Mutual obligation requirements for NSA/YA job seekers - suitable activities - overview


This topic describes activities that are suitable activities for the purposes of satisfying mutual obligation requirements for recipients of activity tested income support payments who are considered to be job seekers and are not YA full-time student or Australian Apprentices.

Mutual obligation requirements are applicable to job seekers receiving:

  • newstart allowance
  • youth allowance (other)
  • PPS (when the youngest child turns 6), and
  • SpB (nominated visa holders).

A job seeker's mutual obligation requirements are generally determined by the following factors:

  • age
  • assessed work capacity
  • the primary responsibility for the care of a child.

Job seekers will either have full-time or part-time mutual obligation requirements. Job seekers with full-time mutual obligation requirements should be looking for work on a full-time basis and actively addressing individual circumstances that may affect their capacity to undertake paid work.

The following job seekers have part-time mutual obligation requirements:

  • Principal carer parents (PCP) once their youngest child turns 6 years of age
  • Job seekers with a partial capacity to work of 15 to 29 hours per week.

Newly arrived refugees with mutual obligation requirements will be referred to a suitable activity, however they will not be required to be connected to a jobactive provider until 12 months after their arrival in Australia, although they can participate voluntarily in jobactive at any time prior to this and receive full jobactive services relative to their level of disadvantage. Refugees who are eligible for referral to Transition to Work, DES and ParentsNext are not impacted and will continue to be referred to those services. Newly arrived refugees with mutual obligation requirements will be DHS managed prior to their referral to jobactive 12 months after arrival. During this time newly arrived refugees can fully meet their requirements by participating in the Humanitarian Settlement Program, Adult Migrant English Program, Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) or a combination of these programs.

The delegate must consult with the job seeker and then set appropriate activities for the job seeker to meet their mutual obligation requirements. The extent and combination of activities will vary, depending on the requirements for different categories of job seekers, as outlined in 1.1.M.160 and However, once identified as suitable for a particular job seeker, all items that are being used to satisfy a job seeker's mutual obligation requirements must be included in the job seeker's Job Plan.

Each item specified in the Job Plan must be:

  • quantifiable and specific, stating who will do what and when, and
  • measurable (i.e. it is clear when an agreed activity has been completed or not).

Types of items that a delegate may consider suitable for inclusion in a Job Plan include:

  • job search requirements
  • act on referrals to specific jobs made by their employment services provider and attend job interviews offered by employers
  • Work for the Dole
  • activities designed to develop job search and job interview skills or soft skills needed in the workforce
  • language, literacy, and numeracy activities, under the SEE program
  • National Work Experience Programme
  • voluntary work
  • part-time work
  • full-time or part-time study
  • employment or training programs
  • Defence Force Reserves
  • participation in the Seasonal Work Incentives Trial (for further details refer to, and
  • items which address non-vocational issues.

For the CDP a delegate may also consider:

  • activities (previously known as community participation activities)
  • CDP WFD activities.

Note: There will be no new referrals to RYLDC from 1 July 2015. However, existing referrals may continue up to 30 June 2016.

Activities for job seekers with a partial or temporary reduced work capacity

Job seekers who are classified under SSAct section 16B as having a partial capacity to work because of a physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment must look for work to their capacity. Job seekers have a partial capacity to work if both their baseline work capacity and work capacity within 2 years with intervention are less than 30 hours per week.

Mutual obligation requirements are based on a job seeker's work capacity within 2 years with intervention; however, job seekers are not required to immediately participate at the higher work capacity. Rather, the job seeker's capacity to participate is increased through participation in a suitable program of assistance or other appropriate employment service.

Note: When a job seeker's work capacity with intervention is less than their baseline work capacity due to a deteriorating condition, their mutual obligation requirements are based on their baseline work capacity.

A job seeker may have a temporary medical condition and have a temporary reduced work capacity (TRWC), which is identified through an ESAt. Job seekers will have reduced requirements for the period of their TRWC. When setting appropriate activities, the delegate must ensure that activities and the level of participation take into account the job seeker's TRWC.

When circumstances arise that impede a job seeker's ability to meet their usual mutual obligation requirements they can be adjusted to reflect those circumstances. Mutual obligation requirements are flexible and it is preferable and generally possible to reduce a person's requirements, rather than exempt the person from requirements. However, there are circumstances, specified in the legislation, under which a full exemption from requirements is appropriate (3.2.11).

Act reference: SSAct section 16B Partial capacity to work

Suitable activities - full-time or part-time

Suitable activities can be undertaken at any time at the request of the job seeker, with the delegate's agreement, or when the delegate believes that undertaking an activity is appropriate for the job seeker. Most job seekers will focus on job search, but will be required to undertake additional activities as determined to be appropriate by the delegate.

Note 1: If a job seeker assessed as having a partial capacity to work is undertaking at least 30 hours per fortnight (equivalent to 15 hours a week) in paid work or study, then they are meeting their requirements in full and cannot be compelled to undertake any other activities. Job seekers assessed as having a partial capacity to work undertaking a level of part-time work or study under 30 hours requirement will be required to supplement it with job search and, where appropriate, other activities.

Note 2: For principal carer parents on NSA or YA, activities and other requirements should be scheduled to occur during school hours (i.e. generally between 9 am and 3 pm during school terms), unless otherwise requested or agreed to by the principal carer parent. This includes participation in employment services and other activities, and during the annual activity requirement for job seekers in jobactive.

Breaks in activities

There is no need to adjust a job seeker's requirements if they have a break of less than or equal to 4 weeks that is outside their control. If the break is greater than 4 weeks then the job seeker is required to undertake other suitable activities such as job search, for the period of the break. The Job Plan should be revised to include the adjusted requirements.

Exception: Separate rules apply to principal carer parents and job seekers assessed with a partial capacity to work when the activity is casual part-time paid employment. Breaks or holidays in casual part-time work beyond the control of the parent or job seeker of any duration can result in the principal carer parent or job seeker assessed as having a partial capacity to work being required to undertake other suitable activities (job search, in particular) for any fortnight in which the 30 hour per fortnight part-time work requirement is not met. Breaks or holidays in permanent part-time work will not result in job seekers assessed as having a partial capacity to work having to undertake other activities as long as their basic rate of income support does not increase during the holiday (i.e. they receive the same level of employment income during the break).

If a person needs to take a break from an activity due to personal circumstances, then they must immediately notify DHS or their employment services provider, who will then either revise or develop a new Job Plan taking into account the job seeker's changed circumstances.

Example: A job seeker may have a reduced capacity due to a recurrent medical condition or unexpected child care responsibilities and is unable to make suitable alternative arrangements.

Break for principal carers - Christmas & New Year period

A principal carer is not required to meet any requirements during the fortnight that the Christmas Day public holiday falls. However, they are still required to lodge their statement (1.1.S.350) to DHS for this period in order to report any earnings and stimulate their payment.

Break for principal carers - employer initiated shut down period over the long school holiday break

When a principal carer is meeting their mutual obligation requirements by working (including instances when working is one of a combination of activities) and the person's employer initiates a shutdown period over the long school holiday Christmas break, the principal carer is considered to be meeting their requirements as long as they reasonably expect to resume their employment when their employer resumes in the New Year. The employer initiated shut down period break can only be taken while the place of employment has shut down, up to a maximum of 8 weeks. After 8 weeks the principal carer will be required to participate in additional activities to meet mutual obligation requirements.

Act reference: SSAct section 541(1AA) Persons who comply with Employment Pathway Plan, section 601(4A) Activity test, section 606 Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-terms, section 607 Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-principal carers, section 607A Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-people with partial capacity to work, section 607B Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-requirement to participate in an approved program of work

Policy reference: SS Guide Job Search - Setting Job Search Requirements - General, Suitable Activity - Principal carer

Last reviewed: 2 January 2020