Mutual Obligation Requirements Exemption - Temporary Incapacity (PP)


Social security law provides for an exemption from mutual obligation requirements for a PP recipient who is temporarily unable to work for 8 or more hours per week and is unable to undertake another appropriate activity also for 8 or more hours a week.

Many PP recipients who are ill, injured or have temporary medical conditions (examples include injuries resulting from accidents, and episodic periods of depression) can still take part in services to help them prepare for a job, even if they are temporarily unable to work. In addition they may be able to look for work even if they cannot actually work.

If a PP recipient is able to participate in suitable job preparation activities, they will be expected to do so. Participating in suitable activities will help PP recipients to remain active and be job-ready when they recover from the temporary or episodic condition. Requirements can be met flexibly to ensure they do not exceed the PP recipient's capacity.

However, if it is not appropriate for the PP recipient to undertake job preparation activities, an exemption may be applied (e.g. a person recovering in hospital would not be able to undertake any suitable activities).

Where a PP recipient submits a medical certificate which indicates that any of the medical conditions will be medium or long term in nature (such as with episodic or chronic conditions) an ESAt or JCA may be required to determine the impact of the medical condition on their requirements. Examples of medical conditions which can be considered episodic or chronic include schizophrenia, psychosis, drug and alcohol addiction, depression and anxiety. Where a medical condition is likely to be short term (i.e. less than 13 weeks - see information in durations below) or is a minor ailment (such as common cold or influenza etc) there is no need for an assessment to take place.

Note: While a medical certificate may indicate drug or alcohol addiction and an ESAt or JCA may be required, exemptions do not apply to circumstances wholly or predominantly attributable to the job seeker's misuse of alcohol or another drug, unless the job seeker is a CDP participant.

Definition of temporary incapacity

A temporary incapacity exemption is granted where a person has 0 - 7 hours work capacity (and inability to work for 8 or more hours per week) which is supported by medical evidence and they are unable to undertake any programme of assistance or suitable activity also for 8 or more hours a week.

Definition of medical condition durations

A medical condition is considered to be:

  • short-term in nature if the expected prognosis of the condition is less than 13 weeks,
  • medium-term in nature if the expected prognosis of the condition is 13 weeks or more and less than 2 years, or
  • long-term in nature if the expected prognosis is 2 or more years.

Duration of exemption

An exemption can only be granted for the period stated on the medical certificate or for a maximum of 13 weeks, whichever is the lesser. A further exemption can be granted, if the PP recipient meets all eligibility requirements that the incapacity must be temporary and that the person must be unable to work more than 8 hours per week or undertake suitable activities also for 8 or more hours a week.

If the circumstances on which the initial period of exemption were based remain in effect (as substantiated by an additional, valid medical certificate), then it would be appropriate for the delegate to grant subsequent exemptions from requirements for one or more other periods (also not exceeding 13 weeks).

If, however, a PP recipient is seeking an extension that will extend the exemption period or periods to a total of more than 26 weeks in a 12 month period, and there is no current assessment of the person's work capacity, then an ESAt may be required. Such a high rate of exemption could indicate that the person is avoiding participation, has an underlying or unknown condition, or is suffering from a long term condition. The assessment will inform the appropriate intervention and support necessary to address the person's barriers to participation.

Not eligible for exemption from mutual obligation requirements

After consideration of all evidence (possibly including an ESAt of a PP recipient's medical condition and work capacity), a delegate may determine that a PP recipient is capable of undertaking some activities and therefore is not eligible for an exemption. These PP recipients will be required to undertake appropriate mutual obligation requirements, which take into consideration their individual circumstances and any barriers they may have, particularly their medical condition. It may be appropriate for their mutual obligation requirements to be reduced for a period of time, or for their mutual obligation requirements to be organised differently during this period of time (e.g. while a person attends their own medical rehabilitation due to injury, their other activities with their employment services provider may be modified).

Mutual obligation requirements for PP recipients not eligible for an exemption may include:

  • referral to, or continuation in employment services,
  • undertaking job search dependent on their capacity, or
  • another suitable activity that can be undertaken.

Note: Exemptions do not apply to circumstances wholly or predominantly attributable to the PP recipient's misuse of alcohol or another drug, unless the PP recipient is a CDP participant.

Note: Job seekers' voluntary participation in drug and alcohol treatment may contribute towards their mutual obligation or annual activity requirements.

It is expected that most PP recipients who are temporarily ill or injured will have existing Job Plans in place that can be modified. For example, the number of job searches might be reduced while a person recovers. In other instances, new activities may become suitable during the period of reduced capacity, for example a PP recipient may attend medical rehabilitation.

In other cases, where a PP recipient has had an ESAt, it may recommend to the PP recipient a short-term intervention that responds specifically to their injury or illness, for example a PP recipient may be able to undertake a pain management course.

Example 1: Jane has a part-time mutual obligation requirement because she is a PP recipient with children of school age. She has to undertake 20 job searches per month, attend a training course for 6 hours per week and fortnightly appointments with her employment services provider. Due to an episodic health issue, Jane becomes unable to continue this workload for a period of time. Her mutual obligation requirements are reduced to take account of her current capacity. This means that in her case, she still has to look for suitable jobs but the number of job searches can be less than 20 and undertake other suitable activities to take into account her reduced capacity.

Example 2: Mary has a child, Anne, aged 6 and is a single PP recipient. She has suffered occasional periods of schizophrenia and has documented evidence of her medical condition from her THP. The latest period of her re-occurring bouts of schizophrenia happened 2 weeks ago. On the basis of documentation from her THP which assesses her as temporarily not having the capacity to undertake part-time work of 8 hours a week, she is granted an exemption from her mutual obligation requirements until she recovers from this specific period of ill health (each exemption period for a maximum of 13 weeks).

Act reference: SSAct section 502H Temporary incapacity, section 502J Time limit for temporary incapacity exemption-Secretary…, section 502K Time limit for temporary incapacity exemption-end of person's…

Policy reference: SS Guide Mutual Obligation Requirements for NSA/YA Job Seekers/YA Students - Exemptions - Temporary Incapacity

Last reviewed: 2 July 2018