JobSeeker Payments: Access and Requirements

Contents

    1. Latest Updates
    2. Changes to requirements (‘mutual obligations’) for people on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance (Other) payments
    3. Obtaining JobSeeker and other Centrelink payments
    4. Help with Centrelink and employment services issues

Latest Updates

Important note: ACOSS has been advised that job search requirements remain in place during mutual obligation suspension periods. Job Seekers and participants should check any remaining job search requirements at the end of the Mutual Obligation suspension period and contact your provider of the Digital Contact Centre in advance of the due date if you are unable to complete the job searches. The provider should consider the impact of the shut down on your personal circumstances, and may be able to reduce the job searches make set them as ‘no longer required.

Check this webpage for more information: https://jobsearch.gov.au/mor

Due to the COVID pandemic there are a number of rolling mutual obligation suspensions across Australia, click on the links to see how this affects you


Requirements (‘mutual obligations’) for people on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance (Other) payments

From October 2021

Applies to: jobactive, Online Employment Services, New Employment Services Trial

New compulsory activity requirement after 6 months’ unemployment:
– People unemployed for six months will be required to undertake an activity for 25 hours a week for 2 months.
– As with Annual Activity Requirements (after one year’s unemployment), this will include a range of options, such as: part time employment (if available), vocational or employability skills training, career transition assistance (for older people), Youth Path internships or work experience, or (as the default if another activity is not chosen) Work for the Dole.
– However, this compulsory activity does not continue for as long as the Annual Activity requirement for people unemployed long-term (which normally runs for 6 months)
– People in online services may be connected with an employment service provider to organise this activity.

ACOSS VIEW: Our media statement on income support changes is here: https://www.acoss.org.au/media-releases/?media_release=a-heartless-betrayal-of-millions-government-jobseeker-decision

Job search and mutual obligation requirement changes

From 1 July, 2021

Applies to: jobactive and Disability Employment Services, Online Employment Services, New Employment Services Trial

  1. Default monthly job search requirement increases from 15 to 20 – Job Plans will be amended to take this into account
    – Lesser requirements apply to people with a partial work capacity and principal carer parents (required to seek part time employment)
    – Lesser requirements should apply (but at provider’s discretion) in areas where unemployment is high.
    – Other factors, such as participation in approved training, should be taken into account in developing Job Plans
    – The standard exemptions apply (e.g. temporary illness)
    – Job seekers can call the Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260 to discuss job search levels they believe are not appropriate.

ACOSS view: See our media statement on the resumption of unrealistic job search here: https://www.acoss.org.au/media-releases/?media_release=no-covid-normal-but-job-searching-requirements-return-to-punitive-pre-covid-levels

Other conditions updated in March-April 2021

Attend Face to Face meetings and activities: 
– This is compulsory where the provider sets them up, with some exemptions (e.g. temporary illness, or specific health conditions that make attendance or travel        risky for the person
– Some meetings, such as first interviews with providers, will be held face to face by default
– Others (such as regular provider appointments) are at the provider’s discretion
– Ask your provider to meet by phone or online if you have problems getting to face to face meetings – e.g. high transport costs
More details here: https://www.dese.gov.au/covid-19/resources/job-seeker-participant-return-face-face-servicing

More auditing of ‘quality’ of job searches

– A higher proportion of job searches will be audited by the Employment Department for ‘quality’. Job search efforts not regarded as ‘genuine’ will be rejected  (e.g. applying for the same job multiple times or for jobs well above the person’s qualifications).
– ‘Quality’ means applications for a diversity of jobs using different approaches (eg online, newspapers, cold-calling etc) .
– Where already-reported job searches are rejected, this could trigger a payment suspension until more or ’better quality’ applications are made, unless there is a ‘reasonable excuse’.
– As with other requirements, people will have two working days to fix these ‘quality’ issues (e.g. by making more applications) before payments are suspended.
– Demerit points apply when job search is assessed as unsatisfactory; this might include applications that have clearly been completed with dummy or fake content and or which are clearly in fields outside of a job seeker’s capability.
– The reengagement activity when your payment has been put on hold for incomplete or poor quality job search is to contact your provider to discuss the reason why you were unable to complete the job searches
– You can contest any rejection of a job search as ‘poor quality’ with the provider of the Customer Service line
– Incomplete job searches accrue to the next reporting period
– DESE have a video about the variety of jobsearch strategies they expect here and further resources are available for job seekers on this page: How to use the jobactive website
– Remember You can call the Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260 to discuss any rejection of a job search by the provider which you think is unreasonable.

From 6 April 2021

Applies to: jobactive and Disability Employment Services, Online Employment Services, New Employment Services Trial

  1. Employer dob-in line:
    – A dedicated phone line commenced on 6 April for employers to report unemployed people who refuse a job offer, or are believed to be making applications that are not ‘genuine’
    –  Information about the hotline has been published on the JobSearch websiteand includes information on the definition of suitable work and about how job seeker privacy will be protected
    – We recommend you familiarize yourself with the definition of suitable work especially in relation to rates of pay, commuting distance and relocation.
    – After verifying employer details, and that the person receives an unemployment payment, the information given will be passed on to their employment service provider
    – The standard procedure then applies; e.g. the employment services provider assesses the report and if they believe a requirement has been breached may interview the unemployed person to hear their view, and assess whether there is a ‘reasonable excuse’. Payment may be suspended if a job application is assessed as not ‘genuine’
    – A similar process is followed with the Contact Centre for digital job seekers in Online or Digital Services
    – Where the person is found to have rejected a suitable job offer, their payment could be cancelled and a four week non-payment period imposed if they re-apply. That decision must be made by Centrelink (who must interview the person and assess the job was suitable and they had a ‘reasonable excuse’)
    – Further information about the work refusal investigation process is in this DESE guideline
    – Additional information about the hotline process was provided at recent Senate Estimates
    – Non-payment penalties been rare in recent years, as few people reject suitable jobs.

What the government’s announcement on Jobseeker payments means:

In ACOSSs view these compliance changes display a lack of trust in unemployed people, and undermine the stated intent of the reforms of employment services announced in 2019: that they are about moving beyond the ‘tick-a-box’ compliance approach towards one based on trust, agency, and personalised support for people.

As well as cutting unemployment payments by $7 a day  from March to just $44 a day, the government is adding to people’s stress by imposing requirements they may not be able to meet, and adding to their costs (e.g. travel to provider appointments in regional areas, more job applications).

Rigid activity requirements and enforcement, and the shaming of unemployed people, provoke social division and make it harder for unemployed people and employment services to establish respectful working relations (for example, the dob-in line announcement is already fuelling ‘dole bludger’ tropes, and auditing of the quality of job searches sends a message to providers to take a tough approach).

It’s too early in the jobs recovery to increase job search requirements:

– It’s still tough for people to find employment in many parts of the country
– The latest ABS data shows there were 5 people unemployed or searching for more paid hours for every job available.

Claims that employers can’t find workers are often made in sectors that have relied heavily on temporary migrants (eg fruit-picking) and often under-pay workers.

Sending people to apply for too many jobs will flood employers with applications, and in any event it’s more effective for people to make a smaller number of well-targeted applications.

The ‘quality’ of applications is largely a subjective judgement, so it’s likely that those assessments will be inconsistent, with some providers taking an over-zealous approach.

The increased compliance activity will crowd out positive help for people find employment, when consultant caseloads are already too high (typically over 140) and many people already report that they receive minimal assistance.

What should happen now:

Unemployment payments should be permanently increased by at least $25 a day to pension levels ($65 a day), and there is no need to ‘trade this off’ for tougher activity requirements.

Instead, job search requirements should reflect the state of the local labour market and people’s ability to meet them.

Employment services should be about support to secure a job, including a flexible jobs and training guarantee for people unemployed long-term, not ticking boxes by forcing people into ‘activity for activity’s sake’.

Work for the Dole should be abolished and replaced by genuine help to secure employment such as wage subsidies, vocational training, and local partnerships between providers, employers and community services to connect people to the help they need.

Obtaining JobSeeker and other Centrelink payments

Job seeker payment

If you lose employment, you can find out which payment applies to you on the Services Australia ‘How to get a payment’ page apply for income support online through MyGov. MyGov may have delays. Please try again later if you cannot get through.
We know many people do not have online access. The phone number for accessing the JobSeeker Payment is 132 850.

Before applying in person at a Centrelink office, consider the COVID-19 health restrictions in your state/territory.

COVID-19 Disaster Payment

A support payment for workers adversely affected by a state public health order.

This is a lump sum payment to help workers unable to earn income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot or period of restricted movement.

The COVID-19 Disaster Payment can help you when COVID-19 restrictions last for more than 7 days. You can’t get this payment for the first 7 days of an event.

You need to meet some rules to get this payment.

More information here.


Help with Centrelink and employment services issues

There are organisations that can advise and support you if you’re having problems with your income support payment or employment service. Unfortunately, ACOSS is unable to provide advice and support in individual cases.

For legal help with Centrelink payments, visit Economic Justice Australia’s webpage

If you’re facing financial hardship or mental health issues, there are services that can help.

Legal advice for people with Centrelink (Services Australia) problems including Jobseeker Payment or Youth Allowance penalties

Department of Education Skills and Employment (DESE) jobseeker help and complaints line:
1800 805 260 (free call from land lines)

Department of Education Skills and Employment (DESE) contact centre for people receiving online employment services: 1800 314 677 (free call from land lines)

Support for people with mental health issues: Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service (1800 512 348) or www.coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au

Australian Unemployed Workers Union: https://unemployedworkersunion.com/

Online community service directory: ask Izzy


Information About Mutual Obligations