Redundancy survival guide – get what you’re owed and prepare for reinvention
July 20 2016 – 12:15AM, Alan Hartstein
We got a very fair deal and I wasn’t too concerned because I knew I could get another job as a photocopier technician easily if I wanted to, given my experience at Xerox,” Adrian says.
Adrian, 40, worked as a team leader managing 10 technicians, responsible for servicing photocopiers across a large part of Sydney. His job was axed in a major corporate restructure that had been “a long time coming”.
Adrian’s story is a common one, with disruption in the photocopying sector mirrored in the wider economy. Businesses are restructuring at breakneck speed as the twin forces of technology and globalisation upturn entire industries, from manufacturing to retail.
He was offered the chance to apply for a new role but it came with a greatly increased workload; meanwhile, the company was offering its unionised workforce generous severance deals. In the end, all the team leaders including Adrian took redundancy in November 2014.
While the official unemployment rate now stands at 5.8 per cent, the real rate is much higher. About 2.4 million Australians, or 18.8 per cent of the workforce, are now either unemployed or underemployed, according to a Roy Morgan poll conducted in March.
This situation is only going to get worse. A report from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia last year found that huge changes in the Australian workplace are likely to occur over the next 10 to 15 years and that technology could replace almost 40 per cent of Australian jobs, including many high-skilled roles.
So what happens when you’ve worked for the same organisation for years, sometimes decades, and you’re suddenly forced to find another way to sustain yourself and your family, often as you near the twilight of your working life?
Plan of action
Sandy Hutchison, founder of career transition platform Career Money Life, says it’s important not to rush into the job hunt.
“Like any emotional upheaval, there are grief stages that people go through, and there is no point fronting recruiters and would-be employers while you are working through the grief process,” she says.
Once you’re over the initial shock, you need a financial plan of action. The size of your payout will play a large part in your decision-making, but for most this will mean calculating what your minimum weekly living expenses and debt repayments are. This will give you a rough guide as to how long your payout will last before you need another pay cheque.
Hutchison says it’s important to get advice from a financial adviser, rather than treating it as a windfall.
“It may feel like you’ve won the lottery so you need to understand that it may have to last for quite a while,” she says. “You also need to understand the implications of changes to your super and any insurance that may have been contained in your super.”
Contact Centrelink to get a clear understanding about how your termination pay affects your eligibility for payments and concessions, and bear in mind that your payout will usually delay the start of payments.
Once you’re ready to start actively looking for work again, you should look at your current skill set and where you need to upskill. If you can afford it, you may want to spend some of your payout on training and courses, especially if you’ve just left an industry that is shrinking and your future job prospects are thin. This will require some research, especially if the industry you’d like to move into requires you to move locations due to limited opportunities in your home area.
Government agencies can help. For example, the Career Development Association of Australia can advise you about courses you can take to gain the sorts of skills you need in particular sectors, while jobactive offers programs and services to help you look for work. A jobactive provider will assess your circumstances in detail and work with you to help you re-enter the workforce as soon as possible. They can also offer information about job opportunities in your area before you can access similar services from Centrelink.
Apart from the plethora of employment websites, social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can be good ways to network with people in your industry and former colleagues.
“You need to build an authentic relationship with these people and think about how you can add value to their organisation. Don’t just ask them for a job,” Hutchison says.