SpB mutual obligation requirements - exemptions


There may be situations where an SpB recipient can be granted an exemption from their mutual obligation requirements, either permanently or for a short period of time. This topic describes the circumstances in which exemptions from mutual obligation requirements can be granted. These circumstances must be verifiable.

Permanent exemptions from mutual obligation requirements for SpB recipients

The following list describes certain special circumstances in which an exemption from both the SpB AND the SpB NVH mutual obligation requirements can be permanently granted.

SpB recipients who are:

  • of work force age, have reached the minimum age for YA but have not reached age pension age, and who are permanently incapacitated and would meet all the requirements for DSP (including medical) except for residence requirements
  • not of work force age including those below minimum age for YA (15 years if independent, 16 years if not independent) and those who have reached age pension age, OR
  • of work force age who have caring responsibilities who would meet all the requirements for CP and/or CA (including medical) except for residence.

Temporary exemptions from mutual obligation requirements for SpB recipients

The following list describes certain special circumstances in which an exemption from mutual obligation requirements can be temporarily granted unless stated otherwise. The period of exemption is a maximum of 13 weeks unless otherwise stated.

An SpB recipient can be temporarily exempt from both SpB AND SpB NVH mutual obligation requirements if:

  • there are special circumstances, such as
    • SpB NVH first 13 weeks
    • a major personal disruption to a person's home
    • a major personal crisis
    • they are performing temporary carer's duties
    • volunteering during State or National emergency
  • they have a dependent child under 6 years
  • they have a temporary incapacity
  • they are pre or post natal, or
  • they are a principal carer parent with special family circumstances.

Each of these exemptions are explained in more detail below.

Special circumstances exemptions

Special circumstances exemptions are based on circumstances that are UNFORESEEN and cause major disruption, so that the recipient is unable to meet mutual obligations requirements and it would be unreasonable to expect them to do so.

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

Act reference: SSAct section 731E Relief from activity test-special circumstances

Special circumstances - SpB NVH first 13 weeks

SpB NVH recipients within their first 13 weeks of being granted visa type 070, 449, 785, 786 or 790. This is to enable NVHs time to settle into the community after release from detention. This exemption ONLY applies to the SpB NVH with mutual obligation requirements and is only intended to be granted once, not each time a new visa type may be granted.

Act reference: SSAct section 731JA Relief from activity test-grant of temporary protection, humanitarian or safe haven visa

Special circumstances - major personal disruption to a person's home

Generally, an exemption period of 2 weeks would be appropriate for personal disruptions.

Examples of major personal disruptions include damage caused by:

  • flood, fire or earthquake
  • burglary, and/or vandalism.

Exemptions in such cases would be limited to the time required to:

  • arrange alternative accommodation
  • replace household items
  • organise major repairs, and/or
  • organise insurance claims.

Special circumstances - major personal crisis

The exemption period for major personal crisis is generally for a period of 2 weeks but can be extended to 4 weeks in extremely traumatic circumstances.

Examples of a major personal crisis include:

  • the death of a member of the recipient's immediate family
  • breakdown of marriage or equivalent relationship
  • becoming homeless
  • domestic violence, and
  • for people assessed as having a partial capacity to work, where their carer is temporarily or permanently unable to care for them because of unforeseen circumstances. For more information see

Exemptions in such cases are limited to the time required to do such things as arranging:

  • a funeral and other related matters
  • alternative accommodation
  • removal of belongings
  • child care
  • short term counselling, AND/OR
  • for people assessed as having a partial capacity to work, finding alternative care arrangements or their carer recovers from their temporary incapacity.

Special circumstances - temporary carer duties

Exemptions for carer's duties can be granted for up to 13 weeks. If the exemption period for the recipient caring is going to be longer than 13 weeks, the recipient should test their eligibility for CP. Where CP is not granted (on grounds other than residence requirements) this indicates that full-time care is not required after that initial 13 week period and the recipient caring should therefore meet SpB activity test requirements. People who hold a visa issued for temporary humanitarian or safe haven purposes do not meet the residence requirements for CP. They therefore should be exempt from the activity test if they would have otherwise satisfied the basic qualification criteria for CP but for residence requirements.

Act reference: SSAct section 731 Application of Subdivision, section 731J Relief from activity test-persons who would be qualified for carer payment under section 198 or for carer allowance

Special circumstances - jury duty

Exemptions for jury duty can be granted for up to 13 weeks, which may be extended, but not by more than 13 weeks at a time.

State or national emergency

Exemptions for volunteers during state or national emergencies (e.g. bushfires), can be granted for up to 13 weeks. The job seeker should be asked to provide proof of their active involvement when they next lodge their claim for payment (SU19), such as a written statement from their rural fire service/State Emergency Service commander.

Dependent child

A person is given relief from mutual obligation requirements in respect of a period where the person has at least one child who:

  • is a dependent child of the person (within the meaning of the SSAct subsection 5(2), (3) and (6))
  • has not turned 6, and
  • is in Australia.

A child can only be the dependent child of one person at a time.

Act reference: SSAct section 731H Relief from the activity test-dependent child

Temporary incapacity for work (1.1.T.70)

A person has a temporary incapacity for work if ALL of the following conditions apply:

  • they are unable to work for 8 or more hours per week and are unable to undertake another appropriate activity because of sickness or an accident
  • the incapacity is, or is likely to be, of a temporary nature
  • they provide a medical certificate that states
    • the medical practitioner's diagnosis
    • prognosis
    • that the person is incapacitated for work or study
    • the period for which the person is incapacitated, AND
  • the incapacity has not been brought about with a view to obtaining an exemption from the SpB mutual obligation requirements.

Explanation: Work means any work the person was reasonably capable of performing for at least 8 hours per week, before they became incapacitated. This includes full-time, part-time, permanent or casual work at award wages or above.

The continuous period of exemption will not normally be more than 13 weeks, unless the medical condition continues, or is likely to continue for more than 13 weeks.

Act reference: SSAct section 731K Temporarily incapacitated person not required to satisfy activity test

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

Mutual obligation requirements & exemptions during pregnancy

Pregnant women are exempt from their mutual obligation requirements from 6 weeks before the expected date of confinement.

These exemptions apply even if the baby is stillborn, dies after birth or is placed for adoption.

In addition, from 3 months before the date they are expected to give birth, pregnant women are not required to undertake job search, although they must continue to satisfy the mutual obligation requirements by undertaking another suitable activity.

If at any other time during pregnancy a woman is unable to meet her mutual obligation requirements because of pregnancy-related medical problems, she should apply for an incapacity exemption.

Act reference: SSAct section 731F Relief from activity test-pre-natal and post-natal

Remote area exemption

SpB recipients, with mutual obligation requirements, living in a remote area can only be granted a remote area exemption from their mutual obligation requirements for a period if:

  • there is no locally accessible labour market and there is no locally accessible vocational training course or LMP in which the person can participate, AND
  • the person is unemployed, and capable of and willing to undertake suitable paid work.

Where other relevant factors exist that make it unreasonable to expect the person to satisfy the mutual obligation requirements, consideration should be given to a more appropriate exemption type that would take precedence over the remote area exemption. The remote area exemption should be considered last and only where no other exemption is applicable.

Example: A person lives in a remote location where there is no access to a labour market and no other approved activity available (e.g. WFD or training course).

Act reference: SSAct section 731D Persons in certain areas can be taken to comply with activity test

Exemptions for principal carer parent on SpB - special family circumstances

There are 2 types of exemption for SpB recipients who are principal carers:

  • exemptions granted on an automatic basis, and
  • exemptions assessed and granted on a case-by-case basis.

For both exemption types, SpB principal carers are required to provide documentation which substantiates the existence and nature of the special family circumstance. In the case of automatic exemptions, once adequate verification is provided, an exemption must be immediately granted. The only discretion is setting the duration of exemption.

Automatic exemptions

There are a number of circumstances where an automatic exemption can be applied, if the SpB principal carer is:

  • a registered and active foster carer
  • providing home schooling to one or more of the children for whom the SpB recipient is the principal carer
  • providing or suitably involved in assisting and supervising distance education for one or more of the children for whom the SpB recipient is the principal carer
  • caring for a large family (i.e. is the principal carer or main supporter parent of 4 or more children all aged 18 years or under), or
  • a relative but not a parent of a child and the child is living with the SpB principal carer in accordance with a family law order.

Note 1: SpB single principal carers are not eligible for the top-up available to NSA/YA single principal carers who are granted an exemption for the above reasons. That is their payment does not increase to the maximum PPS rate.

Note 2: Refer to for more details on documentation required for assessing whether an automatic exemption can be applied for these.

Act reference: SSAct section 731DB Relief from the activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances

Case-by-case exemptions for special family circumstances

Exemptions for all other special family circumstances are to be considered on a case-by-case basis for SpB principal carers. These include, but are not limited to:

  • caring for a dependent child with a disability
  • involvement in informal kinship or family care arrangements
  • being subject to domestic violence
  • extremely high stress due to recent relationship breakdown
  • the death of an immediate family member
  • a dependent child having a temporary illness or injury requiring full-time parental care
  • caring for a frail, aged or disabled adult family member, or
  • caring for a youngest child aged 6 but who has not yet commenced school.

Case-by-case exemptions for these circumstances should be considered, assessed and granted as described in

Act reference: SSAct section 731DB Relief from the activity test-people with disabled children and other circumstances, section 731DA Relief from activity test-domestic violence etc.

Social Security (Special Circumstances - Family) Specification 2016

Social Security (Participation Exemption - Parenting Order) (FaCSIA) Instrument 2007

Exemptions & links to employment services providers

SpB principal carers who have not yet been connected to an employment services provider and who are granted a short-term exemption (i.e. for 16 weeks or less) will be connected to an employment services provider, but will not have to attend an appointment during the period of the exemption. SpB recipients who have not yet been connected to an employment services provider and who are granted a medium to long-term exemption (i.e. greater than 16 weeks) do not need to be connected to an employment services provider, however, they will be given the opportunity to be connected and participate on a voluntary basis.

Last reviewed: 6 May 2019