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Redundancy and unemployment insurance

Most providers no longer offer unemployment insurance in Australia if you're made redundant or lose your job. You do have some other options though.

What you need to know

  • Redundancy insurance is an uncommon type of cover that pays out if you are made redundant.
  • Most insurers do not offer it or pay out income protection benefits if you become unemployed.
  • The Aussie government has some schemes that might help if you get the redundancy news.

What is redundancy insurance?

Redundancy insurance is an add-on that you can get on some income protection policies, that offer a extra benefit if you're made involuntarily redundant. The reason it exists is because income protection policies typically don't cover unemployment of any type. They only cover loss of income due to illness or injury for the most part.

There are some other quirks about redundancy insurance though, including these:

  • It's pretty hard to find, with most insurers not offering it at all.
  • You'll never find cover for voluntary redundancy - only involuntary.
  • If it is available as an add-on, it will increase your premiums.
  • Depending on your job and the market, the difference to your premium could range pretty wildly.

Does Australia have unemployment insurance?

No, Australia doesn't have what other countries refer to as unemployment insurance. These schemes are typically run by the government, where premiums are collected from companies or paychecks to pay for unemployment benefits. It can get messy - some schemes require you to be in the workforce for a minimum amount to time, or to have contributed a minimum amount via premiums to be eligible, which can leave people without benefits when they're left without a job.

Instead, Australia funds it social security through income taxes, which makes them much more flexible to individuals. They're far from perfect, everyone seems to agree on that! But compared to other countries, the Aussie system is a lot easier to navigate.

What will happen if I am made redundant?

If you're made redundant and you don't have an income policy that will pay out, what happens will depend on your circumstances.

Notice period: If you're employed on a permanent contract (ie not casual) you should be paid for your notice period. There are minimum notice periods set by the National Employment Standards - the exact period depends on your age and how long you've been at the company. They range from 1 week to 4 weeks.

Redundancy pay: If you've been with a company for at least a year, then you should be eligible for redundancy pay. This ranges from 4 weeks to 16 weeks, again depending on your term of service. There are some weird exceptions to this, including if you're employed by a small business, so don't bank on this because smooth sailing.

Pausing your premiums: The one favour you might be able to get from your income protection insurance company is a pause in your premiums. Once you've found out about your redundancy, give your insurer a call. Even if they don't cover your unemployment, they should offer you the chance to pause your premiums or suspend your cover if you can't afford them while you're unemployed. Just be sure to resume your cover once you've found a new gig.

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