3.2.5.80 YA & DSP - self-supporting through paid employment

Paid employment category - overview

A young person may be considered independent for YA purposes if:

  • they have supported themselves through paid work consisting of full-time employment of an average of 30 hours or more per week, in one or more jobs, for at least 18 months during any period of 2 years, OR
  • they qualify under the paid employment criteria for students from inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote locations, OR
  • they are studying full-time and undertook qualifying agricultural work under the Incentives to encourage Australians to undertake seasonal work measure.

A young person may be considered independent for DSP purposes if they have supported themselves through:

  • paid work consisting of full-time employment averaging at least 30 hours per week, in one or more jobs, for at least 18 months during any period of 2 years, OR
  • paid work of at least 15 hours per week for at least 2 years since the person last left secondary school, (see Note 1 below), OR
  • paid work within an 18 month period with cumulative earnings totalling at least 75% of the Wage Level A of the National Training Wage schedule included in a modern award (1.1.N.12) (see Note 2 below).

Note 1: In relation to the 15 hours work over 2 years criteria:

  • the person must have worked 15 hours every week over consecutive weeks for a continuous 2 year period
  • periods of paid leave in relation to employment may be counted as paid work hours for the purpose of this criterion
  • the 2 year period can commence any time after the person last left secondary school.

Note 2: In relation to the paid work in an 18-month period with cumulative earnings criteria:

  • the appropriate Wage Level A of the National Training Wage schedule included in a modern award is the rate that applied when the period/s of employment began
  • a period of 18 months must have elapsed since the young person last left school
  • the employment period/s must have occurred since the person last left school, and
  • a person does not need to be in employment for the whole 18-month period. Rather they are required to have engaged in employment at one or more times during the 18-month period, and to have accumulated the required amount of 'cumulative earnings' from this employment.

Full-time employment averaging at least 30 hours per week

A young person may be considered independent for YA and DSP purposes if they have supported themselves through paid work consisting of full-time employment averaging 30 hours or more per week, in one or more jobs, for at least 18 months during any period of 2 years.

Example: Michael worked full-time for 38 hours a week as a sales assistant for 6 months after leaving secondary study, then went overseas for a 6-month holiday. On his return, he went back to full-time work of 38 hours a week for 12 months. Michael meets the self-supporting independence criterion as he worked full-time in employment of an average of more than 30 hours per week for 18 months during the last 2 years.

The assessment under this criterion may be made in respect of one or more jobs, whether consecutive and/or concurrent.

Where a young person has been working in a job that has not consistently provided them with 30 hours per week work, their hours of work can be averaged over periods of a maximum of 13 weeks, provided that the young person can reasonably be considered to have been engaged in full-time employment over the duration of the period.

This means, for example, that a young person can be considered to meet this criterion where they have undertaken:

  • at least 120 hours of work in each of 19 periods of 4 weeks, or
  • at least 390 hours of work in each of 6 periods of 13 weeks, or
  • at least 30 hours of work in each of 78 weeks (i.e. 30 hours or more for 78 weeks).

Example: Royce, 19, left secondary school in 2009 and entered into a series of casual jobs, sometimes several at once, over the period of 65 weeks from December 2009 until March 2011. During this time, Royce had varying hours that averaged 32 hours per week. In early March 2011, he commenced full-time studies in a 2 year Diploma at TAFE and ceased all casual work as he had sufficient savings to support himself for a while. During the mid-semester break, which commenced at the end of June, Royce had the opportunity to work on a farm during harvest. Over the 6 week period between late June and early August, he worked an average of 60 hours per week. On recommencement of TAFE in August, Royce decided to work 2 evenings a week delivering pizza. His work hours totalled 11 hours per week. He continued this work for the rest of the year. In November 2011, Royce lodged a claim for YA. Royce was granted independent status because he had, overall, undertaken full-time work totalling at least 390 hours for 6 periods of 13 weeks over a 2-year duration.

Example: Rebecca, 19, left secondary school in 2010. From November 2010 until university commenced in March 2011, she worked very hard in a number of casual jobs, working an average of 80 hours per week over a 16 week period. Once university started, she ceased work in order to concentrate on her studies. In November 2011, after exams had finished, Rebecca again worked in several casual jobs over the holiday period, averaging 80 hours per week over a 16 week period. She recommenced university in March 2012. During the 2012 mid-semester break, she worked for 32 hours per week for 5 weeks doing temporary secretarial work. When university recommenced in August 2012, Rebecca sought to be assessed as an independent person for YA on the basis that she had worked a total of 2,720 hours over the 90 week period between November 2010 and August 2012, which is an average of just over 30 hours per week over that time. She does not meet the criterion for independence because the maximum period over which work hours can be averaged is 13 weeks. As Rebecca has not worked for an average of 30 hours per week for 6 periods of 13 weeks, she cannot be said to have undertaken full-time employment averaging 30 hours or more per week, in one or more jobs, for at least 18 months during any period of 2 years.

Act reference: SSAct section 1067A(10) People who are self-supporting

Inner regional, outer regional, remote & very remote students

There are concessional workforce independence criteria for students from inner regional Australia, outer regional Australia, remote Australia or very remote Australia, or Norfolk Island, who must relocate to study. Details of this criteria is at 3.2.5.85.

Paid employment

The following activities may be considered paid employment for the purposes of assessing the self-supporting criterion for independence for YA and DSP:

  • periods of paid leave
  • periods of unpaid leave due to employer shutdown that are outside the control of the young person (e.g. mandatory Christmas shutdown)
  • periods engaged in a full-time apprenticeship or traineeship
  • periods of overseas employment
  • periods of receiving workers compensation while the person is able to demonstrate that they are still connected to their employment.

Act reference: SSAct section 1067A(10) People who are self-supporting

Supporting financial independence during COVID-19

From 1 January 2021, the 6-month period between 25 March 2020 and 24 September 2020, (the COVID-19 concession period), will automatically be recognised as contributing to existing workforce independence criteria for YA. When being assessed for independence under the self-supporting through paid employment criteria, young people will be deemed to have worked 30 hours per week for the COVID-19 concession period.

These changes will apply to YA claims made between 1 January 2021 and 24 September 2022, or claims lodged prior to 1 January 2021, but have not yet been determined before 1 January 2021.

Example: Jenny is a 21-year-old living at her family home in Sydney. Jenny had worked as an optical dispenser for 38 hours per week for 55 weeks before being made redundant on 10 April 2020 as a result of the coronavirus restrictions. Until 10 April Jenny will be considered to have worked for 38 hours a week. For the next 23 weeks (the number of remaining whole weeks within the COVID-19 concession period) she is deemed to have worked 30 hours per week. Jenny claims YA when she commences university in February 2021. Jenny is able to demonstrate 18 months of working an average of at least 30 hours per week and as she satisfies all other self-supporting through paid employment YA Independence criteria, despite not working throughout the COVID-19 concession period, she can be considered independent under the self-supporting criteria.

Incentives to encourage Australians to undertake seasonal work measure

A young person claiming YA between 1 March 2021 and 1 March 2023 can be considered independent under the Incentives to encourage Australians to undertake seasonal work measure where they:

  • are undertaking full-time studies (the measure only applies to YA (student)), AND
  • have a combined parental income for either the 2019-2020 tax year or 2018-2019 tax year that is less than $160,000 plus $10,000 for each 'additional child', AND
  • undertook qualifying agricultural work between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021, AND
  • have gross earnings for the qualifying agricultural work of at least $15,000.

Example: Darren is a 20 year old student living at home in the outer suburbs of Perth. Darren has a younger brother in high school and his parents earn a combined income of $160,100 a year. Darren has worked part time at a local rose farm throughout 2021, maintaining the crop, picking and packing. By May 2021 Darren has earned a gross of $15,000 from this work. As Darren's parents' combined parental income is below the threshold of $170,000 a year (being $160,000 + $10,000 for the additional child) he is qualified for the agricultural work coronavirus measure. He applies for YA and qualifies, as through the measure he is deemed independent.

Act reference: SSAct section 1067A(10K) and (14) to section 1067A(16) People who are self-supporting

Social Security (Qualifying Agricultural Work) Determination 2020

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.2.5.85 YA concessional workforce independence criteria for regional students - see 'Parental income threshold'

Last reviewed: 7 December 2020