Explainer: COVID-19 gradual return of mutual obligation requirements

Mutual obligation requirements are gradually returning from 4 August for all job seekers except those in Victoria. Find out what this means and how to avoid penalties.

In return for receiving income support payments, job seekers are expected to undertake tasks and activities designed to get them a job. These mutual obligation requirements are agreed to as part of a Job Plan.

Job seekers with employment service providers must:

  • participate in at least one phone or online appointment with their provider
  • agree to a Job Plan
  • conduct up to four job searches a month
  • participate in activities – either online or in person, if available and safe to do so
  • accept suitable paid work.

Job seekers connected to Online Employment Services are required to undertake up to up four job searches each month, agree to a Job Plan and accept suitable paid work.

If job seekers are unable to meet their requirements, they should talk to their provider or contact jobactive on 1800 805 260 as soon as possible.

Penalties for non-compliance

Job seekers will not be subject to payment suspensions or financial penalties if they do not complete their mutual obligation requirements.

However penalties may apply if a job seeker refuses an offer of suitable paid work without a valid reason. This could result in their income support payment being cancelled, with a four-week waiting period before a job seeker can reapply.

Before any penalties are enforced, the reasons for refusing work will be considered by a provider in the first instance, and then, if necessary, by Services Australia, who will contact the job seeker to resolve.

Guidance on what is considered ‘suitable or unsuitable’ work

If a job seeker declines or fails to commence a job, a provider will talk to the job seeker and determine if the job was suitable, in accordance with Mutual Obligation Requirements Guidelines. These requirements determine participants must actively look for work and be prepared to accept any offer of suitable work in a variety of fields.

Suitable work includes any work that a person is capable of doing, not just work a participant prefers to do or is specifically qualified for. This can include casual or permanent, and part-time or full time work depending on the participant’s assessed capacity.

Job seekers are required to accept suitable work that may not be their first preference while they continue to look for work that better matches their qualifications, expertise and interest.

Work may be unsuitable if it:

  • involves skills, experience or qualifications that a participant does not have, and appropriate training will not be provided by an employer
  • is above the participant’s assessed work capacity within the next two years with intervention
  • may aggravate a pre-existing illness, disability or injury and medical evidence has been provided
  • involves health or safety risks and would contravene an occupational health and safety law
  • has terms and conditions which are less generous than the applicable statutory conditions
  • involves commuting from home to work that would be unreasonably difficult (more than 60 minutes one way for Principal Carer Parents and those with Partial Capacity to Work and more than 90 minutes one way for other Participants)
  • is considered by a participant to be unsuitable on moral, cultural or religious grounds
  • is not consistent with prevailing community standards
  • is the subject of industrial dispute
  • involves enlistment in the Defence Force or the Reserve Forces
  • requires a person to change residence.

If a provider determines a job is suitable, they will consider the reasons a job seeker has declined employment, taking a range of matters into consideration, such as caring responsibilities, medical conditions, cultural/religious reasons or other personal circumstances.

If a provider determines that a job is suitable and a job seeker does not have a reasonable excuse for declining a position, the matter will be referred to Services Australia. Services Australia will consider whether the job seeker has a reasonable excuse for not accepting a position.

Arrangements for ParentsNext participants

Activities and appointments for ParentsNext participants are currently voluntary. Providers will contact participants on a monthly basis to discuss ongoing support. Participants need to continue their fortnightly reporting to Centrelink.

Special arrangements for job seekers in Victoria

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