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Coronavirus: How to get help if you’re a casual worker

Casual workers could be hit hardest by closures and sick leave. But there are ways to get help.

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.

What can I do if I lose my job or have my shifts cut?

If you lose your job or your shifts get reduced as a result of coronavirus, you have a few options.

Talk to your employer

With the government wage subsidy scheme supporting Kiwi businesses, your employer may be able to keep you connected to your job.

You can request financial support for your bills

If you’ve lost your job or had your shifts cut, you’re understandably going to be more stressed about money and paying bills.

If your circumstances have changed due to coronavirus and you’re struggling to support yourself, or your family you can apply for financial hardship through WINZ.

How income protection can help you if you haven’t been affected yet

Income insurance pays you a regular income for a specified period (usually between 2 and 5 years, up to a certain age) if you can’t work due to temporary disability or illness. In most cases, you won’t be eligible for a standard income protection policy if you’re a casual worker, because your job isn’t considered stable enough for insurers to cover you. However, you may be able to find:

  • Specialist income insurance. Some insurers cover casual workers, so long as you work a certain amount of hours per week and have been employed with the company for a minimum amount of time. Enlisting an insurance broker is a good idea to find an insurer who’s willing to cover you.

What are my rights as a casual worker?

If an employer enforces isolation or closes the business, casual workers are entitled to sick leave and paid leave. You must have been working for your employer for six months with for an average of 10 hours per week, and at least one hour every week, or 40 hours in every month.

Remember that if you are dismissed and you feel it is harsh, unjust or unreasonable, you are protected by the Employment Relations Act and can lodge a complaint. Check your rights around dismissal.

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.
  • 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 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, supermarkets are creating new casual roles to cope with increased demand.

Is it a good idea to take out a loan or an extra credit card?

It’s really worth avoiding this wherever possible. You might get hit with a high-interest rate and end up having to pay back considerably more than you borrowed. At the end of the day, it doesn’t ease your debts; it simply postpones paying them back, and usually at a much higher cost.

If you do take out a loan, your best option might be a no-interest loan scheme (NILs), which is managed by Good Shepherd New Zealand, a community organisation. This lets you apply for a loan for up to $1,500 and gives you 12 to 18 months to pay it back. Ngā Tangata Microfinance (NTM) is another trust that offers interest and fee-free loans.

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 end up costing you far more than the original sum you borrowed. Instant loan companies can be highly predatory and along with high-interest rates, can hit you with excessive penalties if you fail to make payments leaving you worse off in the long run.

Picture: GettyImages

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