188.8.131.52 Suitable Activity - Voluntary Work
Voluntary work activity is an activity undertaken in an approved not-for-profit community organisation in a verified voluntary work position.
A voluntary work placement must:
- benefit the job seeker and the community and offers no financial gain to the voluntary work host organisation,
- provide the job seeker with the opportunity to gain skills which will directly improve the job seeker's employment prospects,
- provide opportunities which will develop or enhance a job seeker's ability to work as part of a team, take directions from a supervisor, work independently, communicate effectively and improve motivation and dependability, and
- not exceed 26 weeks duration, unless it is the best participation option in the circumstances, as determined by the employment services provider or if the job seeker is aged 55 or over (see below).
Unpaid work performed under a CSO and participation in clinical trials are NOT considered to be voluntary work.
Approval of voluntary work
Regardless of the circumstances in which it is undertaken, voluntary work must:
- occur without payment other than for out of pocket expenses, and
- have a community focus, and
- not be undertaken in the job seeker's own home, and
- not primarily promote a particular religious or political view, and
- not involve working for the job seeker's or a family member of the job seeker's own organisation, and
- not involve violence towards people or damage to property, and
- not undertake tasks which would normally be done by a paid employee, including a casual or part-time paid employee, and
- not reduce hours usually worked by a paid employee or reduce customary overtime of an existing worker.
Voluntary work for job seekers 55 years & over
Depending on their age and how long they have been receiving payment for, under social security legislation, job seekers aged 55 years and over may choose to satisfy their mutual obligation requirements through approved voluntary work, suitable paid work, or a combination of these activities.
In their first 12 months on payment, job seekers aged 55 to 59 can satisfy their mutual obligation requirements through 30 hours per fortnight of paid work, or a combination of paid work and approved voluntary work, where at least 15 hours is in paid work. After 12 months on payment, these job seekers can satisfy their mutual obligation requirements if they undertake at least 30 hours per fortnight of approved voluntary work, paid work or any combination of these activities.
Regardless of their duration on payment, job seekers aged 60 and over can satisfy their mutual obligation requirements if they undertake at least 30 hours per fortnight of approved voluntary work, paid work (including self-employment) or a combination of the 2.
When fully meeting their mutual obligation requirements in this way, these job seekers cannot be required to simultaneously look for additional work, or undertake other activities.
Where requirements are met through voluntary work:
- DHS can give approval to the job seeker for the voluntary work, AND
- DHS must formally approve the organisation for which the work is undertaken.
As part of the organisation approval process, DHS ensures that community organisations are:
- 'not for profit' organisations. This can be verified through one of the following: articles of incorporation or certificate of incorporation and/or their constitution, being a registered member of the National/State/Regional Volunteer Centre, other verifiable documentation proving their 'not for profit' status, such as documentation providing that they are a charitable trust,
- community based,
- adequately insured. Organisations must have public liability and personal accident insurance. Verification of insurance may be requested.
In instances where job seekers aged 55 years and over have confirmed their engagement in voluntary work but have not yet commenced, the job seeker still has a requirement to participate in compulsory activities with their employment services provider until they commence the voluntary work.
Even though job seekers aged 55 years and over who are satisfying their requirements through undertaking voluntary work or a combination of voluntary and paid work do not have job search or other requirements, they must still be available for additional suitable paid work and must accept all referrals to job interviews that do not interfere with the job seeker's paid work. Failure to do so may result in payment being stopped or reduced for a period of time (3.1.13 for CDP participants, or 3.1.14 for all other job seekers).
Voluntary work for job seekers under 55 years
If an employment services provider determines that voluntary work would be beneficial to the job seeker's employment prospects, job seekers aged under 55 years can satisfy their annual activity requirement or use voluntary work to contribute towards satisfying their mutual obligation requirements. For example, providers may decide that voluntary work may be beneficial for the job seeker because involvement with the organisation and/or the type of work undertaken is likely to lead to paid employment. Providers should not approve voluntary work as an end in itself. The requirement must be included as a term of a Job Plan and should be combined with job search and other requirements as may be appropriate.
Voluntary work for job seekers with partial capacity to work
While voluntary work can meet the annual activity requirement for a person assessed as having a partial capacity to work, voluntary work cannot fully meet a person's mutual obligation requirements unless the person is aged 55 or over. Generally, these job seekers would be required to look for work and/or undertake other activities as appropriate.
A person assessed as having a partial capacity to work should not participate in voluntary work if the work would:
- involve hours that exceed their assessed capacity,
- aggravate their injury, illness or disability,
- place the job seeker at risk of abuse or neglect, OR
- not provide appropriate support or facilities to take account of illness, disability or injury.
Voluntary work for job seekers who are principal carers
In some circumstances principal carers can satisfy their mutual obligation requirements by undertaking voluntary work either by itself or in combination with approved study and/or paid work for a combined total of at least 30 hours per fortnight.
Principal carers can only use voluntary work to fully meet their part-time mutual obligation requirements if the particular voluntary work is approved by an employment services provider, and providers can only approve voluntary work for a principal carer job seeker in these circumstances if ALL the following conditions are met, in addition to the approval requirements set out above:
- the principal carer lives in a poor labour market, and
- there are limited training opportunities locally available, and
- there is a significant vocational aspect to the voluntary work, and
- the organisation is an approved voluntary organisation under DHS approval conditions.
Examples of voluntary work with a significant vocational aspect:
- library assistant,
- charity shop sales assistant.
Examples of inappropriate voluntary work:
- collecting money on the street for a charity organisation,
- walking dogs for an animal shelter.
Principal carers who are participating in voluntary work by itself or in combination with other suitable activities to meet their mutual obligation requirements must remain connected to an employment services provider. For those who are fully meeting their mutual obligation requirements through a combination of voluntary work and paid work and/or study, they cannot be required to complete job search or meet any other additional requirements.
To fully meet their mutual obligation requirements through sufficient participation in voluntary work, the voluntary work must be entered as a compulsory item into the principal carer's Job Plan.
Where a principal carer is aged 55 years and over they can satisfy their requirements through undertaking voluntary work as outlined in 'Voluntary work for job seekers 55 years & over'.
Example 1: Daisy is a 35 year old principal carer who lives in a remote town in Western Australia. Daisy is currently studying a Certificate III in Teaching by correspondence. She advises her employment services provider that she would like to undertake voluntary work as a tutor at a local school in addition to her studies in order to meet her requirements. After confirming that the position does not involve tasks normally undertaken by a paid employee and considering Daisy's situation, the local labour market, that she is already studying to further her employment opportunities and that the voluntary work will enhance her teaching skills, her provider approves her voluntary work as part of her mutual obligation requirements. Daisy is able to fully meet her mutual obligation requirements as she undertakes 30 hours per fortnight of approved voluntary work and study combined. She is no longer required to undertake job search or other activities, but will remain connected to her provider as she is meeting her requirements partly through voluntary work. If at any point her provider refers her to a suitable paid job which fits around her study and caring responsibilities, Daisy will be required to accept the job.
Example 2: Brett is a 39 year old principal carer who lives in Sydney. Brett wants to undertake voluntary work of 30 hours per fortnight to satisfy his requirements. He advises his employment services provider that he would like to undertake voluntary work collecting money for a well known charity organisation. Brett's provider conducts a review on the local labour market, training opportunities available and the vocational aspect to the voluntary work he proposes. His provider concludes that it is not appropriate to approve Brett's choice of voluntary work as Sydney has a large labour market, there are many training opportunities available and the voluntary work does not have a strong vocational focus.
Act reference: SSAct section 541(1AA) Persons who comply with Employment Pathway Plan, section 601(4A) Activity test, section 603AA Relief from activity test-people 55 and over who are engaged in work, section 603AB Relief from activity test-certain principal carers and people with partial capacity to work, section 606 Newstart Employment Pathway Plan-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, section 544B YA Employment Pathway Plans-terms, section 731A Activity test, section 731G Relief from activity test-people 55 and over who are engaged in work, section 731GA Relief from activity test-certain principal carers and people with partial capacity to work
Policy reference: SS Guide 184.108.40.206 Suitable Activity - Principal Carer