Otherwise, your normal workplace rights and responsibilities pertaining to paid leave and protection from dismissal still apply.
If your work has been affected by COVID-19 suppression measures
The FairWork Ombudsman has information available related to your rights as a worker during the outbreak of coronavirus. Whether an employer has the option of standing down employees in circumstances relating to coronavirus is very fact dependent and an employer should exercise the option cautiously. Your employer must be able to demonstrate that:
Your employer cannot generally stand down employees simply because of a deterioration of business conditions or because an employee has coronavirus. Some examples of when your employer may be able to stand down employees include:
This is not an exhaustive list.
Enterprise agreements and employment contracts can have different or extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay, for example, a requirement to notify or consult. Employers should consider whether their obligations are impacted by any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ employment contracts or workplace policies.
For more information, see the FairWork Ombudsman’s coronavirus advice.
Three awards covering many employers and employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have been varied. The purpose is to provide additional flexibility for employers and employees to respond to the changed business conditions. The award changes are summarised below. Visit the FairWork Ombudsman’s website for more information.
If your employer has accessed the JobKeeper scheme
New provisions within the Fair Work Act 2009 apply to employers who have qualified for the JobKeeper scheme and their eligible employees. Once an employer has qualified for the JobKeeper scheme, the new provisions enable employers to:
Problems paying bills
If you can’t pay your electricity, gas, phone or water bill, contact your service provider straight away. They will explain your options, such as:
Victorians in mandatory self-isolation running short on food and unable to have any dropped-off by friends are now eligible for a “food and personal care package”, with a two-weeks supply of items like long-life milk, pasta, canned fruit, cereal and sugar, as well as some personal care items.
People wishing to request a pack should call Victoria’s dedicated coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
If your housing needs become acute, visit Housing Victoria.
Mental health support
While it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak of coronavirus, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.
Your mental health critical during this period of significant disruption by coronavirus, and support is available.
Head to Health is a Commonwealth Government digital mental health portal which provides guidance on how to maintain good mental health during the coronavirus pandemic and in self-isolation, how to support children and loved ones, and how to access further mental health services and care. https://headtohealth.gov.au.
Beyond Blue has coronavirus resources to help at https://www.beyondblue.org.au
Lifeline is a national charity open to all Australians in personal crisis. They have 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. http://www.lifeline.org.au/
Headspace is the national youth mental health foundation. They can help young people aged 12-25 who are going through a tough time. http://www.headspace.org.au/
Assistance from financial institutions
Australian banks including the ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and Bendigo Bank have announced that they will pause loan repayments for individuals in financial difficulty as a result of the impact of COVID-19. Customers should contact banks directly on the numbers below to discuss their individual circumstances and access support.
ANZ: 1800 351 548 Commonwealth Bank: 132 607
NAB: 1300 769 650 Westpac: 132 142
Bendigo Bank: 1300 236 344
Financial difficulty and hardship assistance
Financial difficulty and hardship assistance may also be available from your bank to assist in the event of personal circumstances changing as the result of job loss. Customers should contact their banks directly to discuss what options may be available.
Financial counselling service
A range of professional advice is available to help individuals who are struggling to find a way to meet their financial obligations during COVID-19 to make important decisions about their financial situation.
No Interest Loans Scheme
No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) provides individuals and families on low incomes with access to safe, fair and affordable credit.
Loans are available for essential goods and services such as fridges, washing machines, car repairs and medical procedures for up to $1,500. Repayments are set at an affordable amount over 12 to 18 months.
NILS is offered by 170 local community organisations in over 600 locations across Australia, including at Uniting Care in Wodonga.
Access to superannuation
Some people may be employed but experiencing a reduced income stream due to COVID19, such as:
Part-time or casual workers who have had their shifts cut
Full-time workers who have had hours cut to part-time
People who can show they are otherwise employed but currently experiencing reduced income due to the nature of their work have the option of applying for partial early access to superannuation. Up to $20,000 may be claimed from their superannuation accounts over two years. Applications are made to the ATO. This is only optional, not compulsory, and income support payments may better suit an individual’s needs.
For more information, please see this Fact Sheet from the Federal Government.
CHANGES TO TENANCY ARRANGEMENTS
If you cannot afford to pay your rent because of a change in your financial circumstances, changes are being made to help you.
If you want to break the lease early, fees for breaking the lease will not apply and your landlord will not be able to blacklist you on residential tenancy databases if you wish to break your lease because you are unable to pay rent.
If you want to stay, the landlord cannot evict you or apply to terminate your lease, except in specific circumstances, such as property damage, serious violence, criminal activity or where you are able to pay rent but refuse to. Also, your landlord cannot serve you with a notice to vacate on or after 29 March 2020.
You should then contact your landlord to negotiate a temporary rent reduction. It’s important that you do keep paying rent, as not paying rent would breach your tenancy arrangement. Whatever agreement you reach, make sure that it’s in writing. If you cannot come to an agreement for rent reduction with your landlord, you must engage in a dispute resolution process with your landlord through Consumer Affairs Victoria, which will act as a referee.
You may also be eligible to apply to receive rent support of up to $2,000. To find out more about eligibility for the grants program, visit Housing Victoria.
These laws will be in effect until 26 September 2020. For more information, visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.