ACOSS’s advocacy on Mutual Obligations and Employment Services

ACOSS advocates for a fairer system of mutual obligations and employment services and our current priorities for reform are in the ACOSS Budget Priorities Statement – A Submission to the Treasurer 2023-2024

ACOSS believes there is an historic opportunity to achieve full employment, where the vast majority of people seeking paid employment can readily find a job. To reach full employment in the 21st century labour market, attention must also be paid to Australia’s high levels of underemployment and insecure employment, and over-reliance on temporary migrants to fill entry-level jobs.

To ensure that people unemployed long-term can take advantage of the jobs available as we move towards full employment, we propose a flexible, community and employer- driven Jobs and Training Offer.

Find out more about our vision for full employment in the Jobs and Skills Summit position paper.

ACOSS believes that employment services need to be redesigned so that their primary purpose is to assist people to secure employment, rather than enforce compliance with payment requirements. ACOSS advocacy is focused on ensuring that:

  • Services are strengths-based, respectful, and responsive to the aspirations of unemployed people and needs of employers, and local labour market conditions.
  • People who are unemployed long-term or have other barriers to employment receive the help they need to overcome them, rather than standardised programs.
  • Robust ‘digital protections’ are introduced so that natural justice is assured, privacy is not compromised, and people can readily use online systems or alternative arrangements.
  • Disband Work for the Dole and Youth Path internships and reduce reliance on less effective schemes such as Employability Skills Training
  • Undertake a thorough review of the Points model for the Points Based Activation System to ensure that activities and tasks are credited with appropriate values that reflect the contribution of the activity (e.g. securing employment or training) to people’s employment prospects, and that reporting on activities is not onerous

ACOSS will continue to monitor the implementation of mutual obligations in Workforce Australia to ensure that it does not continue to impose onerous requirements and unfair penalties on people required to use employment services.

Related information

ACOSS proposal to Immediately reduce payment suspensions

ACOSS Budget Priorities Statement – A Submission to the Treasurer 2023-2024

Mutual obligation snapshots

Mutual obligations during climate disasters and COVID


Further background on the New Employment Services Model/Workforce Australia

I Want to Work report

ACOSS Submission: Point-Based Activation in the New Employment Services

2018 ACOSS submission – new employment service payment model

ACOSS submission employment service licensing

ACOSS submission on the NESM Exposure Draft

ACOSS Submission on the SPROM Bill

ACOSS Submission on Future Employment Services


Previous updates

July 2022

In our public statement today, ACOSS welcomed the changes announced by Employment Minister Tony Burke earlier this week to the new Workforce Australia employment service system. We see them as good first steps in reforming a seriously flawed system. The new system, which starts from Monday 4 July, includes a new Points Based Activation System, as well as online employment services for people closer to employment.

Read a full briefing here

Update 28 April

Read our briefing on advocacy on the Streamlined Participation Requirements and Other Measures (SPROM) Bill.

This advocacy resulted in legislative commitments to review the new employment services (called Workforce Australia) and mutual obligation requirements within 2 years of the commencement of the new model in July 2022. These commitments were included in amendments to the SPROM bill and the review will involve people directly affected as well as the organisations that work with, and represent them.

The advocacy also resulted in a commitment to implement a Digital protections framework for employment services programs and other improvements to protections for people who are required to use employment services.

Previous updates October 2021

When Mutual Obligations were restored after the COVID-19 related lockdowns, ACOSS wrote to the Minister and Department of Employment requesting that:
  • Mutual obligations and requirements to attend face to face meetings or activities should remain suspended during lockdowns and for at least a month after lockdowns are lifted
  • Any restoration of mutual obligations should be carefully phased, taking account of health restrictions and the state of labour markets at State and local levels (we note that default job search requirements were gradually built up to 4 then 10 per month last year, and do not believe requirements above this are appropriate in any case)
  • The phasing of obligations should be clearly communicated to all parties in a timely way
  • Face to face servicing in currently locked down areas should remain optional for the time being; Scheduled six-monthly and annual activities in the locked-down areas should be deferred.

Read more about the concerns ACOSS had when Mutual Obligations were restored in October 2021 in our briefing A new post-lockdown health hazard: Sudden reintroduction of unrealistic job search requirements and penalties.


Reports and submissions
Reform of employment services and mutual obligations

August 2023

ACOSS Budget Priorities Statement – A Submission to the Treasurer 2023-2024

April 2023

ACOSS Cost of Living Report 2023

April 2023

ACOSS Submission to the Minimum Wage Review 2023

March 2o23

ACOSS Submission to Select Committee Workforce Australia

March 2023

Parents Next Submission to the Workforce Australia Select Committee

December 2022

Submission to Employment White Paper Task Force

November 2022

ACOSS RBA Review 2022

November 2022

ACOSS Submission to the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill Inquiry

November 2022

ACOSS Submission to the National Electric Vehicle Strategy Consultation Paper 2022 Final

Accessible Version Here

October 2022

Letter to Inquiry into Extent and Nature of Poverty in Australia

Accessible Version here

October 2022

Submission to the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care, October 2022

October 2022

ACOSS Policy Paper for the Jobs and Skills Summit

September 2022

Voices 2: results of a survey of people who used jobactive

June 2022

Faces of Unemployment 2021

November 2021

Single mothers, older women left behind – ACOSS Post Budget Gender Analysis

24 May 2021