JobSeeker Payments: Access and Requirements

Contents

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

Latest Updates

17 December 2021

Re employment services provider holiday shutdowns (24 Dec-4 Jan)

It is normal practice for mutual obligation requirements to be suspended over the holiday season (i.e. meaning you won’t be required to attend appointments or activities) but some job search requirements may remain if the due date does not fall in the shutdown period. We suggest checking your dashboard to see what requirements remain in place on your dashboard or with your provider.

6 December 2021

The COVID related Mutual Obligation suspensions have now all been lifted and the regular job search and other mutual obligation requirements have returned.

If you are unable to attend an appointment, activity or meet a job search target, please contact your provider before the date it is due. Providers should be exercising COVID-safe practices and taking into account your situation and labour market conditions when setting requirements for you.

In particular, you should be able to practice COVID safety precautions such as attending COVID testing and self-isolating as required. However, it is important that you contact your provider if you are unable to attend or meet a requirement because of the impact of observing COVID safety pre-cautions before it is due.

There are complex rules in every state depending on the Health Orders that employment services providers should be following in relation to the provision of face-to-face services. If you are unable to meet employment services requirements due to your vaccination status you may be eligible to apply for a medication exemption.

Please read this fact sheet for more information. Job Seeker Participant – return to face to face servicing factsheet

Please let [email protected] know if you encounter any issues in this regard.

For updates, check this Government webpage:

https://jobsearch.gov.au/mor

What ACOSS has been doing about restoration of mutual obligations

ACOSS has written 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.

ACOSS concerns about restoration of mutual obligations

The following issues must be resolved before activity requirements and face to face services are reintroduced in places coming out of long lockdowns:

  • Assistance and activity requirements for people whose health is vulnerable or who are not vaccinated, including people with an existing illness/disability, or who live with others in that situation;
  • Disclosure of sensitive health information;
  • Under what circumstances is employment involving substantial public contact or in workplaces such as meatworks ‘suitable work’ that people should accept?
  • How should providers take account of people’s fears of catching COVID in job plans and job search requirements?
  • Under what circumstances is face-to-face servicing appropriate?
  • What is the risk that restoration of requirements increases the spread of COVID to people who are unemployed, their families, and the staff of employment service providers and prospective employers?
  • Is it feasible at this time to run annual or six-month compulsory activities that are tailored to individual needs, and under what circumstances it is reasonable to require people to attend them?
  • The risk of large-scale payment suspensions and penalties;
  • The transition of (potentially) large numbers of people from COVID Disaster Payments to Jobseeker payments, which means many will be new to the system and all will experience a sharp drop in income;
  • The extent to which resources are diverted to administering requirements that are not fit for purpose;
  • The impact of the above issues on people’s mental health.

Last year, the government sensibly phased in the return of mutual obligations gradually, to give all concerned time to adjust and take account of health concerns and labour market conditions.

This time,  we are not ‘opening up’ to a COVID-free environment. State governments acknowledge that case numbers will grow, many people will become ill, and pressure will be placed on health systems.

Governments must give priority to protecting people’s health, and avoid introducing requirements that put that at risk.

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


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


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.


Information About Mutual Obligations