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Managing with redundancy

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:34 UK time, Wednesday, 3 June 2009

With companies announcing job cuts on a daily basis the Welsh workforce is feeling the squeeze. The number of people out of work in Wales rose by 44% in the last year.

So if you suddenly find yourself without a job, do you know what financial help you could get?

X-Ray viewers Helen Williams and Ian Campbell have both recently been made redundant.

For the last 17 years Ian has worked for a security company. His wife only works a few hours each week, and with four children to provide for he's desperately worried about money.

"I don't get any money any more," he says. "And the money I've got is all I've got, so I have to be careful with it now."

In Wrexham, Helen Williams knows how Ian feels. She was made redundant from her job as a project manager with a pharmaceutical company. And with three year old twins to support, her husband's salary doesn't cover all the bills.

"I've lived a lifestyle up to my wage like most people do you know, and when that wage is suddenly cut from you it leaves you having to reflect a lot."

Helen and Ian both received redundancy packages from their employers, which they're now having to use to pay the bills. But what might you be entitled to?

Redundancy pay

If you've worked for your employer for more than two years, they have to give you at least the legal minimum amount of redundancy pay. And that will vary, depending on your age and how long you've worked for your company.

  • If you're under 22, it's half a week's pay for every full year you've worked there.
  • If you're aged between 22 and 40, it's a week's salary per year.
  • And if you're over 41, you get one and a half weeks pay for each year.

But by law, your employer is only obliged to pay you up to £350 per week (even if you were earning more), up to a maximum of 20 weeks pay.

And if you've spent less than two years with your employer, if you're self employed, on a casual contract or working for an agency you're not entitled to anything at all.

Paying the mortgage

Helen remembers her initial reaction to the prospect of redundancy. "As soon as I realised my job was going, it started sinking in," she says.

"The first thing I thought about was the house." Like most of us, Helen spends more on her mortgage than anything else.

Keeping the family home is Ian's priority too. "I've currently got a mortgage of roughly £1,000 a month," he says, "and I'm obviously concerned that I've got to keep those payments up. So I need to find out if there's anything I can do to reduce that?"

Can Sorcha Kennedy from the Citizens Advice Bureau offer any tips?

"Well the standard advice we'd give someone in that situation would be firstly switch to interest only", she explains.

"That's fine in the short term but long term it doesn't repay the capital on a mortgage, although it might give a bit of breathing space. If you have arrears you could also look at 'capitalising them', that is adding them to the loan and paying them off over time.

Helen and Ian could also ask their lenders for a payment holiday. There are also some mortgage rescue and government schemes that could be available but looking at Helen and Ian's situation it's unlikely that they qualify for these due to the fact that there's a redundancy lump sum payment coming in.

Credit cards and loans

After dealing with the mortgage, there are other bills to consider too. Ian is worried that at the moment, he can't pay them all.

"I've got other debt as well with credit cards and a car loan", he says. "I don't know what I can do with any unsecured debt, I could really use some advice."

CAB adviser Sorcha Kennedy suggests: "Make sure that the priority expenses are paid first, so mortgage, council tax, gas, electricity. Any credit cards or loans are classed as non priority, so the worst thing that can happen is your credit rating would be affected.

"The most important thing to take advice, to work out how much he can afford if anything and to offer reduced payments."

And Sorcha has another particularly useful tip. The CAB advises anyone who is struggling financially to keep their credit card and loan accounts in a separate bank from their current account.

"If someone is banking with someone they owe money to on a loan or a credit card, if they don't keep up the payments that bank or credit card has got the right to go into the current account and help themselves to money regardless of the client giving authority to do that.

"So it's important to protect any income which you need to pay your mortgage and priority bills."

Job Seeker's Allowance

While they look for work, both Ian and Helen are getting some financial help - but Helen is not sure if she will continue to get the same amount when her Job Seekers Allowance changes is assessed on her household income, instead of her national insurance contributions.

"I'm currently getting Job Seekers Allowance", explains Helen. "I think it's about £64 a week. Obviously I'm a little bit concerned that after signing on for six months, what will happen when it becomes means tested? I'd really like some advice on that."

Sorcha Kennedy says: "Job seekers allowance runs on for six months after which time it is dependent on circumstances.

In Helen's situation her husband works full time, so it may well mean she may not qualify for a continuation of JSA but there could be more tax credit being paid because there are young children there.

And what does she think of Ian's situation? "That is slightly different", she says, "because his wife works fewer hours.

But because there's a redundancy pay that will count as capital, which could affect a claim for benefits - although again, there are children in the household so they may qualify for more child tax credits.

The most important thing is if they can come and see someone independent to make sure they're getting everything they're entitled to and to see if there's any further assistance that can be given."

So Ian and Helen now have a few basic tips to help with their finances. Next week, we'll find out what help they can get to retrain, to write a great CV and how to prepare for that all important job interview!

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