Coronavirus: How to get help if you’re a casual worker
If you're out of work due to coronavirus, you might be eligible for government payments of $1,500 a fortnight.
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It can be a worrying time if you're a casual worker. Luckily, there are a few ways to get help. We've put together a list of what you need to know if you're a casual worker, especially if you need to take time off, are made unemployed or your work temporarily closes.
We'll update this page as the government announces more support and packages, so keep checking back.
Quick summary: What help can I get?
- The Australian Government announced on 30 March 2020 that you may be eligible for payments of $1,500 from your employer if you've lost out on shifts or lost your job. Before applying for Centrelink, call your employer and ask if you're eligible for their JobKeeper payment.
- This is a payment that will come through your workplace, not from Centrelink. It's money given to businesses from the government to incentivise them to keep their employees.
- If you're not eligible, there are two payments you might be eligible for: the JobSeeker payment and the Coronavirus Supplement.
- The JobSeeker payment - formerly known as Newstart - is for those who are unemployed or do not have enough work.
- The JobSeeker payment pays $565.70/fortnight.
- Waiting periods and assets tests has been waived (which means you can still have savings). You'll also only have to apply for 4 jobs per month.
- The Coronavirus Supplement is a temporary, additional top-up payment of $550 a fortnight for people receiving eligible support payments. This includes JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, Sickness Allowance, Parenting Payment and Farm Household Allowance. It will be applied automatically if you're eligible. See the Services Australia news update from 25 March 2020 for further details.
- The Coronavirus Supplement will begin on April 27 and will be available for at least 6 months.
- That means that if you've lost your job as a result of coronavirus, you might be eligible for payments of $1100 a fortnight through both of these payments.
- You can also take out up to $10,000 from your superannuation, tax-free. Make sure you read up on this and understand what this means for your super if you go ahead with it.
What can I do if I lose my job or have my shifts cut?
If you lose your job or have shifts cut as a result of the coronavirus, you can access the following welfare support. Recipients of these benefits will see a $550 fortnightly increase on benefits due to the Coronavirus Supplement, or be eligible for a $750 Economic Support payment.
- JobKeeper payment. If you're a part-time worker or a casual employee that has been stood down or had their hours reduced, you could be eligible to receive a minimum fortnightly payment of $1,500 before tax from your employer. Casual employees must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 12 months to be eligible. Find out more in our comprehensive JobKeeper guide.
- Jobseeker payment. Formerly known as Newstart, this is intended to assist those who are looking for work. The government has temporarily waived many waiting periods and expanded eligibility for the payment.
- Youth allowance. This is an income supplement for job seekers aged 16 - 21, or full-time students or apprentices under the age of 25. If you've lost your job or casual shifts and are the right age, you may be able to access this payment.
- Coronavirus Supplement. This is an additional $550 for those who are already on welfare payments. It will automatically be applied on 27th April.
Centrelink has put together a quiz that lets you quickly see all potential payments and benefits that you might be eligible for.
If you ordinarily receive $1,500 or more in income per fortnight before tax, you will continue to receive your regular income according to the prevailing workplace arrangements. The JobKeeper Payments will subsidise part or all of your income.
How much will Jobseeker pay me?
The Jobseeker payment usually only applies to people out of a job actively looking for work. However, it's been expanded in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
|Your situation||Your maximum fortnightly payment|
|Single, no children||$565.70|
|Single, with a dependent child or children||$612.00|
|Single, aged 60 or over, after 9 continuous months on payment||$612.00|
|Family situation||Payment reduces to nil once your income reaches this amount per fortnight|
|Single with no children.||$1,086.50|
|Single, 60 years of age or older and have been receiving payment for at least 9 months continuously.||$1,175.17|
|Single, principal carer, with a dependent child.||$1,673.25|
|single principal carer of a dependent child, granted an exemption from mutual obligation requirements||$2,124.75|
|Single, 60 years of age or older, and a principal carer with a dependent child. You must have been getting payment for at least 9 months continuously.||$1,673.25|
|Single, with a dependent child but not the principal carer.||$1,164.84|
On top of regular eligibility, the following people will also be able to access Jobseeker benefits from 27 April:
- Permanent workers who have been stood down or lost their jobs.
- Sole traders, self-employed people, contractors and casual workers who have had their income reduced.
- Anyone caring for someone infected or in isolation because of contact with a coronavirus case.
While ordinary waiting periods are already waived until June 12 and the regular asset tests will be waived from April 27, you will still be subject to certain income requirements for eligibility.
What if my hours are cut but I'm still technically employed?
Lots of businesses are cutting the hours of casual staff. If you've gone from 5 days to 2 days work a week, you might be eligible for Jobseeker payment - it depends on how much you earn a fortnight. The below table outlines your eligibility - your situation will change if you have any dependents or a partner.
|Family status||How much You'll receive||More info|
|Single, with no children or dependants||$565.70||$1,086.50|
|Single, with a dependent child or children||$612.00||$1,164.84|
|Partnered||$510.80 each||$993.50 each|
If you're still not sure you are under the threshold, take the Centrelink quiz to see if you're eligible.
What is the Coronavirus Supplement?
The Coronavirus Supplement is intended to provide additional support for Australians who are suffering financially as a result of the coronavirus. Basically, it's an extra $550 fortnightly payment that will be added to existing welfare payments from the 27th of April.
It applies to recipients of the following benefits:
- JobSeeker Payment
- Sickness Allowance
- Youth Allowance for jobseekers
- Parenting Payment Partnered
- Parenting Payment Single
- Partner Allowance
- Sickness Allowance
- Farm Household Allowance
What do I need to do to access the Coronavirus Supplement?
If you're on an eligible welfare program already, you won't have to do anything to get the Coronavirus Supplement. It will be automatically added to your payments from the 27th of April.
To apply for welfare, you can use MyGov via a Centrelink account or contact Services Australia to find out more information.
Accessing your superannuation early: what you should know
On 22 March 2020, the government announced that individuals in financial stress as a result of COVID-19 will be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in the 2019/20 financial year and a further $10,000 in 2020/21. These super withdrawals will be tax free.
In order to access your super early, you have to meet at least one of the following criteria:
- You are unemployed.
- You're eligible for certain welfare programs, including Jobseeker payments, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, or Farm Household Allowance.
- You've been made redundant or had your hours reduced by 20% since 1 January 2020.
- You're a sole trader and you've had to pause your business or seen your turnover drop by 20% since 1 January 2020.
Those who meet one of these requirements can access up to $10,000 from their super starting on 20 April til 1 July 2020. A further $10,000 will be available to access from 1 July until 20 September 2020.
Should I withdraw from my super early?
For those in severe financial difficulty, it can be tempting to withdraw some of your super now to pay urgent bills or other critical life costs. However, there are a couple of things to consider:
- Impact on retirement. Any money you withdraw now won't be available at retirement. Funds in your super are invested and will probably have grown in the future, so you're not just taking $10,000 from your retirement, but potentially $100,000.
- Low markets. Right now, stocks have crashed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Withdrawing your funds at present will mean that you're freezing those losses in for the long term.
For more information on what's involved and possible alternatives, see our guide to early super access during the coronavirus outbreak.
Am I eligible for support if I'm a student?
Yes. Full-time students who are 24 or younger are eligible for Youth Allowance, while those who are older than 24 can access Austudy payments.
Students on Youth Allowance will be further eligible for the ongoing $550 a fortnight Coronavirus Supplement boost from 27 April 2020. Students may also be eligible for the first Economic Support payment, paid by the 17 April 2020. Eligible payments will be made directly to your nominated bank account.
If you're an international student studying in Australia, you're unlikely to be eligible for government support if you're still within your first 12 months in the country. This is because it's already a requirement that international students are able to financially support themselves for at least 12 months after arriving in Australia.
Am I eligible for support if I'm under 22?
Potentially. While the Jobseeker payment is only available for those over the age of 22, people aged 16 - 21 who are looking for work might be able to access Youth Allowance. People aged 16 - 24 who are studying full time or doing a full time Australian Apprenticeship may also be eligible for Youth Allowance as a student. If you are on Youth Allowance, you will be eligible for the ongoing $550 a fortnight Coronavirus Supplement boost from 27 April 2020.
However, if you're living with your parents or other guardians and are under 22 years old, you will be assessed as either financially dependent or independent, which can impact your payments. If you're classified as financially dependent, then your ability to access payments will depend on your parent's income.
You are considered as a dependent unless you meet certain criteria, including:
- Showing you support yourself through work.
- Being in a registered relationship, or having a dependent child of your own.
- Being unable to live at home or having parents who can't look after you.
- Being a job seeker who is assessed as being unable to work over 30 hours a week.
More details, including the full criteria for independence, can be found on the Services Australia page. If you are judged to be dependent, your payments and eligibility will depend on your guardians' incomes.
What if I lose my job but my partner is still employed?
If you have lost your job, but your partner is still employed, you might be eligible for JobSeeker payments if your partner earns under $993.50 a fortnight. From 27 April 2020, the amount your partner can earn before your payment is cancelled will be temporarily increased to $3,086.80 (before tax) each fortnight. Any income you earn could also affect your payment.
On top of that, you may also be eligible for the extra $550 a fortnight in the Coronavirus Supplement, which is applied automatically to anyone who's on welfare payments and out of work due to the virus. If you have any children or dependents, you may also be eligible for family payments.
Take the Centrelink quiz to get an idea of what you're eligible for. If you get your application started online, your Jobseeker payments will be backdated to when you first began your application.
Do I need to be a resident to be eligible for welfare payments?
In ordinary circumstances, yes. However, temporary visa holders may be eligible for payments depending on your current situaion. For example, the Australian gov website says that they look at all of the following when deciding:
where you live and who you live with if you have family in Australia or overseas your employment, business or financial ties in Australia and overseas your assets in Australia and overseas how often and how long you travel outside Australia anything else we think is relevant.
Current travel restrictions mean that many visa holders couldn't leave Australia, meaning they're effectively stranded here for the time being, with many out of work. If you're in that situation, there might be some exceptions made to include you. Unfortunately, it's impossible to give a definite answer as applications are being considered on a case by case basis. However, you should get in touch with Centrelink as soon as possible and explain your financial situation.
Need some extra help saving money?
If you're trying to build up your emergency savings at the moment, opening a high interest savings account could help. A high interest savings account makes your money work harder by paying a higher rate of interest on each dollar you save. Plus, you'll benefit from compound interest (so even your interest will earn interest). The AMP Saver account currently offers a market-leading savings rate of 1% p.a. for the first months, with no fees to pay or deposit conditions to meet.
How to request financial hardship for your bills
Many services, from broadband to energy providers to banks, have financial hardship systems in place for customers who are struggling to pay their bills. Given the huge economic impact of the coronavirus, these programs are more important than ever.
Usually, to access financial hardship measures, you simply need to contact the relevant provider and state you're having financial difficulty. For a list of special financial hardship measures and help available as a result of the coronavirus, see our regularly updated guide here.
Can income protection help me?
Income protection insurance is designed to pay you a regular income for a particular period of time over which you're unable to work due to disability or illness. While it can be extremely helpful for full-time employees who are affected by the coronavirus, it's much less useful for casual workers.
This is because casual workers aren't eligible for standard income protection policies, but also because you won't be able to access any of the expanded welfare benefits outlined in this article if you're receiving income protection payments. It's entirely possible that welfare will benefit you more than income protection would.
Help you can access if you are exposed to coronavirus
If you're exposed to coronavirus as a result of your work, you may be able to access the following services:
- Workers compensation: In order to be eligible for workers compensation, you'll need to prove that the virus was contracted directly from your workplace or due to your working conditions and that significant measures were not in place to protect you from this. Workers compensation is handled by individual states and territories, you can find more information here.
- Government stimulus package: At the moment, the Government has a stimulus package but it only works for those who have been directly impacted by coronavirus, not those workplaces that might temporarily shut down as a result of coronavirus, such as a cafe or clothing store. The Federal Government has announced a large stimulus package that includes a one-off $750 cash payment to people already on Centrelink benefits. However you have to already be on these payments to receive it, which means you probably are already unemployed or working reduced hours.
- State stimulus packages: WA recently announced a $607 million stimulus package which will freeze household fees until the next financial year (June 30, 2021). Western Australians will still have to pay their bills, but there will be no increases in line with inflation, as was originally intended. Tasmania has also announced that it will provide one-off emergency relief payments for casual workers and those on low incomes of $250 for individuals, as well as $1,000 for families forced to self-isolate. It's expected that more states will announce state stimulus packages which you might be able to benefit from.
What are my rights as a casual worker?
As it stands, casual workers are not currently entitled to paid sick leave in Australia under the National Employment Standards. This means that if you're not able to work due to coronavirus or because you're required to self-isolate, you won't be entitled to paid leave in the way part time or full time workers are.
If an employer enforces isolation or closes the business, casual workers are still not entitled to paid leave. At the moment, your best option is to speak to your employer and see if you can come to an agreement about paid leave should they need to temporarily shut down. They might be able to keep you on the books if they are eligible for the JobKeeper payments of $1,500/fortnight.
Remember that if you are dismissed and you feel it is harsh, unjust or unreasonable, you are protected by the Fair Work Act and can lodge a complaint.
What other steps can you take to protect yourself?
If you are anticipating that your income is going to be severely reduced you should plan ahead. Here are some helpful tips:
- Cut down on excess spending. Eating out, buying things you don't absolutely need. It's a good idea to put money into an emergency fund. If you need help tracking your money and maximising your savings, consider using the Finder app.
- Look at income protection if you don't already have it. Speak to an advisor about your options and check your superannuation.
- Contact your utilities and providers. Ask them about financial hardship plans, bill freezing or pausing. If you have insurance, many providers will allow you to temporarily pause your premiums if you can't afford them but still cover you.
- See which expenses you can reduce quickly. Is there anything you don't need? Something you could sell? If so, it might be worth doing.
- Look for alternative work. If you have lost your job or have had shifts cut you might consider finding work in a new industry that has been less impacted by the pandemic. For instance, Coles has announced the creation of 5000 new casual roles to cope with increased demand. Telstra has also signalled that will hire an additional 1000 temporary staff in their call centres. The NSW Government also announced $250 million for public schools and state-owned buildings to employ more cleaners, with $750 million to be spent on capital works and maintenance of public assets as well.
What if you already have credit card debt?
If you're worried about your ability to pay your monthly credit card payments, it might be worth looking into a balance transfer credit card. This type of card charges 0% of interest for a certain period of time (anywhere between 6 months to 26 months depending on the card). Not paying interest on your card could help while you get back on your feet.
Avoid payday loans
Try to steer clear of taking out payday loans or cash advances. While easy to get, these loans are incredibly expensive and will end up costing you far more than the original sum you borrowed. If you're stretched financially, you might want to consider these alternatives to payday loans.
If you do take out a loan, your best option might be a no interest loan scheme (NILs), which is managed by Good Shepherd Microfinance, a community organisation. This lets you apply for a loan for up to $1,200 and gives you 12 to 18 months to pay back.
Take care of your mental health
There is a lot of stress and anxiety in the world right now and that can be made worse if you're struggling financially. It's important to know where to get help if you're finding it hard to cope.
If you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, try reaching out to Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. You can speak with trained mental health professionals over the phone or through the online forum. Their website also contains excellent information and tools for maintaining good mental health.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or severe emotional distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. They are a 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention network.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000 to get help from emergency services as soon as possible.
Need to find some quick savings?
It's a pretty uncertain and scary time right now and being in financial stress can make it all the worse. If you're struggling to keep up with your finances, there are ways you can make some quick savings to relieve the burden. Maybe switching credit cards or downgrading your mobile phone plan could help you save some money.
Managing your daily finances can help you get through this difficult time - you'll be glad you did it.
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