Managing the impact of unemployment on the whole family

Redundancy, dismissal or voluntary job loss

Being out of work for any reason can be daunting. However, the circumstances in which you became unemployed will affect both your emotional response and the practical steps you need to take.

Preparing to job-search

It’s vital to make a plan to help narrow your search and make the most effective use of your time:

Redundancy

Whether anticipated or not, redundancy can be a shock, especially if the person feels they have been doing a good job. It’s normal to feel angry, worried about your job prospects and concerned about financial security. But it is important to recognize that redundancy is not necessarily a reflection on you: downsizing and restructuring happen from time to time. Don’t feel embarrassed about the redundancy either, as this can prevent you from keeping in touch with colleagues and industry contacts who could help you with your job search.

If you have any concerns about redundancy processes and packages, you can check the Fair Work Commission website for further information.

Dismissal

Involuntary dismissal can come about in a range of circumstances.

If you feel that your dismissal was reasonable, it may be helpful to review the issues you faced in the job and think of ways to address them in order to prevent them arising in the future. Be honest with yourself and seek the support of family and friends.

If you feel that you have been unfairly dismissed you may want to consider contacting the Fair Work Ombudsman. Any application must be made within 21 days of the dismissal taking effect. For further information visit the Fair Work Commission website.

Voluntary job loss

There are many reasons why people become voluntarily unemployed, including temporary or seasonal work ending, job dissatisfaction or health issues. People experiencing voluntary job loss are usually (but not always) less likely to experience the stress and mental health issues associated with unemployment. But they may still face significant financial worries and need help to get back into work.

Securing your finances

It’s normal to be worried about your financial situation after a job loss, but by making plans early on you can reduce stress for you and your family. Cutting down on your spending is usually a good idea and you should make sure that you’re accessing any support you’re entitled to such as the Newstart Allowance. But remember, if you’ve received a redundancy or leave payment this could affect your eligibility.

Some banks and financial institutions allow mortgage payments to be suspended for up to 12 months due to unemployment. Contact your lender for further information. You may also want to consider looking for contractor temporary work to boost your finances while you search for something more permanent.

Staying positive after job loss

It is normal for job loss to provoke feelings of stress and anxiety. Sometimes people can experience lowered self-esteem or a loss of identity. These feelings can make your search for a new job more difficult.

  • Allow yourself some time to feel sad or upset about your job loss and, if you can, talk through your feelings with friends or family members. Maybe visit a counselling service.
  • When thinking about your previous employment try concentrating on the positive things you’retaking away from the job. This will help disperse any resentment and shift your thinking to the future and not the past.
  • Try to see your job loss as an opportunity to take control of your life – perhaps you can find a new job which is more in-line with your career ambitions or better suits your lifestyle.
  • When worries or problems arise, seek the support of family members to resolve them together, reducing the risk.

Planning for your future career

Take some time to consider your options. Is this an opportunity to try something new? This is particularly important if you were in an industry which is in decline, or if you left your previous employment for work-related reasons. Are your skills and experience transferable to another industry? The myfuture website is a useful source of information and ideas for career planning. Next, make a plan for how you will find and apply for the roles you want. You may want to:

  • Get some tips for your new job search
  • Update your resume as soon as possible
  • Brush up on your interview skills

How unemployment can impact the whole family

Unemployment and financial instability not only impact on the individual but have wider implications for the whole family. Stress, uncertainty and financial worry can all be harmful to both couples and families, sometimes even leading to relationship breakdown. Yet, it is during periods of stress and worry, such as unemployment, that we are most in need of support from our partners and families. If you are facing unemployment or are currently out of work, it’s a good idea to be prepared and think about ways to maintain strong relationships and stay positive together.

Tips for maintaining good family relations

With a partner:

  • Take time as soon as possible to discuss the situation with your partner and agree on ways to cope with any financial difficulties you may face (Also see Living on a Budget and Eating Healthily on a Budget). It is also strongly advised that you acknowledge the period of potential stress that you’re facing and, as a couple, try to come up with strategies for how best to defuse conflicts that may arise as a result of unemployment stress.
  • Throughout the period of unemployment it is important to keep communicating as openly as possible. Research shows that a supportive, communicative relationship is an important protective factor against depression and other mental health disorders linked to unemployment.
  • Sometimes the unemployed partner may have feelings of guilt or self-blame associated with their joblessness. Try to foster a sense of mutual responsibility and accountability for making things work.
  • When times get tough, couples can help each other to focus on the positives. Try to help one another identify what makes things good on some days and less so on others. Plan ways together to maximise ‘good days’ by replicating positive, everyday activities or experiences, e.g. getting up at the same time and having breakfast together.
  • Set aside some time to do activities as a couple that you both enjoy, like going for a swim. Lots of ideas for cheap or free activities can be found on the internet.

With children:

  • Be as open as you can about your situation, keeping communication optimistic, but realistic.
  • Prepare children for any change in circumstances that impacts on family routine, e.g. one parent is at home more often. As far as possible, try to keep up family routines to maintain structure and stability, especially for young children.
  • If young children become aware that there is a ‘problem’, but are unable to understand the cause, they may feel responsible, so be prepared to explain explicitly that it is not their fault.
  • Set aside some time to do fun activities with the whole family.
  • Taking a proactive, problem-solving approach to the challenges of unemployment and financial insecurity can help to reduce negative impacts on the individual and the family. With older children, consider sitting down together to discuss and make plans based on your new financial realities, e.g. explain that there’s less money available for a holiday this year and brainstorm alternative ideas and suggestions together – this may even be a fun activity in itself!

Accessing further support

If you feel that unemployment is negatively affecting your relationship with your partner or your family, you may want to consider getting professional support such as family or couples counselling available through The Salvation Army.

There are a number of sources of support which you can tap into to help your job search.

  • If you’re being made redundant, check whether outplacement support is being offered. This will give you access to information about industry trends, future career advice and help to up date your resume.
  • Register with Centrelink – this will allow you to access a jobactive provider such as Employment Plus. Providers give tailored support to help people gain sustainable employment. This may include help with preparing a resume, job search tips, access to resources such as phones and the internet, and access to vacancy listings.
  • Keep in touch with former colleagues and other work contacts to make sure you hear about opportunities as they arise.

Key points

  • Most Australians will experience job loss at some point, but it can leave you feeling angry and worried about your future and your finances.
  • Take the time to consider your career options and make a plan about how you’ll move forwards. You may need to brush up on your job search skills and get help updating your resume.
  • As you don’t know how long you’ll be out of work, it’s a good idea to look into obtaining income support and make financial contingency plans.
  • The stress and worry associated with unemployment can create conflict between couples and in the family setting, negatively impacting on relationships and children’s well-being.
  • Maintaining good communications, setting aside time for fun activities and planning together strategies for dealing with problems that arise can help to prevent relationship and family breakdown.
  • Couples and families may want to access additional support such as counselling during particularly difficult times.


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