Mutual Obligation Requirements for principal carers

Principal carers need to meet part time Mutual Obligation Requirements to get payments from us.

From 20 September, there’ll be stronger participation requirements if you’re a job seeker getting Newstart or Special Benefit. Read more about new requirements for mature age job seekers 30 and older.

These requirements start once their youngest dependent child turns 6 years of age. 

Principal carer

A principal carer is someone who is responsible for the:

  • day to day care
  • welfare, and
  • development of a child under 16 years of age

One person at a time can be the principal carer of a child. This is normally a parent or guardian and the person who provides the greater amount of daily care. If you and your partner provide equal levels of care, either of you may become the principal carer. However, you can’t both take on this role.

Mutual Obligation Requirements

If you’re a principal carer, we require you to meet part time Mutual Obligation Requirements to qualify for payment.

Part time requirements mean you need to:

  • look for suitable paid part time work of at least 30 hours per fortnight, or
  • do other approved activities to improve your chances of getting work

Part time requirements apply to you if you're a principal carer and you get:

  • Newstart Allowance
  • Youth Allowance as a job seeker
  • Special Benefit ,or
  • Parenting Payment

You'll need to register with an Employment Services Provider and meet with them to negotiate a Job Plan. You’ll also need to attend regular appointments with your provider to discuss your job search progress. This may include looking for work or participating in agreed activities.

You'll need to study or do training to meet your requirements if you’re on Youth Allowance and:

  •  you’re under 22 years of age, and
  •  you haven’t completed Year 12 or an equivalent qualification

You’ll normally need to spend at least 25 hours per fortnight on these activities.

Suitable work

We recognise your responsibilities as a principal carer. You don’t have to look for work, or accept an offer of work, that isn’t suitable.

Jobs that aren’t suitable include where:

  • appropriate child care isn’t available during work hours
  • the work involves unreasonably difficult travel from home to work
  • the most cost effective travel will exceed 10% of your gross wage
  • the employment doesn’t make you at least $50 per fortnight better off after deducting your costs

Job Plan

You are required to enter a Job Plan if we asked you to.

The plan will set out the activities you’ll undertake to develop your skills and experience. It’ll help you become more employable and find a suitable job.

It also sets out the assistance we’ll offer you, or your employment services provider will offer you. The Job Plan is a legal document you negotiate with your Employment Services Provider or us. It starts from the date you sign it.

Reporting your Mutual Obligation Requirements and income

You'll need to report to us your:

  • income or earnings, and
  • efforts to meet your requirements

This will usually occur every fortnight.

You can report your income:

If you can't use our self service facilities or attend a service centre, you may be able to:

Contact us on the job seekers line to check your options.

It's important to tell us when your circumstances change as this may affect your payment. 

You'll also need to meet with your Employment Services Provider regularly to discuss your activities.

Approved activities

You may be able to do certain approved activities instead of looking for work. We'll need to approve these activities first. If approved, you may not have to search for jobs, attend job interviews or appointments with your provider. However, you can still choose to participate voluntarily with your provider if you want help looking for work.

Below are some circumstances that we're likely to approve as meeting your requirements. Check with us to see if we can approve the activity for your circumstances.

If you’re already working

You may meet your requirements if you’re doing paid work for at least 30 hours per fortnight. This can include self-employment.

Your income from employment must be no less than the Federal Minimum Wage, or relevant Award Wage. For more details, go to Minimum wages on the Fair Work Australia website.

You may not be able to include your irregular or casual work as an approved activity in your Job Plan. For example, if your work isn’t ongoing or your hours vary each fortnight. However, any paid hours you work can count towards meeting your requirements. For example, you might not need to look for as many jobs each fortnight if you have some paid work. You should include this whenever you report your requirements to your Employment Services Provider.

Your Employment Services Provider will determine the number of job search contacts they require you to make each month. Your provider will include this in your Job Plan. Contacts could include applying for an advertised job, or cold-canvassing businesses in person.

The number of job search contacts you need to make each fortnight may reduce, depending on any hours you work. The following table shows the impact on job search requirements, depending on how many hours you work. 

You’ll need to ask your provider about whether this can apply to you.

Number of regular work hours Impact on job search requirements
Between 1 and 10 hours in a fortnight There’ll be no change to your job search or employer contact requirements
Between 11 and 29 hours in a fortnight Your provider will halve your job search requirements
30 hours or more in a fortnight You won’t have to look for work in that fortnight

Talk to your provider about including this as an approved activity in your Job Plan. You should do this if this work becomes regular or permanent.

Breaks in employment

Having breaks in paid employment could still mean you’re meeting your requirements for a period of time.

This includes periods of paid leave. If you get leave entitlements, we may still consider you as meeting your requirements when you take leave from work.

However, this is as long as your:

  • income from employment doesn’t reduce during the break, and
  • income support payment doesn’t go up

This applies to any period during the year that you get leave entitlements.

We may also consider you as meeting your requirements if the:

  • break is 4 weeks or less from work, and
  • reason for the break is out of your control

However, if you’re taking a holiday or break from work by choice, you won’t meet your requirements. This applies even if your time off work is for 4 weeks or less. You must tell us the reasons for the break to ensure this doesn’t affect your payment.

Christmas Holiday period

There are special provisions for principal carers during an annual shutdown of work over the Christmas holiday period.

This applies only if:

  • your work closes down over this period in December and January, and
  • you have guaranteed work again after the break

This applies for breaks of up to 8 weeks over this period.

After 8 weeks, your provider will require you to meet your requirements by:

  • looking for work, or
  • participating in another approved activity

You need to let us know the first fortnight that this occurs. We may ask for evidence of your ongoing work.

Regardless of your circumstances, we won’t expect you to meet any requirements during the Christmas public holiday fortnight. This is the 2 weeks that you have to report income to us that includes the Christmas public holidays.

Studying or training

You may meet your requirements if you’re studying or training for at least 30 hours per fortnight.

You’ll need to provide us with your enrolment details to confirm your study activity. You’ll only be able to use this activity to meet your requirements during your course.

During breaks of over 3 weeks duration, such as end of semester breaks, you may need to look for suitable:

  • temporary
  • part time, or
  • casual work that allows you to return to study after the break

Alternatively, you may need to do another approved activity to meet your requirements.

Voluntary work

If you’re a principal carer who is 55 or over, voluntary work may count towards your requirements.

You’ll need to complete:

  • at least 30 hours per fortnight of approved voluntary work, or
  • a combination of voluntary and paid work that adds up to 30 hours per fortnight

If you’re under 55, you may also be able to use voluntary work to meet your requirements. You should talk to your provider if you’d like to volunteer.

Combining activities

You can meet your requirements by combining work and study. Your combined paid work and study must total at least 30 hours per fortnight.

In addition, if you’re 55 years or over, you may combine:

  • paid work, including self-employment and
  • voluntary work

Starting from 20 September 2018, your options for meeting Mutual Obligation Requirements will change if:

  • you’re between 55 and 59 years old, and
  • haven’t been on payment for at least 12 months

You can meet your requirements by doing a mix of activities. This can include voluntary work of up to 15 hours per fortnight. You must spend the other 15 hours per fortnight in suitable paid work.

Your options for meeting these requirements will change once you:

  • have been on payment for at least 12 months, or
  • turn 60 years of age

You’ll be able to use voluntary work:

  • for up to 30 hours per fortnight, or
  • in combination with less hours of paid work

Before you can do these activities, we must approve them, and may need to see evidence of your activities. We’ll record any approved activities in your Job Plan.

Other approved activities and programs

Talk to us or your provider if you’re interested in joining activities such as:

  • Work for the Dole, or
  • the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme

We can also refer you to other suitable activities.

Don’t forget, it will affect your payment if you don’t:

  • advise us of a change in circumstances, or
  • do your agreed activities

Exemptions from Mutual Obligation Requirements

For principal carers, Mutual Obligation Requirements are flexible, and recognise the caring responsibilities of parents and guardians. For some family situations, we allow additional exemptions from having to meet requirements. We’ll also allow some flexibility for how principal carers can meet their requirements.

Find out how principal carers may be eligible to be exempt from Mutual Obligation Requirements for a period.

Page last updated: 10 September 2018