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. SEA - return to work claims


This topic considers recipients claiming a SEA because they have expenses related to a firm job offer.


A recipient who claims a SEA as they have expenses relating to a firm offer of employment, must satisfy the general qualifications set out at

Specifically these are:

  • be qualified for a SEA qualifying entitlement, AND
  • have received some kind of income support payment, for the 3 months immediately before applying for the advance, AND
  • request, and be entitled to, between $50.00 and $500.00 in advance, AND
  • not owe any debt to the Commonwealth that is being recovered, or may be recovered by repayments from their social security payment, except for certain PPS recipients, AND
  • be able to repay the advance without suffering financial hardship, AND
  • the person has received a definite offer of employment in Australia for a period of at least 6 weeks, AND
  • would not be able to take up the offer of employment without the SEA, AND
  • the expected income from the employment will reduce the recipient's MBR of entitlement (1.1.M.53) by at least 50% over the relevant paydays, or the recipient will lose qualification for their social security payment. When establishing whether the recipient's maximum basic entitlement has been reduced by 50%, any working credits or income bank must be taken into consideration.

Act reference: SSAct section 23(1)-'social security entitlement', section 23(1)-'income support payment'

Policy reference: SS Guide Working credit depletion

Expenses relating to a definite offer of employment

In cases where a recipient requires the SEA to take up a definite offer of employment it must be established that without the item or service, it will not be possible for the person to accept the offered employment. Some examples may include:

  • work boots
  • registration of a car where the job is not serviced by public transport
  • moving expenses
  • protective clothing, and
  • up-front childcare expenses.

It is not recommended that the SEA be made available to purchase a car.

Example: Sunglasses would not be considered essential for an outdoor job, unless wearing sunglasses had been designated as essential by the employer or workplace standards authority.

Self-employed recipients

In the case of return to work expenses, a SEA will only be paid to a self-employed recipient where they can associate an expense with a specific contract or job. The recipient must satisfy the requirement of a firm job offer of employment for 6 weeks. This may exclude recipients who engage in small transactions with a large customer base, for example wood-carters, gardeners, market stall operators and shopkeepers. Recipients who contract or sub-contract for services such as a labourer or builder, may qualify for a return to work SEA as a distinct return to work contract can be verified.

Recipients who are setting up a new business will generally not qualify for a SEA because they will find it difficult to demonstrate what their earnings are going to be in the future.

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