The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

3.11 Mutual obligation requirements


Mutual obligation requirements are designed to ensure that unemployed people receiving participation payments are actively looking for work and are participating in activities that will help them into employment.

Mutual obligation requirements apply to all job seekers in receipt of participation payments, which are:

  • jobseeker payment
  • youth allowance (other)
  • PP (when their youngest child turns 6) or if meeting the eligibility criteria for ParentsNext (3.11.11), and
  • special benefit.

Note: The type of mutual obligation requirements that SpB recipients have depends on whether they are NVHs or not (see 3.11.10 for more detail).

Note 2: Information about requirements for full-time students receiving YA can be found at 3.2.7 and Austudy can be found at 3.3.4. Australian Apprentices in receipt of YA, Austudy or ABSTUDY are not required to satisfy requirements but must continue to satisfy the definition of a full-time Australian Apprentice (1.1.A.324).

When coming onto payment, participation payment recipients are generally required to engage with employment services before receiving payment (3.11.12). Job seekers will then be required to enter into a Job Plan (3.11.2) which outlines all of a job seeker's mutual obligation requirements. These requirements will generally include looking for and accepting suitable work (3.11.1), attending appointments with their employment services provider (if applicable), attending all job interviews and undertaking other suitable activities (if applicable) (3.11.3).

Job seekers' 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 generally 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
  • job seekers with a partial capacity to work of 15 to 29 hours per week.

Specific rules around what requirements are appropriate also exist for those with a partial capacity to work (3.11.7), principal carer parents (3.11.8), early school leavers (3.11.9), those receiving SpB (3.11.10) and ParentsNext participants (3.11.11).

Instead of meeting their requirements as outlined above, job seekers who have an assessed partial capacity to work, are principal carer parents of dependent children, or are aged 55 or over are instead also able to choose to fully meet their requirements through various approved combinations of paid work, volunteer work and study (3.11.6).

Job seekers who fail to meet their mutual obligation requirements may have their payment suspended, reduced or cancelled under the targeted compliance framework for the majority of job seekers, or the job seeker compliance framework for CDP participants.

Activation points for Workforce Australia job seekers

Job seekers in Workforce Australia who do not voluntarily engage in a suitable activity will need to participate in mandatory activities throughout their period of service. These are referred to as activation points.

For job seekers who self-manage their own requirements in Workforce Australia Online, activation points will occur after 4 months of service. Job seekers who have been in Workforce Australia Online will generally be referred to Workforce Australia provider services after 12 months. These job seekers will have another activation point 3 months after this referral and approximately every 6 months afterwards.

For job seekers who are managed by an employment services provider, activation points will occur after 6 months of service and will occur approximately every 6 months afterwards.

Where job seekers cannot meet their requirements

Job seekers' mutual obligations should be tailored to job seekers' individual circumstances. Where job seekers have a medical condition that may affect their ability to work, they may be assessed for a temporary reduced work capacity, or partial capacity to work.

In circumstances where job seekers are unable to meet any requirements for medical or other reasons, they may also be temporarily exempted from mutual obligation requirements (3.11.5).

Refusal to satisfy mutual obligation requirements provides grounds for disqualification from payment

It is a basic qualification provision that all job seekers must be willing and able to satisfy their mutual obligation requirements. For this reason, where it is clear that a person who is claiming a participation payment does not intend to meet their requirements, payment should not be granted. If a job seeker receiving income support indicates that they no longer intend to meet their requirements, their payment should be cancelled until the delegate is satisfied that the job seeker intends to meet their requirements. The compliance provisions also allow penalties to be imposed on job seekers who fail to meet specific mutual obligation requirements without having a reasonable excuse.

Example: A person who expresses an intention to limit their job search in some way or who refuses to register with an employment services provider should have their claim rejected or their payment cancelled.

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