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. Employment


Job seekers can undertake paid part-time or casual employment at any stage and are generally required to accept any suitable work, including casual or part-time work, that is offered to them.

Sufficient work

In some cases, job seekers may be working at a level that means they are no longer required to look for work or meet other requirements. The majority of recipients whose work would be considered sufficient to fully meet their mutual obligation requirements would most likely be people with part-time mutual obligation requirements.

Those with an assessed partial capacity to work, principal carer parents, and those aged 55 and over may fully meet their requirements when undertaking 30 hours of paid work per fortnight (3.11.6). Other job seekers are considered to be undertaking sufficient work (and are not required to meet other requirements) if they are undertaking 70 hours of work per fortnight, and demonstrate a stable pattern of employment and earnings. Where there is significant variation in hours worked and earnings from fortnight to fortnight, the issue of whether a person's work fully meets their mutual obligation requirements must be determined on a fortnightly basis.

However, YA recipients are not considered unemployed and are not eligible for payment if they are in full‑time paid work of at least 70 hours per fortnight (or less if that lesser number constitutes full-time work in the industry in which the person is employed). A YA recipient who is involved to a substantial degree in the operation of a family business should also not be taken to satisfy their mutual obligation requirements.

Act reference: SSAct section 500 Qualification for PP, section 540 Qualification for YA-general rule, section 593 Qualification for JSP, section 595 Persons may be treated as unemployed (JSP)

SS(Admin)Act section 40R Persons engaged in work

Sufficient work test

Job seekers' hours of employment (including self-employment) are calculated based on the total hours worked if the wage received is at least the applicable legal hourly rate (usually the national minimum wage or applicable occupation award wage). If the pay rate is less than this (for example because the person is self-employed) the number of hours is calculated by dividing the pay received by whichever of the following is applicable:

  • for people in occupations covered by an award which provides a rate of pay which is LOWER than the national minimum wage, the applicable hourly award rate, OR
  • where junior or trainee rates apply, and these are lower than the national minimum wage, the applicable hourly rate, OR
  • in other cases, the hourly rate of the national minimum wage as set by the Fair Work Commission.

Note: For ministers of religion who are either a principal carer parent or a person with a partial work capacity due to a disability, the amount of remuneration received does not have to be at the national minimum wage.

Example: In 2019, Andrew spends about 30 hours per week running a karate school. However, his income from this school averages $300 per fortnight. In 2019 the minimum wage was $19.49 per hour, so for the purposes of calculating how much paid work counts towards his mutual obligation requirements, Andrew is determined to only be working 15 hours per fortnight ($300 ÷ $19.49 = 15.4).

Person on leave

For the purposes of the sufficient work test, a person on leave will be regarded as working for the number of hours suggested by their leave payment rate. A person on full-pay leave will therefore be regarded as continuing to work their normal hours. A person on half-pay leave will be regarded as working half their normal hours, and a person on leave without pay will not be regarded as working.

The number of hours this approach produces is then compared to the number of hours the person is required to work to satisfy their requirements.

Example: Petra is a principal carer parent working 30 hours a week at the national minimum wage rate. Her work meets the sufficient work test, and she also fully satisfies her mutual obligation requirements through the number of hours she is working. She takes leave for 2 weeks at half-pay. This is regarded as being equivalent to 15 hours work a week at the national minimum wage rate, which will still satisfy her sufficient work test and mutual obligation requirements. This is because Petra is a principal carer parent and may work 15 hours a week at the national minimum wage rate to satisfy mutual obligation requirements.

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