Employment service providers must keep updated with the latest advice published by the Australian Government Department of Health, 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 pandemic
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Gradual return of mutual obligation requirements
Update: Mutual obligation requirements in Victoria
Mutual Obligation requirements for jobseekers in Victoria will remain in the current phase where no penalties or suspensions will apply for any jobseeker.
Mutual obligation requirements in other states and territories
As previously announced, mutual obligation requirements will continue to be gradually introduced in states and territories except for Victoria, from 4 August 2020.
Job seekers with providers are required to:
- undertake appointments. This can be done online or over the phone or in exceptional circumstances in person.
- review and agree to a Job Plan
- undertake up to four job searches per month, tailored to local labour market conditions
- participate in training or other activities, either online or in person where safe to do so and
- accept suitable job offers.
Payment suspensions or penalties will not apply, but for one exception.
Penalties may apply where a job seeker refuses an offer of suitable paid work without a reasonable excuse as outlined in Social Security Law– this may result in the income support payment being cancelled, with a four-week waiting period before the job seeker can reapply.
For ParentsNext participants only, all appointments and activities remain voluntary. Providers must continue contacting all participants on a monthly basis to discuss ongoing servicing and support.
Providers should encourage participants to start re-engaging with their activity if this is possible and safe for them and their family.
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, reschedule any appointments or activities, including in the IT system, until they have finished their mandatory self-isolation in line with advice from health authorities.
Advise the job seeker to contact Centrelink, via the phone only, to discuss obtaining a Major Personal Crisis exemption. ParentsNext providers may grant participants a Major Personal Crisis exemption where the situation aligns with the Department of Health advice regarding grounds for self-isolation.
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.
Site shut downs
If providers need to shut down a site, if possible, please advise the department via the usual channels immediately. The health and safety of staff and job seekers or participants is 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.
Service delivery for existing job seekers and participants
Since March 2020, contractual requirements for providers to deliver a range of face-to-face services have been waived. Face-to-face servicing should this occur only in exceptional circumstances where it is necessary for the job seeker or participant to receive servicing in person.
Providers can deliver or refer job seekers to online training or non-classroom based courses where the participant has access to relevant devices. For example, job seekers under 25 years of age can access Employability Skills Training which is now being delivered online, providing a good option for keeping young people actively engaged and supported. Work for the Dole, and other group activities, have been suspended.
Please ensure all job seekers have been exited from their Work for the Dole activity and are contacted to advise they are no longer required to attend this activity. Job seekers in the Work for the Dole Phase should be referred to other suitable activities, where possible, in line with advice from health authorities.
Please monitor the Provider Portal for the most up to date advice from the department on the requirements for face to face service delivery.
New Business Assistance with NEIS providers
Information is available for New Business Assistance with NEIS providers on how to support NEIS participants during the COVID-19 pandemic.