Information for job seekers and employers during the pandemic

IMPORTANT NOTE: At Work45+ we aim to give you up-to-date, accurate information related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, but it’s essential you check official sources before taking action. These include australia.gov.au, coronavirus.tas.gov.au, Business Tasmania, and the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

Please note: additional information related to coronavirus (COVID-19) may appear in the section of Work45+ called “In the news“.

This page covers the following topics and changes due to coronavirus (COVID-19):

Background

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency started to have an impact on the Tasmanian economy in January 2019, with a crash in lobster sales to China, where the virus first came to public attention.

Since then the virus has spread around the world and governments have brought in restrictions to manage its impact.

Because of this, some important Tasmanian industries that were expected to grow in 2020 have retrenched or stood down staff.  Self-employed workers have also been hit hard.

More Tasmanians are out of work now than in 2019, including people over 45. Even so, some businesses have been able to keep staff on, and a few are looking for more workers to cope with changes in demand for their products or services.

This part of Work45+ is all about the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency. It aims to keep you up to date with related changes to health and safety, the jobs market and financial supports, for as long as the emergency lasts.

We must keep 1.5 metres from other people and wash our hands often

Whether you are looking for work or still have a job, you should follow the guidelines outlined in the State Government’s Roadmap to Recovery, which you can find here. This explains when some restrictions associated with the COVID-19 emergency are being relaxed, subject to advice from Public Health.

Importantly, you should still practice physical distancing and good hygiene:

  • stay at least 1.5 metres away from anyone who is not part of your household
  • wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water
  • only cough or sneeze into your elbow, or into a tissue that you immediately put in the bin
  • comply with restrictions on gatherings of individuals, customers, clients, staff and volunteers.

You can find more information about stopping the spread here, physical distancing here, hygiene here and gatherings here.

WorkSafe has issued instructions for employers

Key directions from WorkSafe for employers include the following:

  • Keep up to date with Public Health Services advice on controls to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including any restrictions on normal business activities.
  • If there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your place of business, you should seek immediate advice from Public Health Services.
  • If Public Health Services becomes aware of a positive diagnosis, it has procedures in place to track the movements of the person and will give advice on what action should be taken.
  • Current legislative requirements remain in force; however, if you are unable to meet your regulatory obligations because of COVID-19 then WorkSafe will take a reasonable and proportionate response.
  • To comply with new minimum standards, employers must complete a COVID-19 safety plan and/or checklist. Guidelines and templates are available here.

You can read more WorkSafe advice here.

Volunteers Tasmania has issued a guide for volunteering safely

Volunteers Tasmania has developed a comprehensive guide for volunteering safely during the COVID-19 emergency. It is a valuable resource for both organisations that involve volunteers and volunteers themselves.

Advice has been updated for people at high risk of severe illness, including workers over 70

Recommendations for people at high risk of severe COVID-19 infections have been updated. People at high risk are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • People 65 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • People 70 years and older
  • People with compromised immune systems.

Some medical conditions and procedures increase risk. People in this category include those who:

  • have had an organ transplant and are on immune suppressive therapy
  • have had a bone marrow transplant in the last 24 months or are on immune suppressive therapy for graft versus host disease
  • have blood cancer, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myelodysplastic syndrome (diagnosed within the last five years)
  • are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

People at high risk are encouraged to talk to their GP about how to stay safe.

People at high risk can still work or volunteer, particularly where there are few or no local cases.

Some work settings may place employees at higher risk of COVID-19, either through:

• potential exposure to infected people, such as in health or aged care settings
• working conditions where physical distancing is difficult (e.g. working in the disability or aged care sector)
• work with multiple face-to-face interactions with others
• working in a setting associated with increased transmission of the virus (e.g. meat processing)
• are longer (the risk for exposure and transmission increases with time)

For employers, more information is available from the Department of Health’s Information for Employers and Safe Work Australia’s COVID-19 Information for workplaces.

Workers with increased risk could consider developing an individual workplace risk management plan with their employer. The plan should be specific to them, their work and their workplace and the number of cases in the community.

For more information on how to make safe decisions, consider reading Living Well in the COVID-19 Pandemic, and filling in a COVID-19 Action Plan, perhaps in consultation with your GP.

For GPs, a guide to inform shared decision making with patients around the risk of severe illness related to COVID-19 is available here.

Staying connected to others is important for job seekers, businesses and mental health

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, try to stay connected to others. If we keep in touch with other job seekers, workers, businesses, employment service providers, training organisations, recruiters and communities, we can use this time to build skills, improve business knowledge and expand networks for when things improve.

There is help available if you feel you can’t cope

If you ever feel like you’re not coping, reach out to Beyond Blue’s COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service or give them a ring on 1300 22 4636. Beyond Blue phone operators recognise and understand the feelings of anxiety, distress and concern you may have about the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency.

During the COVID-19 emergency and recovery, Lifeline’s usual number – 13 11 14 – will continue to offer support for people with ongoing mental health issues, including people having suicidal thoughts. However, if you are experiencing psychological stress, people who answer your call at Lifeline’s new Tasmanian COVID-19 service – 1800 98 44 34 – can offer you specialised support. Psychological stress is not a mental illness but a normal response to something that is frightening, confusing or upsetting.

Another excellent option is industry-specific mental health services such as the Talk to a Mate helpline (1300 4357 6283) for rural communities and the seafood industry.

Ahead for Business is another important sector-specific support service. It’s dedicated to helping small business stay mentally healthy. It has information and resources for owners, resources for others you may be concerned about, and a whole section on COVID-19.

Anyone who needs help because they are drinking or smoking more can call support services any time:

  • National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline 1800 250 015
  • Alcohol and Drug Information Service on 1800 811 994
  • Family Drug Support 1300 368 186
  • A Tasmania Lifeline 1800 98 44 34

You can also access the Tasmanian Alcohol and Drug Services on 1300 139 641

A full list of alcohol and other drugs services across Tasmania is available from the Primary Health Tasmania Health Directory Tasmanian Health Directory – Primary Health Tasmania and from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council Tasmania website ATDC – Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council Tasmania

And an important reminder that 10 September is RUOK? Day. If you are concerned that someone you know might be thinking about ending their life, research shows it helps to talk about it. In the words of RUOK?, “A conversation could change a life.”

Education can be a form of self-help

As part of its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, the University of Tasmania is offering a  Wellbeing Toolkit, which includes short courses in mental health and resilience. The courses are free to Tasmanian students and are delivered entirely online.

Some industries have lost jobs, but others are looking for staff

The jobs market has changed because of restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Among the first industries in Tasmania to lose jobs were:

  • wild catch exporters and, later, fishing businesses, including processors, selling to Australian restaurants, pubs, clubs and Chinatowns
  • hospitality and tourism, including tours, accommodation, restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs
  • arts and recreation, including museums
  • entertainment, including music, theatre, cinemas and spectator sports
  • many retailers and other small businesses.

Airlines across Australia have stood down thousands of staff, while universities are concerned about the staffing impacts of likely falls in international students in second semester 2020.

However, changing demand for goods and services during the emergency means other industries may now need more staff or have staffing shortfalls. These include:

  • health and related services
  • transport and logistics
  • supermarkets and grocery stores
  • agriculture.

To date, some other industries appear to have been partially insulated. Others, such as housing construction, have received stimulus from governments.

The Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment is conducting a survey of businesses to measure the impact of COVID-19. Data is collected on staffing changes, business impacts, actions taken by businesses in response to the emergency, and future expectations. You can find results related to industry staffing expectations in the Australian Government’s Labour Market Information Portal here. Of note, occupations seeking employees have changed over time, as evident in the following quote from the survey factsheet for 7 April to 17 July:

“In April, two of the top four occupations in demand were health related (Registered Nurses, and Aged and Disabled Carers). Enrolled and Mothercraft Nurses and Pharmacy Sales Assistants were also in high demand. By June, the top occupations in demand were more in line with the workers needed by the businesses able to re-open after the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions across the majority of the country. For example, Retail Sales Assistants and Child Carers were the top two occupations in demand. Receptionists, Managers and Sales Representatives were also among the top ten occupations in demand in June.”

Of course, these trends were unlikely to have been seen in Victoria, which was facing more rather than less severe restrictions by July.

The National Skills Commission Taskforce is undertaking research to identify where job opportunities continue to exist in the Australian labour market despite the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. It is called the “Jobs in demand employer survey”, and regular updates are also available in the Labour Market Information Portal.

Governments and educators are boosting programs to help you change career and train

The Tasmanian and Australian governments are keen for people who have lost work due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency to find new careers or take up training. If this sounds like you, check out the new or boosted government support below. This information is mostly in addition to the “Career planning” and “Education and training” sections of Work45+, so don’t forget to look there as well.

TasTAFE has brought together online short courses and “skill sets” to help you prepare to re-enter the workforce or change career when the economy starts to recover from COVID-19. SKILL UP options, most of which have no fees, will help you quickly upskill, reskill or gain new skills. You’ll be able to get credit for the units you finish, so you can continue on to a full qualification at the start of 2021 if you want to.

The Commonwealth Government’s “What’s next?” online resource has information for people who have recently been retrenched.

Changing career

If you’ve lost your job in one of the industries that have cut staff because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, think about skills you already have that would make you suitable for a different career. For example, if you have worked in hospitality or tourism, your skills in customer service, tour guiding, cleaning or stock management might make you suitable for one of the following jobs:

  • supermarket checkout operator
  • pharmacy sales assistant
  • shelf filler
  • commercial cleaner
  • food and drink factory worker
  • storeperson
  • truck driver or packer.

The Australian Government’s new Skills Match facility can help you identify skills you may already have and other jobs that might value them. See also Work45+‘s information on transferable skills in our section on writing a resume. Once you’ve done this, you can search for job ads in these industries on the new  Jobs Hub.

The Tasmanian Government’s Rapid Response Skills Initiative can also help you change career. It has been boosted to support people who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency. It can give you career advice and support training up to the value of $3,000 if you are no longer working for one of the following reasons:

  • you’ve been made redundant
  • the place you worked has closed
  • your employer has had to let staff go.

The initiative includes a new Rapid Response Skills Matching Service provided in partnership with Searson Buck.

Higher education

To help those affected by COVID-19, the Federal Government is funding a new series of certificates at UTas. As part of the Higher Education Relief Package, the government has significantly discounted student fees for studies undertaken for six months from May 2020. Students may be eligible to defer their student fees under the HECS-HELP loan scheme. You can find out what’s on offer here.

In second semester 2020, in response to the economic impact of COVID-19, the University of Tasmania is offering a Graduate Certificate in Business or Tourism worth thousands of dollars free to Tasmanians. You can find out more about these courses here. Subject areas are:

  • nursing
  • education
  • university preparation
  • health
  • engineering
  • natural and physical sciences
  • agriculture and environment
  • business and management.
Apprenticeships and traineeships

In July 2020 the Australian Government announced a new scheme called JobTrainer. In partnership with the State Government, this program will help job seekers have access to free, or low cost, training places in areas of identified skills needs. We will provide more information when it becomes available.

The Australian and Tasmanian governments are helping eligible businesses that employ apprentices and trainees. This is outlined in a later section of this web page.

You can find more information about education and training here.

Financial assistance for job seekers has increased for six months

A temporary Coronavirus Supplement was announced on 22 March 2020. The supplement is paid to eligible job seekers and also workers who have been stood down, on top of their JobSeeker Payment (formerly called Newstart). The payment will continue after September but at a reduced rate. You can find out more about the Coronavirus Supplement and other payments here.

Access to the JobSeeker Payment was also expanded in March. You can find out more in the fact sheet called “Income Support for Individuals” available here and by visiting the Services Australia website here.

If you are currently registered with an employment services provider, you can get information about changes here.

Some of the changed conditions may change again in September.

If you have just registered as a job seeker, you can find out more about employment services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency here.

Businesses can get support to employ and train staff, apprentices and trainees

Eligible businesses impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency can get a JobKeeper subsidy from the Australian Government to continue paying their staff. Affected employers can claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum of six months. The JobKeeper Payment is also available to eligible self-employed people. The JobKeeper payment will continue after September but at a reduced rate. You can find out more about these changes here.

This assistance is to help businesses keep people in their jobs and re-start when the emergency is over. For employees, it means you can keep your job and earn an income even if your hours have been cut or you have been stood down.

JobKeeper payments are taxable income and you must declare your JobKeeper Payment as income if you receive or apply for payments from Services Australia.

Employers and employees can find out more about the JobKeeper Payment here, including criteria for businesses to be eligible.

Stood-down staff whose employers are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment may still be eligible for the JobSeeker payment. You can find out more in the fact sheet called “Income Support for Individuals” here and by visiting the Services Australia website here.

In other news for employers:

  • The Australian Government has introduced a subsidy to help eligible businesses keep employing apprentices and trainees. You can find out if you are eligible here.
  • The Tasmanian Government has brought forward funding for the Targeted Small Business Grant program, which provides a $5,000 grant for businesses that hire an apprentice or trainee in the tourism, hospitality, building and construction, and manufacturing industries. You can find out more here.
  • The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) had been funded by the Tasmanian Government to give free advice to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 to manage their industrial relations obligations. You can find out more here.
  • During the COVID-19 emergency the Tasmanian Hospitality Association is providing information about employment relations free to all hospitality businesses and enterprises around Tasmania. You can contact its Employment Relations Specialist, Merv Saltmarsh, on 0407 869 924 or email merv@tha.asn.au. More information from the THA is available here.
  • Business Tasmania has a handy list of COVID-19 Business Support, Grants and Loans here. It includes information on a stimulus package for the culture and creative industries, and business vehicle registration savings and deferrals.

More information for employers is available from Business Tasmania, the TCCI, and the Fairwork Ombudsman.

Partners in Change has produced a guide for businesses making decisions about staff during the COVID-19 emergency. Partners in Change is a Trans-Tasman consulting business led by Geoff Pearman that focuses on age and work.