Resources for the Retrenched


Finding that you no longer have a job is stressful.

Although every situation is different, it’s never easy.

With the economic downturn and with fewer new jobs being created, retrenchment is both a shock when it happens and something to fear for the future.

OK, so now you’ve got your notification, you’ve collected your few personal effects from the office or factory and you’re sitting at home, wondering.

The first few days, you’ll be angry and dismayed; you never saw it coming.

The facts are important at this time. So first check to see what your entitlements should be. Don’t blindly accept what your employer hands you.

redundancy entitlements

The award or workplace agreement you’ve been employed under should cover what redundancy entitlements are yours. Redundancy payments vary according length of employment and your age, where the prospect of finding another job is less. In Australia, the income tax on redundancy payments is reduced. Make sure you’ve not only been paid the correct gross amount but also been taxed appropriately.

your legal rights

So, you’ve just received your payout advice but you think it’s wrong. What do you do next?

Again, this is where the facts are important. When in this situation a few years ago, what my employer offered me was not what the award stated. I contacted the Workplace Authority, who confirmed my misgivings.

They recommended I first discuss it with my ex-employer. But they refused to acknowledge the authority of the Authority! I took my case to the Workplace Ombudsman. But it probably isn’t worth going beyond that as the cost of recovery is greater than the compensation. Situations vary according to whether you’re laid off or made redundant and even the size of the company. But other actions that can affect a potential payout are:

  • You were told your position was made redundant but that was not true; someone else was employed to do your work or remaining staff were allocated your tasks.
  • You were made redundant but there was an unfair selection process and/or no consultation.
  • You were not paid a fair redundancy payment.

Check what the current legislation is at the time of your dismissal. And seek advice from available employee support services.


Beyond your redundancy, you might not have money in the bank to pay rent, home loan repayments and household expenses. Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to government income-support but generally the threshold is quite low.

Factors affecting payment start with your partner’s income. Even if you don’t qualify, government agencies still offer help, even to training and support to start up your own business (using your redundancy payment).

watch your language!

Words are powerful. Be careful what you say, or what others say. It can reflect anything from negative attitudes to outright prejudice.

While packing my things in the office after getting axed, I heard a colleague confide to a workmate that I was made “redundant.” This was not true.

It’s a matter of syntax: a role is made redundant—a person is retrenched. You were not made redundant; the role was.

And despite how you might feel, you are not the role. You are a person with worthwhile skills and future value.

the job hunt

Once you’ve recovered from the initial blow of unemployment, what next?

Your options include:

  • finding another job;
  • starting your own business;
  • taking an extended holiday;
  • throwing in the towel and moving to a sunnier clime;
  • watching TV.

I’ll assume the first.

You can begin by looking through the employment ads of your newspaper but this is time consuming and, besides, these days there are numerous online agencies that do the work for you.

They cover the same companies as advertise in the traditional ways but provide job matching as well job-alert emails of potential opportunities. The main ones are Seek, MyCareer and CareerOne.

Or you might prefer sites that pull in job ads from all the main sites, such as Job Search and JobSeeker.

Check the classified ads in local community newspapers; they’re unlikely to be listed on the internet and if you snag one, it’s going to be convenient.

Personal networking and recommendation is key, particularly in rural areas where jobs aren’t always advertised. It’s called the grapevine! Let people know you are job hunting.

I was open about losing my job, saying I’d been retrenched and was looking for my next career challenge. In my view, there was no shame in losing my job—it’s the times we live in.

Personal networking is about communication and building relationships.

Think of it this way: you have a set of skills and experience that someone somewhere needs. So contact potential employers in person, by phone, email or letter. Let them know you’re available and what your skill set consists of. Paint your conversation in terms of what’s in it for them. And if they cannot help you, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral to people or businesses who can.

I live in a small rural community; my past three jobs have all come as a result of talking to people—two weren’t even advertised. I’ve also generated three freelance opportunities, all the result of networking support According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, being dismissed from a job is the eighth most stressful life event of 43 they studied. Retrenchment is major loss in a person’s life and with any such loss comes grief. While everyone grieves differently, there are five common stages experienced by most people: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When dealing with retrenchment and its collateral emotional damage, go easy on yourself. Allow time to process and grieve, as you’ll need to.

Seeking support is a positive and important step. While family might be a ready source of support, they are also processing an altered situation—a reduced household income, reduced security and increased stress.

Counselling can be important, so if it’s offered as part of your redundancy package, accept it. Your reduced income means seeing a professional isn’t an option anyway. However, a sympathetic ear can be found at no- or lowcost through community organisations.

Your local church group may also offer practical assistance and support, or even a job. Pray also for God to guide you to the job that’s just right for you.

Remember to keep the loss of your job in perspective: it is neither life threatening nor a full stop. Rather, it is a comma in the story of your life and often the cause of new, unimaginable opportunities that you’d never have experiences if you’d stayed in your comfort zone. Use it as a plus in your life, a space to pause and take a breath before continuing your journey.

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