COVID-19 information for employment service providers

Employment service providers must keep updated with the latest advice published by the Australian Government Department of Health and local health authorities, to help mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and potential disruptions to employment services delivery. Being prepared and proactive protects the welfare of job seekers, provider staff and businesses using provider services. Safe Work Australia also has information on workplaces and the COVID-19 situation.

On this page:

Further advice for job seekers and participants impacted by storms and floods in NSW

The temporary lifting of mutual obligation requirements for people in Local Government Areas affected by floods and storms in NSW has been extended until Sunday, 11 April 2021.

The lifting of mutual obligation requirements will occur in the following Local Government Areas affected by storms and floods until 11 April 2021:

  • Armidale
  • Ballina 
  • Bathurst
  • Bega Valley
  • Bellingen
  • Blacktown
  • Blue Mountains
  • Brewarrina
  • Byron
  • Cabonne
  • Camden
  • Campbelltown
  • Canterbury Bankstown
  • Central Coast
  • Cessnock
  • Clarence Valley
  • Cobar
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Cumberland
  • Dungog Shire
  • Eurobodalla
  • Fairfield
  • Gilgandra
  • Glen Innes Severn
  • Gunnedah
  • Gwydir
  • Hawkesbury
  • Hornsby
  • Inner West
  • Inverell
  • Kempsey
  • Ku-ring-gai
  • Kyogle
  • Lachlan
  • Lake Macquarie
  • Lismore
  • Lithgow
  • Liverpool
  • Liverpool Plains
  • Maitland
  • Mid-Coast
  • Moree Plains
  • Nambucca
  • Narrabri
  • Newcastle
  • Northern Beaches
  • Oberon
  • Orange
  • Parramatta
  • Penrith
  • Port Macquarie-Hastings
  • Port Stephens
  • Queanbeyan-Palerang
  • Richmond Valley
  • Shoalhaven
  • Singleton
  • Sutherland
  • Tenterfield
  • The Hills
  • Tweed
  • Walcha
  • Walgett
  • Wingercaribee
  • Wollondilly

These arrangements apply to job seekers and participants with mutual obligations across employment services programs - jobactive, the New Employment Services Trial (Mid-North Coast NSW), Online Employment Services, Disability Employment Services and ParentsNext.

During the temporary lifting of mutual obligations, no payment suspensions or financial penalties will apply for failure to meet mutual obligation requirements.

Job seekers should remain connected to their employment services providers to access a full range of support services, including mental health services over this period.

If you are directly affected by the storms or floods you can also contact Services Australia to discuss a further exemption to your mutual obligation requirements.

For further information and support job seekers or participants connected with an employment services provider can contact the Employment Services National Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260 (free call from land lines, operating during standard business hours) or email nationalcustomerserviceline@dese.gov.au.

Job seekers in Online Employment Services and the New Employment Services Trial can contact the Digital Services Contact Centre on 1800 314 677 or email digitalservices@dese.gov.au.

Advice for job seekers and participants in Greater Brisbane

Mutual obligation requirements for job seekers and participants in Greater Brisbane will be temporarily lifted from Monday 29 March until Tuesday 6 April 2021 inclusive.

The impacted Local Government Areas (Brisbane; Logan; Redland; Moreton Bay; and Ipswich) are covered by the three Employment Regions of Brisbane South East; Somerset and Wivenhoe.

For more information, visit Queensland Health and Restricted Local Government Areas

These arrangements apply to job seekers and participants with mutual obligations across employment services programs - jobactive, Online Employment Services, Disability Employment Services and ParentsNext. During this period, no payment suspensions or financial penalties will apply for failure to meet mutual obligation requirements.

Changes to mutual obligation and face-to-face servicing requirements

The Australian Government has announced changes to mutual obligation requirements for job seekers in specified employment services programs, including jobactive, NEST and Disability Employment Services. Other changes will affect how job seekers in these programs, as well as participants in ParentsNext, will receive services.  

Face-to-face servicing with providers has recommenced, effective 9 March 2021, subject to local health advice and state and territory COVID-19 requirements.  Mutual obligation arrangements will remain suspended in flood impacted areas. These arrangements will be adjusted when advice from State emergency services agencies indicate that it is appropriate to do so. 

On 6 April 2021, the minimum number of job searches for job seekers will rise to 15, increasing to 20 jobs per month from 1 July 2021. Job seekers will be contacted by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment before this change comes into effect.

From April 2021, there will be an increase in the auditing of job seekers job search quality to identify where job seekers may need additional job search training/support or those who are submitting non-genuine or deliberately poor-quality applications in order to meet job search targets.

While the economy is recovering from the challenges of COVID-19, the job market remains highly competitive. Providers should work closely with job seekers to ensure that job applications are of a high quality and job seekers have the skills to develop and tailor applications to suit the key requirements of job advertisements.  Assistance with interview skills should be offered prior the interview and job seekers should be debriefed following an interview to identify any areas that require further development.   

Where it is identified that a job seeker is deliberately submitting non genuine or poor-quality applications, they can face consequences under the Targeted Compliance Framework (TCF), including payment penalties. 

Mutual obligation requirements

Mutual obligation requirements are the things job seekers agree to do each month in return for payment. They are listed in their Job Plan or Participation Plan.

Job seekers with providers are required to: 

  • undertake appointments. 
  • agree to a Job Plan 
  • undertake job searches each month, tailored to local labour market conditions and personal circumstances
  • participate in activities
  • accept suitable job offers. 

Payment suspensions and penalties will apply for job seekers who do not meet their mutual obligation requirements.

This will be governed by the demerit system as outlined in the Targeted Compliance Framework.

Job seekers may also be subject to a non-payment period if they refuse an offer of suitable paid work without a reasonable excuse.

Job Search Requirements

From 06 April 2021, generally job seekers with full time requirements will be required to undertake up to 15 jobs searches per month, increasing to 20 job searches on 1 July 2021. 

Providers are required to work with job seekers to update their Job Plans. Job Plans are required to be tailored and appropriate to a job seeker’s personal circumstances, taking into account factors including their age, capacity to work, opportunities to improve employment including education and skill level, and the local labour market conditions. 

Sole traders

Exemptions for sole traders and other self-employed recipients of JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (for job seekers) are progressively ending from 1 April 2021. As with all mutual obligation requirements, Providers must tailor requirements for these job seekers.  

Flexible learning and mutual obligation requirements 

The Government has increased opportunities for job seeker to undertake study and training by providing additional flexibility for job seekers to count education and training towards their mutual obligation requirements. Job seekers are encouraged to undertake courses that are under 12 months in duration and provide skills that are in demand.  

Job seekers who are enrolled in an eligible course can have their job search requirements reduced to take into account their study/training. Study and training will fully meet requirements if they are also doing part-time work for a combined total of 70 hours per fortnight. This is available to job seekers in jobactive as well as job seekers receiving Online Employment Services.

Providers and job seekers can search for eligible courses on the MySkills website. Any course that are identified as JobTrainer funded or listed as ‘Subsidies’ (in bold) on MySkills is eligible.  Higher Education short courses listed on the Course Seeker under 12 months in duration are also eligible.  Providers can also approve other courses in line with exiting Approved Study arrangements where they consider that the study will enhance the employability of the job seeker or is likely to lead to an employment outcome. 

Job seekers and COVID-19

If a job seeker or participant advises they are unable to meet their requirements due to a need to self-isolate, providers should reschedule any appointments or activities, including in the IT system, until the job seeker has finished their self-isolation.

In this situation, advise the job seeker or participant to call Centrelink to seek an exemption from their mutual obligation requirements. The relevant Centrelink numbers are below:

  • JobSeeker Payment and Special Benefit recipients can call 132 850.
  • Youth Allowance recipients can call 132 490.
  • Parenting Payment recipients with mutual obligation requirements can call 136 150.

ParentsNext providers may grant participants a Major Personal Crisis exemption if their situation aligns with Department of Health advice regarding grounds for self-isolation.

If a job seeker informs, they may have COVID-19 or may have been in contact with someone who has it, the provider must reschedule all appointments and activities in the IT system, to occur only after the job seeker’s mandatory self-isolation has ended.

Advise the job seeker to call Centrelink to discuss obtaining a Major Personal Crisis exemption.

If a job seeker or participant has recently travelled, they must follow the advice of health authorities including any advice about the need to self-isolate. Please refer them to the information published by the Department of Health or by local health authorities.

There are a number of ways jobseekers and participants can get health support during this challenging time, including

  • Speaking to their  to GP about accessing Medicare-subsidised mental health services. Telehealth has been made available, so people appointments from home via telephone or video are available.
  • Reach out to the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service on 1800 512 348 or visit the Beyond Blue - Coronavirus website. This service is specifically designed to help people get through COVID-19. It’s available in languages other than English.
  • Visit the Head to Health website if the jobseeker/participant, or someone they care about, might need some help coping with anxiety and worry. It provides access to free and low cost phone and online mental health services and supports.

If they need help now call Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or the Suicide Call Back Service is also available (1300 659 467).

For more information visit the Department of Health - Resources website and search for mental health.

Site closures

If providers need to close a site, if possible, please advise the department via the usual channels immediately. The health and safety of staff, job seekers and participants are paramount. The department will work with providers to action any site closures quickly and flexibly. Advice on cleaning and disinfection can be found on the Department of Health website.

Work for the Dole

Work for the Dole activities may resume in all States and Territories, as long as it is safe to do so and all appropriate COVID‑19 requirements are in place. The health and safety of Work for the Dole participants remains a critical component of Work for the Dole.