Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union


Life hacks for getting back to work in 2019

It’s now three weeks into January and your new year resolution to drink less, go to the gym, and learn a new language have all gone to hell. Never fear though because everyone knows that the year doesn’t actually start until after the Australia Day public holiday. So, with your 2019 actually starting next week, hit the pause button on Marie Kondo and check out our seven life hacks for getting your work and life on track this year:

1. Your HECS or Trade Support Loan aren’t going away

Looking at your student loan debt can feel a bit like looking at the sun, staring at it long enough seemingly making you go blind (with rage at massive price hikes brought in by a group of pollies who attended uni for free). So if you prefer to subscribe to an ‘ignorance is bliss’ policy, you’re not alone but there are a few things you should know.

Find out what you actually owe, for starters.

While the government sure does love to send out robo-debt letters, the ATO stopped mailing out account statements in 2013 so you now have to navigate your way through MyGov. If you have a Trade Support Loan (TSL) and have completed your apprenticeship, you should receive a 20% discount on your loan. Hooray!

The repayment threshold has changed, effective 1 July 2018.

Compulsory repayments for both HECS and TSL now begin at $51,957 (*cough* Liberal money grab *cough*) with a repayment rate (calculated against your income, not your debt) of 2% and increasing as your go up income brackets. Find out the repayment rate for your income here.

Check your payslips.

Your employer should be deducting repayments alongside tax but just make sure it’s there on your payslip and that it’s the correct percentage for your income bracket. The last thing you want is for the tax office to come calling just as you’re banking on a nice return. Also, there’s some more info about payslips below.

Do your tax return.

Your repayments will only be credited towards your debt when you’ve filed your tax return. The yearly indexation happens every 1 June for HECS and 1 July for TSL, so if you have a few years of tax returns waiting to be filed and you’ve been making income above the repayment threshold, you could be compounding more debt than if you were doing your returns on time.

You can apply for a ‘refund’ if you failed a subject or had to withdraw due to illness or other circumstances.

If you meet certain criteria, you can apply to your university or education provider to have your debt for that subject cancelled but your provider must receive your application within 12 months of the census date for the unit you’re applying for. VET FEE-HELP students can also apply if they’ve experienced ‘unacceptable conduct’ by their VET provider. Find out more here.

2. Stop being a scab and join your union

Do you enjoy annual leave? Are you relieved you have access to sick leave? Do you like Medicare, overtime, and penalty rates? All of this (and more!) was brought to you by unions.

But all that stuff was won ages ago right? Who needs to join their union now? We know we’re biased but – everyone.

Sure, CEOs now might wear a cool shirt that they bought on a three day kombucha bender in Brunswick. But they’re still part of an employers union that is out lobbying for cuts to penalty rates and scrapping all those conditions your mum and dad fought for.

We’ve seen that recently with the scrapping of penalty rates for workers in the retail and hospitality industries. Also, without trying to labour the point on this one (see what we did there?), workers in union workplaces earn more. Union workplaces are safer. Unions mean you can get represented when your boss comes to talk to you about that thing you posted on Instagram at 3am yesterday.

3. You’re 25 now so stop relying on your mum to check your payslip

2019 is all about making that coin. You are driven, focused, a hustler, eye on the prize. The prize? Wealth and financial responsibility. BUT before your eye is on the prize, your eyes need to be on your pay slip.

Your employer LEGALLY (it’s in the law look it up) must issue you a pay slip within an hour of paying you. Now if you like most people living in the DiGITal age think “Wow I haven’t seen a piece of paper in 3 years, let alone been handed a printed pay slip by my employer” you are not alone. It is likely that you are being emailed your pay slip or it is being issued to you on your workplace intranet.

While workplace intranets are the most depressing place on the internet since (it’s real) it’s worthwhile heading over to check out your pay slip and familiarise yourself with what yours should look like, including the essential information that needs to be included.

Your pay slip should have your name (duh) and the name of the business and their ABN number. Your pay slip will have the pay period the date you were paid, and how much COLD HARD CASH you earn over that time (this should include gross and net pay).

If you are paid an hourly rate the pay slip needs to include the hourly rate, number of hours at that rate and total amount of pay at that rate. Now if you are paid an hourly rate THIS SECTION IS KING! This is where you can check that you are being paid the correct hourly rate and being paid the correct penalty rates.

There is a lot of essential information and it’s important to keep track of what everything means. To understand what else is on your pay slip and what it all means head over here.

4. Claim those sweet sweet tax deductions

Would you rather swim in a crocodile infested North Queensland swamp than do your tax returns?

Never fear because 2019 is going to be your year. The Australian Taxation Office actually has an app for you to keep a record of your tax deductions. It’s a central place for you to record all of your deductions throughout the year. You can even take photos of the receipts and attach them to each expense so you can avoid having to keep all the paperwork. You can download the app here. By the time June 30 hits, you’ll be posting the size of your deductions on your tinder profile.

Good life hackers keep track of their deductions via an app. Great life hackers know the secrets of what to deduct. If you’re a tradesperson, apprentice, or a worker in blue collar industry, there’s a couple of expenses that you might not know you can claim.

You might be able to claim your badass Wayfarers as a tax deduction.

If you do outdoor work, sun protection clothing can be claimed as a tax deduction. That includes things like hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. In fact, all protective equipment you have had to purchased yourself can be claimed as a deduction (but only if they haven’t been provided by your employer).

Also, you could get a tax deduction just for driving.

The bad news is you can’t claim a deduction for expenses incurred travelling to and from work. But other travel associated with your work can be claimed. For example, travelling from your factory to another site can be claimed. And if you’re an apprentice, you can claim travel expenses incurred for travelling to TAFE.

To get more details on what can and can’t be claimed as a tax deduction, check out the ATO website.

5. You’re gonna get old so deal with it

Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to your superannuation, believing climate change will cause the end of the world soon enough or capitalism will have fallen by the time you reach retirement age. Well, as cool as your cheerful nihilism is, you can still lifehack your way to better super savings just in case.

Roll your super over

You’ve probably had a few different jobs by now, maybe even changed industries, so out there is more than one super account with your name on it. It’s time to roll them all into one account to get the most out of your super. All you have to do is log in to MyGov, click through to the ATO section and go to the super tab. This is also a great chance to find out what’s actually in your balance, and make sure your employer is paying your super contributions.

Choose an industry fund

If you’ve seen anything of the Banking Royal Commission, you’re probably having some mixed feelings realising your childhood Dollarmites account was nothing more than an evil marketing strategy, and realised banks care more about profits and shareholders than clients. Duh. Industry super funds, on the other hand, work to benefit their members, returning profits to them while consistently outperforming retail super funds. As not-for-profit funds, they’ve also historically charged lower fees than retail funds. Find a list of industry funds here.

6. I’ve been back at work for a week and I need a holiday

If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably been hit with a serious case of the back-to-work blues at some point.

What better way to distract yourself from the pain of your return to the world of wage slavery than planning a holiday! If you time the leave you plan to take this year carefully, you can turn your 20 days of union-won annual leave into 40 days off.

You can find a list of public holidays that will be recognised in every state and territory in Australia in 2019 here.

In particular, check out April where Easter and Anzac Day fall in same week. If you take annual leave beginning on Thursday 18 April to Friday 26 April you can get 10 consecutive days off using 3 days annual leave. Likewise, at Christmas and New Year, if you start your annual leave beginning on Friday 19 December and going until Wednesday 1 January 2020, you can get 11 consecutive days off using just 5 days annual leave.

7. Industrial relations is fascinating. Please, I want to know more!

If this post hasn’t told you everything you need to hack your work life and be your best self in 2019, well, you get what you pay for and this post on the internet was free.

For more information (also free), jump on the Fair Work website – they’ll give you the DL on pay, leave, entitlements, and you can find the Award or Agreement that covers you. If sorting through all that sounds like too much work and you don’t have the traditional Millennial aversion to talking to an actual human (and you’re an AMWU member) you can call our Helpdesk on 1300 732 698.

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