Understanding changes to your participation requirements

On 20 September 2018, the participation requirements for some job seekers changed.

Why have the participation requirements for some job seekers changed?

The Australian Government has better aligned and strengthened the participation requirements for some people receiving an unemployment payment, including mature age Australians. Changes to participation requirements recognise that many older Australians are working longer. The changes aim to encourage more people to undertake activities to improve their chances of getting into paid employment.

The changes to participation requirements apply to job seekers who:

  • are receiving Newstart Allowance or Special Benefit only;
  • have full time participation requirements;
  • are aged 30 to 49 years and 55 to Age Pension age.

The changes do not affect job seekers in receipt of other income support payments or who have part-time requirements (such as principal carer parents or job seekers assessed as having a work capacity of less than 30 hours a week). Participation requirements for these job seekers remain unchanged.

What are the changes?

For job seekers aged 30-49 years and participating in jobactive, the changes aligned their Annual Activity Requirement with those of younger job seekers. From 20 September 2018, their hours of participation in employment-focused activities during the Work for the Dole Phase increased from 30 hours per fortnight to 50 hours per fortnight.

The participation requirements for jobactive job seekers aged 60 to Age Pension age also changed, with a new Annual Activity Requirement of 10 hours per fortnight.

The way in which some job seekers can meet their Mutual Obligation Requirements also changed. Job seekers aged 55-59 years and in the first 12 months of receiving income support can no longer fully meet their mutual obligation requirements through 30 hours per fortnight of voluntary work alone.

From 20 September 2018, these job seekers can fully meet their mutual obligation requirements through 30 hours per fortnight of paid work or a combination of paid work (of at least 15 hours per fortnight) and voluntary work.

Job seekers aged 55-59 years who have been in receipt of an income support payment for 12 months or more can still fully meet their requirements through 30 hours per fortnight of voluntary work, paid work or a combination of paid work and voluntary work.

My age Have my Mutual Obligation Requirements or my Annual Activity Requirement changed?
Under 30 No – Your Mutual Obligation Requirements and your Annual Activity Requirement have not changed.
Your Mutual Obligation Requirements would generally include:
  • undertaking regular job search;
  • attending appointments with your employment service provider; and
  • an Annual Activity Requirement of 50 hours per fortnight after you have been in jobactive for 12 months.
30 to 49 Yes – Your Annual Activity Requirement has changed.
Your Mutual Obligation Requirements would generally include:
  • undertaking regular job search;
  • attending appointments with your employment service provider; and
  • an Annual Activity Requirement of 50 hours per fortnight (an increase from 30 hours per fortnight) after you have been in jobactive for 12 months.
50 to 54 No – Your Mutual Obligation Requirements and your Annual Activity Requirement have not changed
Your Mutual Obligation Requirements would generally include:
  • undertaking regular job search;
  • attending appointments with your employment service provider; and
  • an Annual Activity Requirement of 30 hours per fortnight after you have been in jobactive for 12 months.
55 to 59 (and in the first 12 months of receiving an income support payment) Yes – the way in which you can fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements has changed
Your Mutual Obligation Requirements would generally include:
  • undertaking regular job search;
  • attending appointments with your employment service provider; and
  • an Annual Activity Requirement of 30 hours per fortnight after you have been in jobactive for 12 months.

Alternatively, you can fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements by undertaking:
  • 30 hours per fortnight of paid work; or
  • 30 hours per fortnight of a combination of paid work and approved voluntary work (of which at least 15 hours per fortnight must be paid work). You can no longer fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements through 30 hours per fortnight of voluntary work alone.

If you are able to fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements in this way, you are not required to undertake job search or attend appointments with your employment service provider or meet an Annual Activity Requirement.
55 to 59 (and after 12 months of receiving an income support payment) No – the way in which you can fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements has not changed
Your Mutual Obligation Requirements would generally include:
  • undertaking regular job search;
  • attending appointments with your employment service provider; and
  • an Annual Activity Requirement of 30 hours per fortnight after you have been in jobactive for 12 months.

Alternatively, you can fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements by undertaking:
  • 30 hours per fortnight of paid work; or
  • 30 hours per fortnight of approved voluntary work; or
  • 30 hours per fortnight of a combination of paid work and voluntary work.

If you are able to fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements in this way, you are not required to undertake job search or attend appointments with your employment service provider or meet an Annual Activity Requirement.
60 to Age Pension age Yes – You have a new Annual Activity Requirement
Your Mutual Obligation Requirements would generally include:
  • undertaking regular job search;
  • attending appointments with your employment service provider; and
  • a new Annual Activity Requirement of 10 hours per fortnight after you have been in jobactive for 12 months.

Alternatively, you can fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements by undertaking:
  • 30 hours per fortnight of paid work; or
  • 30 hours per fortnight of approved voluntary work; or
  • 30 hours per fortnight of a combination of paid work and voluntary work.

If you are able to fully meet your Mutual Obligation Requirements in this way, you are not required to undertake job search or attend appointments with your employment service provider or meet an Annual Activity Requirement.

Mutual obligation requirements

In return for receiving income support, most job seekers have Mutual Obligation Requirements. Mutual Obligation Requirements are the things job seekers may have to do as a condition for receiving an income support payment. These requirements include entering into a Job Plan with an employment services provider or Centrelink, undertaking job search and attending provider appointments. After 12 months on payment, job seekers may also need to satisfy an Annual Activity Requirement.

Annual Activity Requirements

The Annual Activity Requirement forms part of a job seeker’s overall Mutual Obligation Requirements and only applies to job seekers in jobactive. Job seekers are required to undertake some additional activities—such as Work for the Dole, part-time paid employment, a National Work Experience Programme placement or approved voluntary work — for six months of each year after their first year in jobactive. This six-month period is known as the Work for the Dole Phase.

These activities are in addition to their overall Mutual Obligation Requirements, such as job search and attending jobactive provider appointments. Most jobactive job seekers have Annual Activity Requirements and different age groups have different hourly requirements.

How were the changes to participate requirements applied?

The changes to full time Annual Activity Requirements apply to job seekers who were already in the Work for the Dole Phase on 20 September 2018 and to those who enter the Work for the Dole Phase on or after 20 September 2018.

Importantly, these changes do not apply retrospectively. In other words, job seekers who were already in the Work for the Dole Phase when the changes occurred are not required to ‘make up’ the increase to activity hours for the fortnights prior to 20 September 2018.

What does this mean for mature aged job seekers?

Social Security law allows job seekers who are 55 or over to fully meet their Mutual Obligation Requirements if they undertake a specified amount of paid and/or voluntary work. It is not compulsory to do this, but those job seekers who are not undertaking these activities have compulsory Mutual Obligation Requirements including undertaking job search, attending appointments and meeting an Annual Activity Requirement.

This means that job seekers who are 55 or over have two options to meet their Mutual Obligation Requirements.

Job seekers who elect to fully meet their Mutual Obligation Requirements through participation in paid and/or voluntary work are managed by Centrelink.