188.8.131.52 Move to Area of Lower Employment Prospects for NSA, YA & SpB Recipients
Lowering employment prospects
When a person receiving or claiming NSA or YA (other than a full-time student or Australian apprentice) or SpB NVH (184.108.40.206) moves to a new place of residence a decision is made on whether the move has lowered the person's employment prospects.
If it is determined that a person has lowered their employment prospects by moving and that they moved without a sufficient reason, an employment-related exclusion period of 26 weeks is applied from the date of the move. The exclusion period may be waived in some circumstances (see below).
Unemployment payments are designed as a safety net payment for people who are unemployed and are paid on condition that they do all they can to maximise their chances of finding suitable paid work. Moving to areas of high unemployment can disadvantage job seekers and limit their opportunities for work.
The 26-week exclusion period applies to all people receiving NSA or YA (other than full-time students or Australian apprentices) whether they are activity tested or not, and to all SpB NVH recipients. This includes:
- temporarily incapacitated job seekers, and
- NSA recipients who are claiming DSP, and
- YA recipients who are claiming DSP.
The exclusion period for a move to an area of lower employment prospects is an employment-related exclusion period and is not a breach penalty.
How does DHS decide whether a person has lowered their employment prospects?
DHS compares unemployment rates between the person's previous permanent address and their new address. DHS may consider applying a preclusion period if the job seeker moves to an area with an unemployment rate that is more than 2 percentage points higher than the place they have moved from (e.g. from 5% to 7%), unless they have a sufficient reason for the move (see below) or the Secretary is satisfied that their employment prospects have not decreased despite the comparative unemployment rates. It is not necessary to consider a preclusion period if a job seeker moves to or between the 5 major metropolitan areas (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide).
To compare the unemployment rates of 2 areas, the decision maker must use the DHS on-line application known as the MALEP tool. The MALEP tool uses the National Localities Index (ABS Catalogue No 1252) to translate the suburb/town/postcode of a location into a Statistical Local Area (SLA). It then uses the Small Area Labour Markets (Department of Employment) publication to extract the unemployment rate and labour force size of the SLA.
The MALEP tool provides a statistical comparison of the 2 locations. Consideration of the evidence provided by this tool is only part of the MALEP determination. Decision makers must also take into account factors such as a person's skills, local industry needs, seasonal work, vacancy rates and skill shortages. The information provided by the MALEP tool must be taken into account but can be disregarded where it is evident from other available information that, despite the respective unemployment rates of the 2 areas, the job seeker has or has not lowered their employment prospects.
Job seeker with skills in demand can sometimes move to an area of higher unemployment without lowering their employment prospects
For example, even if a person moves to an area with a higher unemployment rate, they may not be lowering their employment prospects because their skills may be in demand in the new area. If the job seeker can show that they have skills and experience in a particular field and can provide evidence that there are more job opportunities in that field in the place they intend to move to than there are in the place they intend to leave, they may be considered not to have lowered their employment prospects. Such evidence could include an offer of a job interview or advertised vacancies.
Job seeker can sometimes lower their employment prospects even if they move to an area with a similar or lower unemployment rate
On the other hand, a person who intends to move to an area which, according to the MALEP tool, has an unemployment rate that is less than 2 percentage points higher than that of the area in which they currently live can still be taken to have lowered their employment prospects if the local labour market conditions in the new area are such that the job seeker would clearly have less chance of finding employment. A smaller labour market may have an unemployment rate that is less than 2 percentage points higher than that of a large labour market but the smaller labour market may also have a considerably lower vacancy rate. Any decision made to disregard MALEP tool data on these grounds should only be made following consultation with the local employment services provider.
The MALEP tool can also be disregarded if it produces a clearly anomalous result. An example of such a result is where the tool might classify a particular regional town as being part of a major city when in fact a 90 minute journey from that town would take a commuter only to the outskirts of the city. If a job seeker intended to move from such a town, the unemployment rate of the place to which they are moving would be compared with the unemployment rate of the major city. In such cases it would be more appropriate to compare the unemployment rate of the place to which the job seeker is moving with the actual unemployment rate of the town from which they are moving, if available, or with the unemployment rate of a regional centre that is closer to that town.
A person has sufficient reason for moving to an area of lower employment prospects if any of the following situations apply:
- the person moves to live with or near a family member who has already established residence in that area, OR
- the person moves to accompany a parent who changes their residence (YA recipients only), OR
- the move is necessary for the purposes of treating or alleviating a physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment of the person or an immediate family member, OR
- the person satisfies the Secretary that they have moved from their original place of residence because of an extreme circumstance which made it reasonable to move to the new place of residence.
Definition of family member
A family or family member is defined in SSAct section 23(14), as:
- the partner (whether of the same sex or opposite sex), father or mother of the relevant person,
- the sister, brother or child of the relevant person, or
- any other person who, in the opinion of the Secretary, should be treated for the purposes of this definition as one of the relevant person's relations described in paragraph (a) or (b).
Some family members are not included in the SSAct definition of family or family member (e.g. in-laws).
Act reference: SSAct section 23(14) For the purposes of this Act other than Part 2.11 and the Youth Allowance Rate Calculator in section 1067G…
Interpretation of family member wider in some circumstances
In some circumstances a wider interpretation of the term 'family' may be applied, including:
- the extended families of some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other cultural groups, and
- adoptive or foster parents (including informal arrangements).
Note: Particular care must be taken in these cases to establish the validity of applying wider interpretation of the term family.
Example: It may be appropriate to treat the aunt of an Indigenous Australian person as a member of the person's immediate family as the aunt may be recognised culturally as equivalent to the person's mother.
Established residence of a family member
In order for a family member to be regarded as having established residence they must have been living in the location for at least 26 weeks. If the family member has not been living in the location for at least 26 weeks prior to the social security recipient moving, the full term of the MALEP will apply.
Extreme circumstances may mean that a person has to move to an area of lower employment prospects. Where the person can prove the extreme circumstance the person may have a sufficient reason for moving. This provision is NOT intended to be used widely and is designed to cover situations where it is reasonable for a person to move to a new location. As well as being in an extreme circumstance, it must also be reasonable for the person to move to a particular location. Each circumstance will be different and will need to be assessed on its own merits.
Moving to obtain cheaper accommodation or public housing
Moving to an area of lower employment prospects purely to obtain cheaper accommodation is not a sufficient reason for moving. However, if a person is currently transient or homeless and they obtain an offer of stable long-term accommodation then this may be a sufficient reason to move.
Moving to accept an offer of public housing is also not automatically considered as a sufficient reason for moving. Consideration should be given to whether there are other suitable houses on offer within an area of better employment prospects. If a person has been on a waiting list for an extensive period of time and this is the only suitable accommodation likely or if they are currently homeless and this is a suitable accommodation option then this may be considered as sufficient reason to move. A decision needs to be based on the merits of each individual case.
Waiver of MALEP exclusion period
A person who is subject to a MALEP exclusion period can have the non-payment period waived from the time they move:
- back to the original place of residence, OR
- to another place of residence which has not lowered their employment prospects when compared with their original place of residence.
Situations where an exclusion period may not apply
The exclusion period may not apply where the person is undertaking:
- an activity as part of Stream C employment services, OR
- a rehabilitation program (DES - DMS - see note below), OR
- an activity as part of the CDP for a person who would otherwise have been referred to Stream C employment services or DES- DMS, if not for the person being placed in CDP.
Note: Under the definitions in the SSAct and the Disability Services Act 1986, a 'rehabilitation program' means DES - DMS.
People undertaking an activity as part of CDP will be eligible for the exemption based on their ESAt (1.1.E.104). The ESAt is used to determine a job seeker's barriers to employment, work capacity, and referral to an appropriate employment services program or stream. CDP participants may be exempt from the MALEP if their ESAt indicates that they would have been referred to Stream C or DES - DMS.
Act reference: SSAct section 634 Move to area of lower employment prospects (NSA), section 553B Move to area of lower employment prospects (YA), section 745N Move to area of lower employment prospects (SpB)