Redundant worker Kimberley Inu has won more than a month's backpay of the unemployment benefit after Work and Income's call centre mistakenly told her she could not get the dole until she had used up her redundancy pay.
Ms Inu, 37, a national executive member of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, was one of eight workers who lost their jobs in September in a restructuring at Thorn Lighting, an Avondale company that makes industrial light fittings.
When she rang Work and Income's call centre in October to apply for the unemployment benefit, she was told to wait.
"They said I have to wait for my redundancy [pay] to run out and then I have to wait another four to six weeks until I have actually gone broke," she said.
But after telling her story in the Herald two weeks ago, she rang Glenfield's Beneficiaries Advocacy and Information Service and was advised to make an appointment to see someone at Work and Income.
She did that - and found that her redundancy pay did not affect her entitlement to the dole. "They turned out to be quite helpful, which was not what I was expecting," she said.
"They don't count redundancy as a payment, so I could have actually gone in the day I was made redundant and applied for it right there and then. They are going to backpay me to the third week of October."
Work and Income head Debbie Power confirmed that redundancy pay did not affect the timing of benefit entitlement, except that it was included in a person's income for the past year, which determined whether they had to wait one or two weeks for a benefit. It is not counted as ongoing income after the day a job ends.
In general, benefit "entitlement" begins the day after employment ends. However, holiday pay and payment in lieu of notice are counted as effectively extending the period of employment by the relevant amount of paid time.
"For example, if someone received two weeks' holiday pay, their employment would be considered to have ceased at the conclusion of those two weeks," Ms Power said.
"Once we know that date, there will be a one- or two-week stand-down, depending on the client's average weekly income before they ceased employment.
"Redundancy payments are not included in determining the date employment ceased but will be considered in determining a client's average weekly income for stand-down purposes."
Redundancy payments were also treated as a cash asset, which does not affect entitlement to a main benefit but does affect extra assistance such as the accommodation supplement.
Benefits are paid either from the day after the initial stand-down ends or from the date someone applies for a benefit, whichever is later.
Beneficiaries Advocacy and Information Service manager Karen Pattie said anyone made redundant should see Work and Income immediately to get advice about their entitlements and apply for a benefit.
"A lot of people go and buy a new car or pay their debts and then go to Winz, only to find that they are way beyond their entitlement date," she said.
"Redundancy pay must be declared, but the call centre often misadvises people, so we do recommend going to Winz straight away."
On the web: www.bais.org.nz
•Does not affect entitlement to the main unemployment benefit.
•May affect extra help such as accommodation supplement.