3.5.1.170 Suitable Activity - Job Search (PP Recipients & Principal Carers)

Summary

This topic covers suitable activity arrangements for both PP recipients and principal carers in receipt of NSA, YA or SpB. In this topic, PP recipients and principal carers will be collectively referred to as 'principal carers'.

Principal carers & job search

Job search is an integral part of meeting mutual obligation requirements.

Job seekers classified under SSAct section 5 as a principal carer parent of a child (youngest child aged at least 6 years) must satisfy their mutual obligation requirements by complying with suitable activities outlined in their Job Plan (1.1.J.25). Principal carers are subject to compulsory part-time mutual obligation requirements, and will generally meet their mutual obligation requirements through looking for suitable part-time paid work of at least 30 hours per fortnight, in combination with other suitable activities as specified in their Job Plan.

What level of job search is required?

Principal carers with compulsory part-time mutual obligation requirements are generally subject to an obligation to seek suitable paid part-time work of at least 15 hours per week. They are not required to seek or accept employment of more than 25 hours a week, although they may do so if they choose.

As delegates of the Secretary of the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, employment services providers will determine the appropriate number of job searches a principal carer is required to undertake per month and specify this in their Job Plan (3.2.9.30).

If a principal carer is undertaking declared part time paid work (including self-employment), of 11-29 hours per fortnight, which is not sufficient to fully meet their part time mutual obligation requirements, the required number of job searches in their Job Plan should be halved by their provider, while they seek additional paid work to meet the 15 hours per week requirement.

Example: Donna is a PPS recipient with 2 children. Donna works 10 hours a week as a receptionist at a veterinary surgery in her local area. Part-time work is a suitable activity but Donna is not undertaking enough hours of part-time work to satisfy her requirements in full. Taking this part-time work into account, Donna is set a reduced job search requirement of 10 job searches per month (she usually has 20 per month) in order to find a further 5 hours of work a week to meet the 15 hours a week requirement.

A PPS recipient whose employment services provider has identified a need for them to improve their language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills may have the required number of job searches per month reduced during the period they are actively participating in an LLN course.

Is job search always required?

Job search will not be required if the person is undertaking suitable activities which are sufficient in themselves to fully meet mutual obligation requirements (e.g if the person is working and/or undertaking approved study 30 hours a fortnight).

When a principal carer is not working 30 hours a fortnight

If the principal carer parent is working but the hours of work is less than 30 hours per fortnight then the parent is required to search for work to enable them to increase their total hours of employment to at least 30 hours a fortnight. If a principal carer parent is meeting their mutual obligation requirements by working and the hours of work are generally 30 hours a fortnight or more, but the hours of work fall below 30 hours then:

  • if the reduction is temporary and unforeseen and will only last for the fortnight concerned, with the person returning to 30 hours a fortnight or more in the next fortnight, then the person would not be generally required to look for additional work. (Examples covering this scenario might include unexpected slow trade for a day or a business unexpectedly closing for a day due to unforeseen circumstances),
  • if the person knows, or is able to foresee, that they are unlikely to work 30 hours in a fortnight then they are required to undertake an appropriate level of job search during the fortnight in which they either know they will not meet the minimum of 30 hours or are unlikely to, or
  • if the reduction is likely to or is expected to last beyond the fortnight concerned (for example, the person's hours of work might be permanently reduced) then the person will be required to undertake an appropriate level of job search to increase their hours to at least 30 hours a fortnight. The person will also be immediately referred to an employment services provider if they are not active with a provider.

Example: Julliette is a principal carer parent with 2 children aged 7 and 9. Julliette has been working 40 hours a fortnight at a local supermarket. The supermarket reduces her hours to 20 hours a fortnight and these hours are expected to last for at least the next few months. Julliette is set a job search requirement of 10 job contacts a month so she can find a further 10 hours of work a fortnight, and is referred to a provider for employment assistance.

Example: Katherine is a principal carer parent with one child, aged 6. Katherine is working 32 hours a fortnight in a small family owned local cafe. On Tuesdays she normally works a 6 hour shift. However, on one Tuesday the owner has to close the cafe because of a family emergency after only being open one hour. This means that Katherine only works 27 hours in that fortnight. Katherine will return to her normal 32 hours a fortnight routine the following fortnight. As the reduction in hours could not have been foreseen and she will definitely return to her normal hours, Katherine is not required to look for additional work. If, however, the reduction in hours lasted beyond this instance then she would have to look for additional work.

Shared care of children

Some people may have shared care of a child/ren and may therefore work irregular hours over a fortnight (e.g. they may work 30 hours one week and no hours the next). Mutual obligation requirements is considered to have been met where the job seeker works sufficient hours, during both their care and non-care days/weeks, to meet their mutual obligation requirements over a 4 week period.

Note: Only one person can be the principal carer parent of a dependent child. Refer to 1.1.P.412.

Job search requirements during pregnancy

Pregnant women are not required to undertake job search during their last 3 months of pregnancy, although they can continue to do so if they choose to. However, during this period they must continue to satisfy their other requirements by undertaking other suitable activities to their capacity.

Pregnant women 6 weeks from their expected due date, will be granted an exemption from their mutual obligation requirements, by DHS.

Christmas & New Year period

A principal carer is not required to meet any mutual obligation requirements during the fortnight that the Christmas 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.

Employer initiated shut down period over the long school holiday break

When a principal carer is meeting mutual obligation requirements by working (including instances when working is one of a combination of activities that meet their requirements) 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 requirements.

Example: Jeremy is a PPS recipient with 2 children 8 and 6. Jeremy works 32 hours per fortnight as a teacher's aide at the local primary school. From 22 December the school is closed for the long school holidays and Jeremy is unable to continue his regular 32 hours per fortnight until it re-opens for the new school year on 8 February. Jeremy lets DHS know that his work place is shutting down for the period between 22 December and 8 February but that he will resume his regular hours when it opens again, by producing a letter from the school. As the shut-down period is less than the maximum 8 weeks Jeremy will not be required to do any additional activities to meet his mutual obligation requirements and his PPS payment rate will increase to reflect his reduced earnings.

Mature age principal carers who do not meet voluntary work requirements

Mature age principal carers (i.e. those who are aged 55 and over) may be taken to satisfy mutual obligation requirements if they undertake 30 or more hours of voluntary work, paid work or a combination of both in a fortnight. The ways in which these job seekers can fully meet their mutual obligation requirements through these activities will depend on their age and duration they have been on payment, and is outlined in 3.2.8.10. If their hours drop below 30 hours in the fortnight with a reasonable excuse, they will be given 2 further consecutive fortnights to increase their hours back above the 30 hours per fortnight threshold. If they do not restore their hours within these 2 further consecutive fortnights, they will be considered to no longer be fully meeting their requirements. They will need to be re-engaged with their employment services provider and be required to meet other requirements.

Mature age principal carers who do not meet their 30 hour per fortnight requirement of voluntary and/or paid work activity generally will be required to actively re-engage with their employment services provider. It would be expected that they would have job search requirements placed into their Job Plan.

Intending students/employees

Principal carers, who have to wait for a period of time before commencing employment of at least 30 hours a fortnight or an approved course, would normally be expected to undertake job search in the intervening period. Similarly, principal carers working 30 hours a fortnight on a casual basis would be expected to undertake job search for periods in which the business is in a holiday shut down. Refer to 3.2.9.20.

Example: A principal carer has been accepted into the next intake of a course, but that does not commence for another 3 months.

Breaks in activities

There is no need to adjust a job seeker's requirements if they have a break 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 where the activity is casual part-time paid employment. Breaks or holidays in casual part-time work beyond the control of the parent of any duration can result in the principal carer parent being required to undertake other suitable activities (job search in particular) for any fortnight in which the 30 hours part-time work requirement is not met. Breaks or holidays in permanent part-time work will not result in principal carer parents 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). An exception is made during employer initiated shut down periods. Refer to 'Employer initiated shut down period over the long school holiday break' outlined above.

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 develop a new Job Plan taking into account the job seeker's changed circumstances.

Example: The 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.

Monitoring job search

Principal carers with compulsory part-time mutual obligation requirements must provide information about their efforts to obtain work to their employment services provider.

Note: Principal carers who are not subject to compulsory mutual obligation requirements can volunteer for employment services at any time and should be encouraged to do so.

Act reference: SSAct section 501B PP Employment Pathway Plans-requirement to look for work of appropriate number of hours per week, section 502B Persons engaged in suitable paid work of at least 30 hours per fortnight, section 601 Activity test, 603AB Relief from activity test-certain principal carers and people with partial capacity to work, section 541 Activity test, 731GA Relief from activity test-certain principal carers and people with partial capacity to work, section 605 Newstart Employment Pathway Plans-requirement, section 544C YA Employment Pathway Plans-principal carers, section 731N SpB Employment Pathway Plans-principal carers

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.5.1.160 When is a Job Plan required (PP)?, 3.5.1.180 Suitable activity - study (PP), 3.5.1.190 Other Suitable Activities (PP Recipients & Principal Carers), 3.2.9.210 Suitable Activity - Principal Carer, 3.5.1.200 Suitable Work (PP Recipients & Principal Carers), 3.5.1.250 Mutual Obligation Requirements Exemption - Special Circumstances (PP), 3.2.8.10 Mutual Obligation Requirements for NSA/YA Job Seekers Overview

Last reviewed: 20 September 2018