Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for job seekers

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has made available a range of support, services and information to help job seekers find and keep a job.

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Update: Supporting Victorians through the COVID-19 pandemic

Mutual Obligation requirements for job seekers in Victoria will remain unchanged where no penalties or suspensions will apply for any job seeker.

Where job seekers can, and it is safe to do so, they can engage with their employment service provider either online or over the phone. Job seekers who are serviced online should continue to consider their employment and training goals.

Employment service providers in Victoria have been instructed to take all local Health advice, including all lockdown measures, into consideration when making any arrangements for jobseekers.

Special circumstances exemptions will continue to be available from Services Australia (Centrelink) for job seekers who require them, including for people directly impacted by COVID-19.

Sole traders and those who are self-employed will continue to be exempt from requirements to allow them to work to re-establish their business.

If you still have questions or concerns about your requirements, please speak to your provider, or contact the department’s National Customer Service Line either at nationalcustomerserviceline@dese.gov.au or on 1800 805 260.

Mutual obligation requirements for other states and territories, from 4 August 2020, is explained below.

Latest COVID-19 health advice

Job seekers must stay up to date withAustralian Government Department of Health advice about the COVID-19 pandemic as well as any advice provided by state or local authorities.. The Department of Health provides a range of information about COVID-19 including how to protect Australians, when and how to isolate if required as well as health updates and alerts.

Applying for income support

Sevices Australia (Centrelink) is working to get new job seekers onto income support as quickly and efficiently as possible. Step-by-step advice on how to claim income support, such as JobSeeker Payment, is being updated regularly on the Services Australia website.

Once registered with Services Australia, job seekers will be asked to complete a Job Seeker Snapshot. This information helps job seekers get connected to the right level of support in their region. They will also be required to complete a Job Plan, which is a list of tasks and activities that helps them find work.

Job seekers referred to Online Employment Services

Most job seekers will be referred to Online Employment Service (OES). Job seekers will be able to access a range of tools, information and advice online to help their job search.

For more information on the OES, please visit the OES webpage. Job seekers referred to Digital Employment Services as part of the New Employment Services Trial, can visit the NEST webpage for more details.

Job seekers referred to employment services providers

Depending on their circumstances, job seekers may be referred to an employment services provider, most likely a jobactive provider.

Providers will book an initial appointment with job seekers by phone or online. Job seekers can talk to their provider about the support they need when they look for work, including the task and activities required in their job plans which must be reviewed and agreed upon. For further support, providers can refer job seekers to online training and non-classroom-based courses. Throughout the job searching journey, providers will regularly touch base with job seekers to provide further guidance as needed.

Job seekers and COVID-19

Job seekers are required to self-isolate in line with Department of Health advice if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Job seekers who believe they may contracted COVID-19 or believe they have been in contact with someone who has, must also self-isolate.

Job seekers should contact their employment services provider by phone, not in person, to let them know why participation at an appointment/activity is not possible. Providers will reschedule any appointments or activities until self-isolation is completed in line with advice from health authorities.

Job Seekers should also contact Centrelink by phone, not in person, to let them know about the need to self-isolate. You can contact Centrelink to discuss an exemption by calling the numbers 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.

Job seekers who have recently travelled, must follow the advice of health authorities, including any advice about the need to self-isolate. Please refer to information published on the Department of Health website or by local health authorities.

Gradual return of mutual obligation requirements for job seekers in all states and territories, except for Victoria

In return for income support payments, job seekers are expected to complete mutual obligation requirements. These requirements are tasks and activities listed in each job seeker’s Job Plan designed to help them get a job and remain connected to the workforce.

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 employment service providers must:

  • participate in at least one phone or online appointment with their provider
  • review and agree to a Job Plan
  • conduct up to four job searches, monthly
  • participate in activities – either online or in person, if available and safe to do so
  • accept suitable paid work.

Job seekers connected to Online Employment Services, are required to undertake up to up four job searches each month, agree to a Job Plan and accept suitable paid work. 

Reporting of mutual obligation requirements such as job search and attendance at activities, can be done via their individual dashboard at jobactive.gov.au/jobseekers or the Job Seeker app (available in the Apple App store or Google Play). If you are with a provider, you may be able to report your activities directly with them.

If job seekers are unable to meet their mutual obligation requirements, they should contact their provider at first instance. Online job seekers should visit jobactive.gov.au/how-to-guide to learn more about using their accounts or call 1800 805 260. Special circumstances exemptions will continue to be available from Centrelink for job seekers who require them, including those directly affected by COVID-19. Sole traders and those who are self-employed will continue to be exempt from requirements to allow them to work to re-establish their business.

Penalties for not meeting mutual obligation requirements

Job seekers will not be subject to payment suspensions or financial penalties if they do not complete their mutual obligation requirements, 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 example, work may be found unsuitable if it:

  • involves skills, experience or qualifications that the participant does not have, and appropriate training will not be provided by the employer
  • is above the participant’s assessed work capacity within the next two years with intervention
  • may aggravate a pre-existing illness, disability or injury and medical evidence has been provided
  • involves health or safety risks and would contravene an occupational health and safety law
  • has terms and conditions which are less generous than the applicable statutory conditions
  • involves commuting from home to work that would be unreasonably difficult (more than 60 minutes one way for Principal Carer Parents and those with Partial Capacity to Work and more than 90 minutes one way for other Participants)
  • is considered by the participant to be unsuitable on moral, cultural or religious grounds
  • is not consistent with prevailing community standards
  • is the subject of industrial dispute
  • involves enlistment in the Defence Force or the Reserve Forces
  • requires the person to change residence.

If the provider determines a job is suitable, they will consider the reasons the job seeker has declined employment, taking a range of matters into consideration, such as caring responsibilities, medical conditions, cultural/religious reasons or other personal circumstances. After this process, the provider will refer the matter to Services Australia if it is determined the job seeker does not have reasonable excuse for not accepting the job.

Services Australia will consider the whether the job seeker has a reasonable excuse for not accepting the position, based on their individual circumstances.

ParentsNext participants – appointments and activities

As part of the gradual return to participation requirements, ParentsNext participants are encouraged to start attending or participating in your activity if this is possible and safe for you and your family.

To help participants re-engage in activities, SMS message or inbox reminders about attending or missing your ParentsNext activity may be sent. However, attending activities remains voluntary and payments will not be suspended.

Provider will continue to service and support participants making monthly phone calls to check in and help as required.

Fortnightly reporting to Centrelink throughout this period, is required to keep receiving the Parenting Payment.

For further information, please review the ParentsNext participants Frequently Asked Questions

New Business Assistance with NEIS participants

If you are a New Business Assistance with NEIS participant, these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) provides information about accessing the Coronavirus Supplement and what support is available during this time.

Other resources

For the latest COVID 19 news, updates and advice from Australian Government agencies, please visit the Australian Government website.

For health advice including cleaning protocols, please visit the Department of Health website.

For more information on emergency management please visit the Emergency Management page at the Department of Home Affairs website.

For information on the outbreak of COVID-19 please visit the World Health Organisation’s website.

Information about how eligible businesses can access JobKeeper support is detailed on the Treasury website.

Find out how the Australian Government is supporting small businesses to retain their apprentices and trainees through a wage subsidy.

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