Mutual obligation requirements for principal carers

Approved activities you agree to do to keep getting your payment and give you a better chance of finding work.

Who the principal carer is

A principal carer is someone who is the main care provider of a dependent child under 16. This can be someone like a parent or guardian.

They're responsible for the day to day care, welfare and development of the child.

Only 1 person can be the principal carer of a child. If you and your partner provide equal levels of care, you need to tell us who the principal carer is.

Who has mutual obligation requirements

If you’re a principal carer and get a payment from us, you may have mutual obligation requirements. This is the case if your youngest dependent child is 6 or older, and you get 1 of these payments:

How it works

Principal carers with mutual obligation requirements must do the activities they agreed to do in their Job Plan.

This means you need to either:

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

Penalties apply if you don’t.

If you’re getting Parenting Payment Partnered, you don’t have mutual obligation requirements. You can still volunteer to get help from an employment services provider.

Job Plan

It’s compulsory to have a Job Plan. It shows what you’ve agreed to do to keep getting your payment and help you find a job.

We’ll tell you if you need to agree to a Job Plan. This will be either:

  • with us
  • with an employment services provider.

You should review your Job Plan on a regular basis.

Employment services providers

You may need to register with an employment services provider. We’ll tell you if you do.

You must do the activities you agreed to in your Job Plan. This may include looking for work or taking part in other activities. Penalties apply if you don’t.

Suitable work

We recognise your responsibilities as a principal carer but you should accept an offer of suitable work. This is any work you’re capable of doing.

However, you don’t have to accept an offer of work that isn’t suitable.

Work that isn’t suitable includes where any of the following apply:

  • appropriate child care isn’t available during work hours
  • the travel time from home to work is unreasonable, for example it’s more than 60 minutes one way
  • 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.

Call us on your regular payment line before you refuse a job offer.

Report your mutual obligation requirements and income

You need to report to us every 2 weeks unless we tell you otherwise.

You need to report to us both your:

  • income or earnings
  • efforts to meet your requirements.

You can report in any 1 of the following ways:

If you can't use our self service facilities or attend a service centre, you can call us.

Call us on your regular payment line to check your options.

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

What approved activities are

These are activities in your Job Plan. They may include things like:

  • looking for work
  • working part time
  • studying.

Once you have agreed to a Job Plan, you must do these activities until you complete a new Job Plan.

Paid work

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

Your income must be no less than the national minimum wage, or relevant award wage. Read about Minimum wages on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

You may not be able to include irregular or casual work as the only approved activity in your Job Plan. For example, if your work hours vary each fortnight. However, as it’s paid work it may still count towards meeting your requirements. If you aren’t sure whether your paid work counts, talk to us or your provider. You should include this paid work whenever you report about meeting your requirements.

Job search requirements

Your provider determines the number of job search contacts you must make each month. They’ll include this in your Job Plan.

The following table shows the impact on job search requirements. It may depend on how many hours you work. Ask your provider to find out if this can apply to you.

Number of regular work hours in a fortnight Impact on job search requirements
Between 1 and 10 hours No change to your job search or employer contact requirements.
Between 11 and 29 hours Your provider will halve your job search requirements.
30 hours or more 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.

Break over the Christmas holiday period provisions

There are special provisions for principal carers during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Christmas Day and New Year’s Day public holiday fortnight

If your 2 week reporting period includes Christmas public holidays, you don’t have to do activities in your Job Plan. This includes any other activities, regardless of your payment type. You will still need to report on your scheduled day.

Allowable break provisions

Principal carers whose normal employment closes down temporarily during Christmas and New Year don’t have to do other activities. They must resume their usual hours of employment at the end of the close down period.

A maximum of 8 weeks applies to this type of break. If the employment does not start again, you’ll need to do a new Job Plan.

Other breaks in activities

There is no change to job seeker requirements where a holiday or break:

  • is outside of their control
  • is less than 4 weeks.

If the break is more than 4 weeks, you need to do other approved activities. For example, job search for the period of the break. These activities should be in your Job Plan.

Principal carers who do casual part time work

During any fortnights you don’t meet the 30 hours part time work requirement, you need to do other approved activities. This includes breaks or holidays in casual part time work that are beyond your control.

Principal carers who do permanent part time paid work

If the basic rate of payment doesn’t increase, you don’t have to do other activities during a break or holiday. This includes if you get the same amount of employment income during the break.

Principal carers who do paid work or combined study and paid work

During the Christmas school holidays, you may be subject to the Allowable Break provisions. You’ll get this if affected by employer initiated temporary closures or reduced hours or shifts.

Studying or training

You may be able to meet your requirements if you’re studying or training for at least 30 hours a fortnight.

You need to provide us with your enrolment details to confirm your study or training. You can only use this to meet your requirements during your course.

During study breaks longer than 3 weeks, you may need to look for suitable work that is either:

  • temporary
  • part time
  • casual.

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

Combining study, paid work and voluntary work activities

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

If you’re 55 and over you may be able to meet your requirement in more ways. This can be through voluntary work, suitable paid work, self-employment or a mix of these activities.

Talk to us about doing voluntary work

If you want to do voluntary work you need to talk to us about it. We must agree the work is suitable and ensure that the organisation is an approved voluntary work provider. Call us on your regular payment line to talk to us about it. We may ask you for evidence of your activities. We’ll record any approved activities in your Job Plan.

Principal carers 55-59

You can meet your requirements by doing 1 or more of these activities for at least 30 hours a fortnight:

  • suitable paid work
  • self-employment
  • approved voluntary work.

If you’re doing voluntary work, you need to do:

  • suitable paid work for at least 15 hours per fortnight in the first 12 months you’re on a payment
  • voluntary work of no more than 15 hours per fortnight in the first 12 months you’re on a payment.

After 12 months on a payment, you can meet your requirements by doing 30 hours per fortnight of voluntary work.

Principal carers 60 or older

If you’re 60 or older, you can do voluntary work for 30 hours per fortnight from the time you claim. You can also choose to do a mix of activities. For example, you can do voluntary work for 20 hours and suitable paid work for the other 10 hours.

Other approved activities and programs

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

  • Work for the Dole
  • the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme.

We can also refer you to other suitable activities.

Keep in mind, it will affect your payment if you don’t meet 2 conditions. You need to both:

  • Advise us of a change in circumstances.
  • Do your agreed activities.

What exemptions apply

For principal carers, mutual obligation requirements recognise the caring responsibilities of parents and guardians. For some family situations, there are specific exemptions from requirements. 

Principal carers can meet their requirements or be eligible for an  exemption from mutual obligation requirements for a period.

Page last updated: 19 November 2019