Resources for bartenders during the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum in Australia, it became clear that the near future would be difficult for our community of incredible bartenders.

Working in any area of the liquor industry with the ever changing circumstances caused by the pandemic make the future near possible to predict. Bars and Clubs, together with TheShout, National Liquor News, and Australian Hotelier have pulled together everything we can find to help bartenders during this time, whether you’re full time, part time or casual. 

We’ll be updating this story as we find out more and the situation changes. If you have any of your own tips to add, you can reach us at any time by emailing editorial@theshout.com.au

Last updated: 4 August

Victorian pandemic leave payment

The Australian Government has announced that it will create a pandemic leave disaster payment for people in Victoria. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was designed to support people with no sick-leave entitlement who have been ordered into self-isolation, giving them income so they don’t feel financially pressured to break isolation.

What we know so far about the payment is that it will be $1500 a fortnight, and only for Victorian workers. Should other states also enter a pandemic-created state of disaster, there is possibility for it to be expanded.

Eligible workers are those who are not currently covered by JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments, and have either used up or are not entitled to sick leave. Those who have claimed a similar payment from the Victorian government are also not eligible.

The application can be done over the phone by calling 180-22-66, with applications opening 8am August 5. Further information is expected to be available from this date at the following link too.

Changes to Job Seeker obligations

When Job Seeker was changed in line with the COVID-19 pandemic in March this year, Centrelink paused the mutual obligation requirements, which was a valuable lifeline for stood down hospitality workers.

However, these are set to gradually return from August 4 for everyone outside of Victoria, unless you already have an exemption (which will continue until you are directly told otherwise).

From August 4, according to Services Australia, Job Seeker recipients outside of Victoria need to:

  • agree to a Job Plan if you haven’t already.
  • be willing to accept any offer of suitable paid work.
  • undertake job search if it’s one of your activities.
  • do the activities you agreed to do in your Job Plan if it is safe to do so.

If you have an employment services provider, you also need to attend appointments with them online or over the phone. You also need to continue to report the income of you and your partner every two weeks.

Services Australia said: “Keep in mind, you need to attend job interviews and accept an offer of suitable work. Even if it’s not the kind of work you used to do, or prefer.”

“If you refuse a suitable job offer without a reasonable excuse, we may cancel your payment. If it’s cancelled, you may have to wait at least 4 weeks to reapply for an income support payment like JobSeeker Payment.”

Find more information about this on the Services Australia website here.

Job Seeker recipients in Victoria meanwhile can continue on as per the limited requirements introduced on June 9, with no penalties or suspensions if you can’t engage with your employment services provider online or over the phone.

Coronavirus Test Isolation Payment

Victorian workers waiting for their COVID-19 test results may be eligible for a $300 payment to financially support them while in those initial 24-72 hours of isolation.

It is available for those who would have likely worked, but have been unable to, because of waiting for the results of their own COVID-19 test, or that of someone they are the guardian or carer of.

It is not available to those who would be able to earn an income while in self isolation, including those on Job Keeper or Job Seeker, or those who have leave entitlements to cover the time.

For more information head to the DHHS Vic website here.

Tax time tips

The ATO has said that although 2020 has been tough, tax time doesn’t need to be. It’s nearly tax time, and in the current climate that could mean a crucial refund for many industry workers.

This year, the ATO recognises there may be some differences in the way that workers will claim tax, due to changes in employment circumstances, expenses and income types.

“We know many of our clients and their agents will have questions about how different types of income and expenses may affect their obligations this year. We’re helping to make sure people know how to get it right,” said Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat.

“We have published information on our website to help you get it right when lodging this year, including the ‘Tax Time Essentials’ page which is a one stop shop for the things that are a little different this year and how they impact your return.

“If you’ve read through the information on our website and still have a question, search our online forum ‘ATO Community’. This forum is available 24 hours a day and we have a great community of expert members who respond to questions. In a lot of cases, there’s an ATO-endorsed response to help you. If not, post it yourself and we’ll have a response back to you as quick as we can.”

Some of the points raised that may relate to hospitality workers include the ability to claim Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for work purposes, where yo weren’t reimbursed by an employer – for example, hand sanitiser or face masks. Also, be mindful of reducing claims if certain circumstances have changed – for example, reducing laundry costs if you haven’t been working and therefore don’t need to wash a uniform.

As Foat said: “It’s still important to meet the three golden rules: you must have spent the money and not have been reimbursed, it must relate directly to earning your income, and you must have a record to prove it.”

“What you can claim really depends on your circumstances. Whilst we are trying to make it easier for people to claim what they are entitled to; we are also asking people to take a bit of extra care if their circumstances have changed this year.”

More information can be found below or through the ATO website.

ATO tax return guidelines

The ATO has issued a work-related expense guide for hospitality workers outlining the work-related expenses that you may be able to claim deductions for. It says that in order to claim a work-related deduction:

  • you must have spent the money yourself and weren’t reimbursed
  • it must be directly related to earning your income
  • you must have a record to prove it.

If the expense was for both work and private purposes, you can only claim a deduction for the work-related portion. Common deductions for hospitality workers can include:

  • Clothing and grooming expenses
    • You can claim a deduction for the cost of buying, hiring, mending or cleaning certain uniforms that are unique and distinctive to your job.
    • You can’t claim a deduction for the cost of buying or cleaning plain clothing worn at work, even if your employer tells you to wear it, and even if you only wear it for work (eg black pants and a white shirt). You can’t claim a deduction for hairdressing, cosmetics, hair and skin care products, even if your employer expects you to be well groomed. All grooming products are private expenses.
  • Tools and equipment expenses
    • You can claim a deduction for the cost of the purchase of tools and equipment you are required to use for work.
    • You can claim a deduction for the cost of repairing tools and equipment for work. If the tools or equipment were also used for private purposes, you cannot claim a deduction for that part of the repair cost.
    • If a tool or item of work equipment used for work: cost more than $300 – you claim a deduction for the cost over a number of years (depreciation); cost $300 or less – you can claim an immediate deduction for the whole cost.
    • You can’t claim a deduction relating to any private use of the equipment or if the tools and equipment are supplied by your employer or another person.
  • Self-education expenses
    • You can claim a deduction for self-education expenses if your course relates directly to your current job.
    • You can’t claim a deduction if your study is only related in a general way or is designed to help get you a new job.
  • Car expenses.
    • You can claim a deduction when you: drive between separate jobs on the same day; drive to and from an alternate workplace for the same employer on the same day.
    • You generally can’t claim the cost of trips between home and work, even if you live a long way from your usual workplace or have to work outside normal business hours – eg public holidays or night shifts.
    • There are limited circumstances where you can claim the cost of trips between home and work, such as where you carry bulky tools or equipment for work.
    • If you claim car expenses, you need to keep a logbook to determine the work-related percentage, or be able to demonstrate to the ATO a reasonable calculation if you use the cents per kilometre method to claim.

Other expenses you can claim a deduction for include:

  • the work-related portion of phone expenses if you have to make phone calls or send texts for work
  • union and professional association fees
  • technical or professional publications
  • renewing your special employee or gaming licence – you cannot claim a deduction for the cost of getting your initial licence.

The ATO said: “Remember, you’re accountable for the claims you make in your tax return, even if you use a registered tax agent to prepare and lodge it on your behalf. Make sure you have records to prove your claims.”

And while you may be very keen to lodge your claim now, the ATO said that the best time to lodge your tax return is mid-August, when all financial information the ATO receives from employers, banks, government agencies and more, will be pre-filled.

Remember to report all income in your tax return and remove any portion of your expense that is not work-related. For more information or to download the ATO’s work-related expense guide for hospitality workers go to www.ato.gov.au/HW20.

Check your super

As we reported earlier in this guide, Australian citizens, residents and visa holders can be granted early access to their super if they are in financial need because of the Coronavirus. Many people have taken up this offer, with the latest ATO figures amounting to 1.35 million approved applications.

However, an ABC investigation has uncovered scammers are targeting this scheme, potentially affecting those who haven’t tried to access their super early. The report says fraudsters were able to infiltrate the system using stolen identity records, setting up fake MyGov accounts to lodge the super release applications using their own bank accounts.

This was said to have happened in early May to at least 150 people and since then the government claims security has been tightened and there have been no more reported cases – but it’s better to remain wary just in case and make sure your accounts and personal details are safe.

Many of us wouldn’t regularly check their super, but considering the fraud victims uncovered by the ABC, now may be the perfect time to change that. It’s especially important for young people to make sure they haven’t been defrauded – it’s predicted that a stolen $10,000 now could mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time you retire.

You can check your super activity by linking your ATO account to your MyGov account, or by heading to your Super provider’s web portal. If you see anything suspicious, contact your Super provider and the ATO immediately.

Hospo For Life

Hospo For Life provides access to psychologists and mental health services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to members of the hospitality industry.

Founder Liam Crawley encourages all those associated with the hospitality industry to reach out, foster healthy relationships and connect with each other to create a stronger community.

Anyone in the hospo community requiring a free and confidential counselling session is invited to contact them via email at info@hospoforlife.com.au or through their website www.hospoforlife.com.au.

They are running a weekly programme of #HospoHappyHour episodes on the Hospo For Life Facebook page featuring leading industry experts and guests, supported by Warner’s Distillery with a $5 donation from every bottle sold via Dan Murphy’s.

So far there have been a number of great chats by Liam with different people from across the bar and hospitality industry with the videos watched over 30,000 times.

Chats include:

Free courses to up-skill

Online learning platform Pluralsight specialises in tech skills and has made all of its courses free for the month of April. You will need to subscribe and for the month you will get access to dozens of courses in various tech areas.

Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard said: “With this free offering, we want to encourage technology enthusiasts to stay home and improve their skills.

“Technology can help us build a better tomorrow when we’re able to return to normal, and we want to provide as many people as possible with the opportunity to stay safe, stay home, and skill up.”

Coursera offers free courses on career development, public health and science as well as many other areas. The company is offering free of charge courses until the end of May.

You can find out how to sign up here.

Udemy is another learning platform helping people to come have more skills on the other side of this crisis. The platform is offering more than 250 free courses on areas from photography to public speaking and productivity to time management.

Find out what Udemy is offering here.

FutureLearn is also offering over 50 free courses from institutions around the world including Monash University, King’s College and the University of Edinburgh.


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the NSW Government and TAFE NSW are offering a number of fee-free short that can be completed in just days or weeks, offering practical skills and experiences across a range of industries.
To be eligible you need to:

  • Live or work in NSW
  • Be an Australian Citizen OR Permanent Resident OR New Zealand Citizen OR Humanitarian visa holder
  • Be over 17 years (people between 15 and 17 may be eligible and should contact us for more information)
  • Have left school

Courses include enhacning your digital impact, practical business skills and improving leadership performance – there are also other courses available. This is an excellent opportunity to further your knowledge and skill-set to be ready for work when it comes available and on the other side of the pandemic. Find out more on the TAFE NSW website.

Superannuation – visa holders

The economic plight of international visitors and visa holders has been championed by many across the hospitality industry as they are a key part of the workforce, but largely, do not qualify for any of the Government’s assistance packages.

Now, the Government has said that temporary visa holders with work rights will be allowed to draw on their superannuation funds to help them manage the economic impacts from the pandemic.

The announcement applies to over 2.15 million temporary visa holders in the country, including international students.

While acknowledging the “extremely valuable” contribution temporary visa holders make to the Australian economy Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said, “its’ time to go home, and they should make arrangements as soon as possible.”

For many freeing their superannuation funds will enable this to happen. Visa holders should contact their superannuation provider to find out more details.

Below we have also listed details on the up to $20,000 in super funds that is available over this and the next financial to Australian workers.


On-premise venues have been forced to close by order of the Federal Government, whereas other types of businesses are changing hours and sometimes closing of their own accord. Exactly what this means for your immediate income will vary depending on your situation and workplace, but regardless, it’s a good idea to think about Centrelink.

If you’re not already getting payments from Centrelink, they’ve set up a help page directory with information about how to check if you’re eligible and what payment may apply to you. 

In recent days, the Government has announced that they have expanded the eligibility criteria, removed waiting periods and will also increase the amount of some payments next month. Plus, there is also the one-off stimulus payments of $750, that are due to start being paid from 31 March.

The first step is to create MyGov and Centrelink online accounts, if you don’t already have them, which you can find steps on how to do here. 

The most important thing to have first is your MyGov account, so you can at least register your intent to claim. If the Centrelink website is too busy for you to create an account and get a Customer Reference Number (CRN), lodging an intent to claim via MyGov will back date your application so you won’t miss out on anything caused by admin waits. Simply log into MyGov to find a big banner with instructions on how to do this.

After lodging this intent, you can request a call back from Centrelink to go through the rest of your application. You can also try online if the system isn’t overloaded, or join the busy phone queues to speak to a representative (see all contact options here). Centrelink have requested people try not to come to a centre in person if not absolutely necessary, as applications can proceed remotely.

Find out what you are eligible for using the Payment and Service Finder here at any time. Follow the prompts through the quiz to find out what is recommended for you and what you will need for your application. The category you will most likely fall into is the Job Seeker payment, because as of 20 March, Newstart no longer exists.

Job Keeper Scheme

The Government has now announced a Job Keeper scheme, to help keep Australian workers in a job they may have already lost, or be in danger of losing soon.

We’ve got a full break down of what this might mean to you here, but in short, it will mean a $1500 per fortnight payment to eligible employers to pay eligible staff. This will be handled by the ATO, with payments set to start from May, backdated to now.

It’s said that this will impact around six million Australian workers, keeping them on the books and out of unemployment figures, whether they are actively contributing to labour or not (staff can receive payment whether their venue is operating takeaway or just shut down altogether).

Never has any Australian government ever introduced a wage subsidy like this before, and so it will have complexities. Businesses are encouraged to consider this scheme with their staff – to understand your side of the matter, see this employee fact sheet.

For the time being, it’s been advised that if you have a Centrelink application pending, don’t withdraw it until you find out from your employer if and how the Job Keeper payment will apply to you.

Finding other work

Although no one can predict what will happen next, it’s been tipped that many companies that are considered ‘essential services’ will remain operational throughout the pandemic. And while these jobs are limited, there have been recent calls for more staff in some fields.

Some areas that are reported to be hiring include supermarkets, suppliers that need pickers and packers, and also logistics and delivery companies.

If you’d like a change of scenery, there is the option of going regional or rural for a while, as farms are in need of seasonal labour. With so many of their usual temporary staff being international, there is increased need for farmhands, fruit and veg pickers, and produce packers.

There have also been calls made by organisations including Centrelink, Service NSWWoolworths and Coles for thousands more staff to cope with increased demand. Some have suggested utilising any other skills that you may have to transition into other temporary work, for example, bartender knowledge would be useful in liquor retail.

Advice from some bartenders has been to utilise any other skills that you may have to work in a different area.

ALIA 2019 Bartender of the Year Millie Tang has been able to keep working as a creative, and said: “Luckily I have a great network and creative skills to utilise. I’ve been working hard redoing my budget to allow for minimal outgoings and securing enough creative work to keep the wolves from the door.”

There’s also the option to do a few small online things to make a little more cash. You can be paid to do online surveys, test apps, try software, or do odd virtual jobs. If you’re also on Centrelink, make sure you understand how earning additional income can impact your payments, by checking the chart here.

Try checking out job sites like Seek, Indeed and LinkedIn, as well as looking on social media for any call outs. Googling around for online odd jobs is also an idea, just be sure to check the site is credible and secure before giving them your details. 

Withdrawing super

The Government has announced that people financially impacted by COVID-19 will be able to withdraw up to $10,000 from their superannuation per financial year, starting from next month.

Before the announcement, withdrawals from super accounts were heavily taxed, however, withdrawals of up to $10,000 per financial year will be tax-free, meaning people could withdraw up to $20,000 this calendar year. The tax-free withdrawals will be possible for those who are unemployed, or who are eligible for the Coronavirus supplement from Centrelink.

Important note: multiple organisations have warned against withdrawing from your super and have said that it should be used as an absolute last resort. Touching your super now will have an affect on it’s balance both in the short term, and also an extremely detrimental impact in the long term – Australian Services Union estimates young people could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in potentially earned interest by withdrawing $10,000 now.

Applying for the withdrawal will be done from mid-April through the ATO, and individuals can now register their interest in the measure via their My Gov account. In the meantime, you can also read the Government’s fact sheet on this measure here, or FAQs from the ATO here.

Starting conversations about bills

Rent or mortgage and utilities are areas that will cause some of the most financial issues when you’re out of work. Although each situation with different landlords, real estates, providers and lenders are different, from all across the country there has been advice recommending you start a conversation if you need help.

Some lenders may offer ‘mortgage repayment holidays’ or paused credit card repayments. These types of measures would extend your timeline and potentially add further interest to your loan or card, but could keep you afloat for the time being. Contact your provider and see what they have available, many of them will have FAQs of options on their websites about COVID-19. 

In terms of rent (both residential and commercial) the Federal Government has just imposed a moratorium on evictions for the next six months. So you can feel assured you will have a roof over your head even if you fall on hard times. The Government’s latest advice for all renters and landlords is to sit down and discuss your options, perhaps including rent freezes, temporary reductions, or deferrals.

Tenants.org.au have some really useful insights in a FAQ on their website here. They write that you can attempt to negotiate rent for a short period and even have a template to help start the conversation. It would be hard for landlords to re-lease your place without losing significant amounts of money right now, so they should at least want to hear you out.

With utility bills, try contacting your supplier and asking for a payment plan, or some way they can help if you’re in financial trouble. Again, losing a customer means less profit for them, so they should have some options available. You can check your provider’s website, or call and ask to speak to a hardship specialist. 

Rent and bills are one of the biggest causes for concern amongst bartenders now, so try reaching out to others in the same boat for tips as well. Sydney based bartender Sofia Warwar said swapping financial success stories has been really helpful for her and her colleagues.

“We’ve got a group chat and we’ve been talking on there, giving each other advice about what different options there are. It’s been really supportive,” Warwar said.

Turn to your community

Australia’s hospitality community is incredible, and as someone who writes about it every day, I think it’s one of the best and most inspiring out there.

Even in the darkest times, your hospo mates are there for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Losing even some employment means losing a chunk of your usual social interactions and with distancing guidelines, it’s hard not to feel isolated.

Call or message people if you need someone to lean on. On social media, follow pages and join groups that foster a virtual hospo community, like your local bartender exchange, to keep connected and know that you’re not alone.

People are still pulling together in the physical world too to help the community. Despite the shutdown, some venues that remain open for takeaway are offering meals and care packages to their fellow hospitality workers who are down on their luck.

Examples can be found across the country and can usually be found on social media. Again, join your local hospitality workers group to see what is happening around you.

In Adelaide, Abby Roennfeldt from Hades Hula House said she is offering ‘Good Will 4 Good Vibes’ packs for her hospitality family.

“Hospitality is my lifeblood. Bartenders, servers, hosts, kitchen staff… They’re ohana, family. We live this way disconnected, but together,” Roennfeldt told Bars and Clubs.

“I’ve watched bars and restaurants close around the globe, leaving thousands without work, without an identity and now, potentially further disconnected. The packs are a gesture of my hospitality, a privilege I am able to extend to those in their time of need.”

Look after your mental health

It’s been said so many times before, but remember to be using good hygiene, wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and practice social distancing, to limit the spread of infection. 

Your mental health is also important. When you’re looking out for your physical health, make sure to also look out for your mind. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it – you don’t have to do this alone.

Co-owner of Burrow Bar in Sydney, Chau Tran, told Bars and Clubs about some of her mental health resources.

“There are free apps I’ve directed the team to for managing stress and anxiety – Calm and Headspace are free for Android and I find incredibly helpful. Going for a long walk I find helps, a bit of sun and making a nice meal has helped me manage my stress. Checking in on friends is also incredibly important,” Tran said.

“We need to be kind to ourselves and others – because every day is a new puzzle and it’s better figuring it out together that’s for sure.”

There are also a range of helplines you can call if you need help, we’ve listed some below that might be of use to you and your family.

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Mensline: 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • beyondblue: 1300 224 636
  • Headspace: 1800 650 890

Other things you can do:

  • Get involved – As well as the online social communities, there are lots of movements happening right now that you can support. We recently reported on the Keep Our Venues Alive campaign, which is a good place to start.
  • Tell your story – The Hospo Voice union are collecting data to help lobby the Government to support the hospitality industry, through their site I Lost My Hospo Shift. You can also get in touch with us to tell your story – contact editorial@theshout.com.au
  • Keep practicing your craft – being stuck at home is the perfect opportunity to work on your skills, by experimenting with new techniques or recipes. You can also branch out into new areas of the business, and use online resources and courses to understand a different sector of the industry.

Quick pick me ups

The news is pretty bleak right now and it can seem like everything is very doom and gloom. So if you need something to pick you up a little, try the below.

  • Dogs Working From Home – an Instagram account full of furry friends workin’ hard or hardly workin’.
  • Wholesome Memes – a Facebook page with cheerful memes featuring baby animals and feel good content.
  • Nick Heath – the Twitter page of this UK based sports commentator is now full of videos of him commentating real life situations and is weirdly entertaining.

Got any more tips or resources? Want to share your story, pictures of your dog, or just want to chat? All this and more is welcome in my inbox. Get in touch at: ballen@intermedia.com.au

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