Navigating the complexities of employment termination can feel like walking through a maze without a map. Many employees find themselves unprepared for the financial implications of termination, whether it be through redundancy, early retirement, or other circumstances. Research indicates a significant gap in understanding the nuances of Employment Termination Payments (ETP), including tax obligations and entitlements such as lump sum payments, annual leave, and long service leave.

This guide aims to bridge that gap, offering a comprehensive overview of ETPs, from the taxation handled by the Australian Taxation Office to entitlements under genuine redundancy and early retirement schemes. Delve into this article for a complete guide on ETPs, ensuring you’re equipped with the knowledge to navigate your termination or retirement with confidence.

What is an ETP?

An Employment Termination Payment (ETP) encompasses several lump sums paid upon the termination of employment. These payments can include redundancy pay, genuine redundancy payments, death benefit termination payments, and invalidity payments. They cater to various circumstances like resignation, redundancy, or early retirement. ETPs are designed to support employees transitioning out of employment, whether due to an employer’s decision or unforeseen circumstances like permanent disability. The tax treatment of ETPs, governed by the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, varies. Certain payments are income tax exempt or taxed at a lower rate. Employers must provide an ETP payment summary for the employee’s income tax return, ensuring compliance with national employment standards.

Key Components of ETP

Genuine Redundancy:

Genuine redundancy occurs when an employer decides not to have a job done by anyone anymore due to changes in operational requirements. The Fair Work Commission recognizes this situation, and it aligns with the National Employment Standards. Employers must provide a minimum notice period, as stipulated in the employment contract or enterprise agreement. The payment received by the employee in this scenario is termed a genuine redundancy payment, which is distinct from regular income payments and may enjoy favourable tax treatment under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

Bona Fide Redundancy Payments:

Bona fide redundancy payments occur when an employer dismisses an employee due to genuine redundancy. Exempt from payroll tax, these payments base their calculation on the employee’s years of service, pay rate, and conditions outlined in the award or enterprise agreement. For a redundancy payment to qualify as bona fide, it must meet specific criteria set by the Australian Taxation Office. This ensures it is not just a regular termination or resignation. These payments aim to financially support the employee while they seek new employment and are taxed at a lower rate to provide additional financial relief.

Approved Early Retirement Scheme Payments:

Employees receive offers for Approved Early Retirement Scheme payments as an incentive to voluntarily retire before the usual retirement age. The Australian Taxation Office must approve these schemes to ensure they comply with relevant legislation and qualify for favourable tax treatment. Payments under these schemes qualify as eligible termination payments (ETPs) and form part of an employment termination package. They aim to provide financial support to employees transitioning to retirement, recognizing their service and facilitating a smoother change in workforce demographics.

Death Benefit Employment Termination Payments:

Death Benefit Employment Termination Payments are received by the dependents of a deceased employee or their estate. They compensate for the employee’s untimely death while in service, including elements like unpaid salary, bonuses, and accrued leave. The Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 specifies the tax considerations for these payments, often exempting them from income tax to support the beneficiaries during their time of loss. Employers need to provide a PAYG payment summary to the recipients. This details the amounts paid and the tax withheld, ensuring transparency and ease in managing the deceased’s affairs.

Tax Implications of ETPs

Tax on Redundancy Payments:

The tax treatment of redundancy payments is favourable to support employees during their transition. As of 1 July, the annual update to the tax-free threshold for genuine redundancy payments exempts a portion of the payment from tax. However, the system taxes amounts exceeding the tax-free limit at a lower rate, offering some relief. Employers must adhere to the National Employment Standards when calculating and issuing these payments. They must ensure the payment summary reflects the accurate tax treatment for the employee’s final pay.

Tax on Early Retirement Scheme Payments:

The tax treatment for these payments aims to reflect the unique circumstances surrounding early retirement, recognizing it as part of an employment termination package. Employees receiving these payments within 12 months after termination can benefit from a lower tax rate. This underlines the importance of timing in maximizing tax advantages. Employers providing these payments must ensure they meet the criteria set by the ATO. They also must accurately report them for payroll tax purposes.

Tax on Death Benefit Termination Payments:

The tax treatment of these payments depends on whether the recipient is a dependent of the deceased for tax purposes. Payments made to dependents are usually income tax exempt, offering financial support without the additional burden of tax. For non-dependents, the tax rate varies, highlighting the need for employers to accurately categorize and report these payments. Providing a PAYG payment summary for these payments is essential for correct tax reporting and compliance.

Calculating the Tax on ETPs

To calculate the tax on an ETP, employers must first determine the payment type whether it’s a genuine redundancy, early retirement scheme, or other ETP.

  1. Identify the payment type: This determines the tax-free threshold.
  2. Calculate the taxable component: Subtract any tax-free portion from the total ETP.
  3. Apply the appropriate tax rate: Depending on the payment type and the employee’s age, apply the concessional tax rate to the taxable component.

Tax Return Considerations for ETP:

When filing a tax return, ETPs require careful consideration.

  • Provide an ETP payment summary: Employers must issue this to employees upon termination, detailing the payment type and amounts.
  • Report ETPs separately: On the tax return, ETPs are reported separately from regular income payments.
  • Understand the tax implications: Certain ETPs are eligible for lower tax rates, but limits apply based on age and years of service.

Calculating Final Pay for Different Types of Termination

Calculating final pay when an employment relationship ends requires understanding various components and obligations under the National Employment Standards. The final pay calculation, whether due to resignation, redundancy, or termination, encompasses several elements. Each is influenced by the terms of the employment contract, applicable enterprise agreement, or award.

Upon Termination of Employment:

  • Employers must calculate the final pay, including all owed salary and entitlements.
  • The final payment must be made within the period specified in the employment contract or enterprise agreement.
  • For redundancy or early retirement, specific rules apply to ensure compliance with the Fair Work Commission guidelines.

Components of Final Pay:

Final pay typically includes regular income payments up to the last day of employment, any outstanding annual leave, and, in some cases, long service leave. Specific tax treatments apply to certain payments, affecting their payroll processing.

  • Regular Payments: Salary or other components due up to the termination date.
  • Annual Leave: Employers must include payment for accrued but unused annual leave.
  • Long Service Leave: The employment agreement and jurisdiction determine employees’ entitlement to long service leave payment upon termination.


Understanding Employment Termination Payments is crucial for anyone navigating the end of their employment journey. This guide has walked you through the essentials of ETPs, from the tax implications outlined by the Australian Taxation Office to the entitlements due under various termination scenarios, including redundancy and early retirement. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate the termination process, ensuring you secure all the benefits you deserve. Whether you’re dealing with a lump sum payment, calculating entitlements for annual or long service leave, or exploring an early retirement scheme, being informed is your best strategy. What steps will you take to ensure full preparation for employment termination?