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.

3.11.3 Suitable activities


In order to satisfy their mutual obligation requirements, job seekers generally must be actively seeking and willing to undertake any paid work that is not unsuitable ( Job search may also be combined with other suitable activities, with a job seeker's requirements set out in their Job Plan. This topic describes activities that are suitable activities for the purposes of satisfying mutual obligation requirements.

Suitable activities

Most job seekers will focus on job search, but may be required to undertake additional activities.

Other than job search, suitable activities may include:

  • acting on referrals to specific jobs and attending job interviews offered by employers
  • activities designed to develop job search and job interview skills or soft skills needed in the workforce (such as Employability Skills Training and Career Transition Assistance)
  • study
  • part-time work
  • voluntary work
  • Defence Force Reserves
  • other government programs
  • non-vocational programs and services
  • self-employment (including through Workforce Australia - Self-Employment Assistance (1.1.W.70))
  • quarterly interviews with Services Australia
  • work experience programs, such as NWEP and work experience (other)
  • PaTH Internships
  • approved non-government programs
  • Work for the Dole
  • language, literacy, and numeracy activities, under the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program or the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), and
  • items which address non-vocational issues.

For the CDP a delegate may also consider CDP WFD activities.

Newly arrived refugees with mutual obligation requirements will be referred to a suitable activity. However, where they would be serviced by a Workforce Australia provider, newly arrived refugees are not required to be connected to a provider until 12 months after their arrival in Australia, and are Services Australia managed until then. However, newly arrived refugees can participate voluntarily in Workforce Australia at any time prior to 12 months after arrival.

Refugees who are eligible to be referred to Transition to Work, DES, CDP or ParentsNext will be referred to those services.

Reasonable travel for activities

For an activity to be considered suitable for a job seeker, generally the commute from the job seekers' place of residence to the activity, and from the activity to the job seeker's residence, must be reasonable. The travel time should also be proportionate to the duration and type of activity.

For job seekers who are principal carer parents or who have a partial capacity to work, reasonable travel must not exceed 60 minutes in one direction.

For job seekers who are not principal carer parents and who do not have a partial capacity to work, reasonable travel should not exceed 90 minutes in one direction.

Travel time refers to the actual time spent in transit, from the place of residence to the activity location, and must be calculated using the method of travel that is most reliable and accessible to the job seeker. For principal carer parents, travel time must also take into account the travel time to and from childcare. Additionally, travel for job seekers with a partial capacity to work should not aggravate or be unreasonably difficult due to their illness, injury or disability.

Breaks in activities

Generally there is no need to adjust a job seeker's requirements if they have a break of 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 for the period of the break. The Job Plan should be revised to include the adjusted requirements. However, separate rules apply to part-time paid employment for those fully meeting their requirements through paid work (principal carer parents, those with partial capacity to work, or aged 55 and over). Breaks or holidays in casual part-time work beyond the control of job seekers who are fully meeting their requirements results in their being required to undertake other suitable activities (job search, in particular) for any fortnight in which they are not fully meeting their requirements. Leave from permanent part-time work will not result in job seekers who are fully meeting their requirements 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).

If a person needs to take a break from an activity due to personal circumstances, then they must immediately notify Services Australia, their employment services provider or the digital services contact centre, who will then either revise or develop a new Job Plan that takes the job seeker's changed circumstances into account.

Example: A 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.

Intending students/employees

People who are enrolled in a course commencing in the future or who have employment commencing in the future are still required to look for work and/or undertake activities in the meantime.

The job seeker would generally be required to look for available work that would not affect their ability to start the job or course of study. The job seeker should be encouraged to seek temporary, part-time or casual work, even if only for a short period.

Note 1: If a job seeker is fully meeting their requirements (3.11.6), they cannot be compelled to undertake any other activities.

Note 2: For principal carer parents, activities and other requirements should be scheduled to occur during school hours (i.e. generally between 9 am and 3 pm during school terms), unless otherwise requested or agreed to by the principal carer parent.

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