Employment separation certificate: All you must know
Services Australia issues employment separation certificates that an employer fills out. It provides all the relevant details of a terminated worker’s employment and is required by Centrelink to confirm that they’re genuinely unemployed. Centrelink assesses an unemployed person’s eligibility for income support payments.
In this article, we provide everything you need to know about employment separation certificates. This includes how to request one. What details do they need to include? How long will it take to receive a certificate from your former employer? And what to do if your former employer refuses to provide one? The reasons stated for employment cessation are significant. Whether it is by way of dismissal, resignation, misconduct or another reason is significant as it affects particularly the eligibility period to receive benefits.
If you’re having trouble receiving an employment separation certificate, you’re not alone
We can all agree that being newly unemployed is an incredibly stressful time. And sometimes, it’s made even more stressful by employers who make the process of receiving an employment separation certificate incredibly difficult. Some employers fill them out incorrectly, filled with lies, while others outright refuse to provide a certificate. Tales of such employer recalcitrance abound online.
“My ex-employer is refusing to fill out the employee separation certificate,” writes an enraged person on the Centrelink subreddit, who requires the certificate to receive Austudy payments. The newly unemployed individual, who labels his former employer “incompetent c**ts,” admits that their employment ended with “some bad blood.”
And having asked them to provide an employment separation certificate “several times,” all the company has delivered are empty promises. According to the person, they always tell me they’ll get back to me when I message them, but they never do.
How do I get an employment separation certificate?
To receive an employment separation certificate, you will need to ask your former employer for one. Under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, an employer must provide an employment separation certificate when a former employee requests one. You can direct your former employer to download the certificate here or submit it online here.
Perhaps you left your previous job on good terms. Or maybe you suffered harassment from your former manager. In these cases, you can ask Centrelink to request an employment separation certificate on your behalf.
It must be noted that an employer isn’t required by law to provide an employment separation certificate unless it’s requested by the employee or Centrelink. And if you haven’t been employed within the last 12 months, you don’t need an employment separation certificate to receive government financial assistance.
How long should your employer take to send it?
Section 200 of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 states that an employer must provide a certificate to a former employee “as soon as practicable.” When requested by Centrelink, section 196 of the Act states an employer must provide a certificate within 14 days.
What happens if your employer refuses to provide your employment separation certificate?
The penalties employers can face for refusing to provide an employment separation certificate can be very harsh. Section 200 of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 outlines that an employer can face “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months.”
If your former employer is refusing to provide a certificate or is taking too long, make sure to contact Centrelink to report it. They can then contact your employer directly. And if they still don’t provide it, Centrelink can then consider prosecuting them.
You can still apply for Centrelink payments without an employment separation certificate. If your employer is being difficult and you have reported them to Centrelink, they should be able to proceed with your application and acquire your employment information later. In fact, this should be the preferred approach. Centrelink doesn’t like to back pay you once you lodge your late certificate. So apply early and then follow up with the late certificate.
Employer busted for refusing to issue employment separation certificate
A recent example of an employer facing the prospect of the aforementioned penalty came about in the unfair dismissal case Skurrie v TS Scaffolding Pty Ltd (2022). [AS1] During his Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing, the employee Mr Skurrie submitted that his employer, TS Scaffolding, had refused to issue him an employment separation certificate. And at the time of the hearing, TS Scaffolding still hadn’t provided it to him.
You can still apply for Centrelink payments without an employment separation certificate. If your employer is being difficult and you have reported them to Centrelink, they should be able to proceed with your application. They should also be able to receive your employment information later. In fact, this should be the preferred approach. Centrelink doesn’t like to back pay you once you lodge your late certificate. So apply early and then follow up with the late certificate.
“I will advise the Commission’s General Manager of this matter so that he may consider whether to refer it to the relevant authorities,” said the magistrate. The magistrate said refusing to provide an employee with an employment separation certificate is “completely unacceptable.”
Unfair dismissal hearings
He also said that during unfair dismissal hearings, the FWC often hears that the employee’s request for an employment separation certificate has been ignored. And as a result, they find it challenging to receive unemployment benefits. “One wonders whether the prospect of financial penalties for such conduct might prove to be more of a deterrent,” said the Fair Work member.
For some, receiving an employment separate certificate is only the first challenge
Another pain when requesting an employment separation certificate is that their former employer doesn’t fill it out properly. This happens to many people, including one person who replied to the Reddit post. “I had to obtain the Employment Separation Certificate 5 times because half of it wasn’t filled out, then they accidentally put the date of my termination 4 months after my last day of employment.”, writes this individual.
The employer also made it incredibly difficult to receive a certificate in the first place. The former worker says that they refused to provide one and then threatened to “get me to pay them back all the wages they’d paid me.” If you face similar behaviour from your former employer, make sure to contact Centrelink so they can help you out.
What details must an employment separation certificate include?
Your employment separation certificate must provide the following details about your previous employment:
- The date your employment was terminated
- The period and amount of any leave or redundancy payments awarded when you ceased employment
- The regular weekly wage you received
- The amount of your final payment
- The amount you are still owed by your former employer
- The reason for your employment termination
- If you left work as a result of industrial action or voluntarily, and
- Any personal injury compensation details
If you want to see exactly what’s required to be filled out, you can download an employment separation certificate from Services Australia. After your former employer has filled out your certificate, make sure you check that they filled it out correctly. If they haven’t, send an email or call them to outline exactly what they got wrong. And again, if your former employer becomes unresponsive at this point, make sure to get in touch with Centrelink.
Remember, it’s important to take care of your mental health
Losing your job is an emotionally taxing time, particularly if you were dismissed for unfair reasons. Or if you were redundant. The anxiety of not knowing how to pay the bills eats into you. And it’s only even more difficult if your former employer is difficult and refuses to provide your employment separation certificate.
Remember that you have access to many avenues of support. Centrelink can pressure your former employer to do what’s right. But it’s also key to care for your mental health by staying close to friends and family. And if you want to speak to someone right away, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can also access their Self-Support Toolkit online.
Have you been unfairly dismissed?
It may be that your recent unemployment was the result of unlawful actions by your employer. If you think that’s the case, contact us at A Whole New Approach. Our expert team has over two decades’ worth of experience helping Australian workers make unfair dismissal or general protections claims.
We can help you understand if you’re eligible to make a claim. And if so, we can streamline the process and provide expert guidance to help ensure success.
Call us today at 1800 333 666 for a free and confidential conversation.
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