The Morrison Government will introduce a further step in the gradual return to mutual obligation arrangements for all job seekers from 28 September 2020, with the exception of Victoria where mutual obligation requirements will remain suspended.
Mutual obligations were suspended for job seekers as a result of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020 but have been gradually reintroduced as restrictions have eased across Australia.
Despite there still being health and economic challenges because of COVID-19, as the August 2020 labour force figures demonstrate, more Australians are returning to the workforce and many businesses are looking for workers.
The expanded mutual obligation requirements will apply to all job seekers in jobactive, Online Employment Services, Disability Employment Services and participants in the ParentsNext program.
As part of the new arrangements, from 28 September job seekers may be subject to income support payment suspensions or penalties if mutual obligation requirements are not met and there is no valid reason. At present, job seekers are only subject to penalties or suspensions if they refuse an offer of employment without a valid reason.
Elements of mutual obligation requirements for job seekers may include:
• participating in appointments with their employment service provider,
• agreeing to a job plan,
• participating in agreed activities where it is safe to do so,
• looking for work,
• accepting an offer of suitable work.
For some job seekers, who have been on income support for 12 months, Work for the Dole activities will also recommence where it is safe to do so and all health and safety requirements are met.
Given the changing nature of the labour market, with many roles changing significantly because of COVID-19, the Government is also increasing opportunities for job seekers to train and upskill to become more employable in areas of high skill demand. Additional flexibility is being introduced so that a job seeker who is studying an eligible course that is less than 12 months in duration, in either the vocational education and training or higher education systems, can have that study counted towards their mutual obligation requirements.
The Government recognises this continues to be a challenging time for those looking for work and encourages jobseekers to access the full range of assistance available to them – including access to skills training, assistance for other work preparation activities and referral to relevant support services – including mental health services, if required.
People who are receiving both JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments may also have mutual obligation requirements, depending on their circumstances, consistent with the arrangements for part time workers who are also in receipt of Job Seeker. Individuals who only receive JobKeeper are not subject to mutual obligation requirements. Job seekers will be notified of their requirements ahead of the 28 September resumption.
Special Circumstances Exemptions continue to be available through Services Australia for job seekers who require them. Sole traders and those who are self-employed will continue to be exempted from requirements to allow them to work to re-establish their business.
More information about mutual obligations requirements can be found at www.dese.gov.au/covid-19/job-seekers.