Exemptions from Mutual Obligation Requirements for principal carers

We can grant principal carers temporary exemptions from meeting their Mutual Obligation Requirements in some family situations.

Mutual Obligation Requirements are flexible to allow job seekers to deal with certain events and special circumstances.

We allow job seekers who are principal carers some additional flexibility in the way they can meet their requirements. This is due to their:

  • parental responsibilities, or
  • guardianship responsibilities

In special circumstances, we may allow you to be exempt from your requirements. For example, if you’re facing difficult, unusual or unforeseen circumstances.

This exemption will be temporary. You won’t need to do regular activities, look for work or have a Job Plan during this time.

Talk to us if you’re having difficulty meeting your requirements. You can contact us on the job seekers line or talk to your Employment Services Provider. We can help you find other ways to meet your requirements or allow you to be exempt if appropriate. We can also refer you to other services that may help.

You must tell us as soon as possible if:

  • your circumstances change, or
  • you’re experiencing difficulties

If you don’t, this may affect your payment.

Foster carer

If you’re a registered and active foster carer, you may be exempt from your requirements. This exemption may last for up to 12 months at a time.

Even if you’re not a principal carer, you may also be exempt for a period, if you’re:

  • a registered and active foster carer, and
  • providing emergency or respite foster care

This exemption period may last:

  • during any emergency or respite foster child placement, and
  • up to 12 weeks after the child has left your care

This additional 12 week period will depend on your circumstances, including whether you’re awaiting another foster child placement.

You’ll need to provide us with evidence that verifies the care arrangement. This must be from the relevant:

  • state or territory authority, or
  • foster care organisation

Home schooling and distance education

You may be exempt from your requirements for up to 12 months at a time. This may apply if you oversee your dependent child’s:

  • home primary schooling, or
  • distance education

In some circumstances, you may continue to get this exemption. For example, if your child is still completing secondary school through home schooling or distance education.

You need to provide proof of:

  • registering for home schooling, or
  • enrolling your child in distance education

You’ll also need to provide proof of your child’s ongoing home education, if you:

  • don’t need to register for home schooling, or
  • are exempt due to your state or territory rules

This proof can include workbooks, examination results or lesson plans.

School holidays

There are no exemptions from your requirements because of school holidays. This applies even if you lack child care to allow you to work or search for a job.

Having to use child care shouldn’t prevent you from looking for work. You may be eligible to get the Child Care Subsidy to help you meet the cost of child care. You may need to accept any suitable child care available to you.

However, when looking for work during school holidays or at any other time, there is some flexibility. You don’t have to accept job offers if you can’t find suitable and available child care in order to work.

You also don’t have to accept job offers that place you in financial hardship. For example, where you won’t be at least $50 per fortnight better off than if you didn’t accept the job.

This takes into account factors like:

  • how much we pay you
  • your expected travel costs, and
  • any out of pocket child care fees you would have if you accepted the job

Please talk to us or your Employment Services Provider if either of the following are a problem for you:

  • availability of child care, or
  • school holidays

Large families

We may grant you an exemption from meeting your requirements, if you have 4 or more dependent children. This can include dependent children aged under 19 years old who are still in secondary education. 

This exemption may last for up to 12 months at a time.

Kinship care

We may allow you to be exempt during periods of kinship care. This exemption may last up to 12 months at a time. 

This exemption may apply if you’re:

  • caring for a child as a family or community member, but
  • not their parent

To be eligible for this exemption, you must have carer responsibilities under one of these legal orders:

  • Family Law Parenting Order, or
  • formal state or territory Protection Case Plan or Care Plan

You may be exempt for up to 16 weeks at a time due to other carer responsibilities. For example, if you’re looking after a child under an informal arrangement, that has state or territory authority support.

You’ll need to provide us with proof of your care arrangements.

Examples include:

  • the original or certified copies of the Order or Plan, and
  • evidence of your relationship to the child

Caring for a child with disability or medical condition

You may get an exemption if you’re caring for a child with an ongoing disability or medical condition. 

This exemption may last for up to 12 months at a time.

We may grant this exemption under the following condition. If your child’s care needs and their ability to attend school impacts your availability for work. 

We’ll need evidence of your child’s disability or medical condition, as well as a report from the treating health professional. The treating health professional is the doctor or specialist who treats your child. 

The report must cover:

  • the impact your child’s disability or condition has on your availability, and
  • your ability to meet your requirements

We may also need a statement from your child’s school about your situation.

This exemption may also apply during the school holidays if you’re caring for your child during the day.

You may also be able to get a temporary exemption from meeting your requirements if your child has a:

  • short term illness, or
  • medical condition such as the flu or chickenpox

Experiencing domestic violence or stress as a result of a relationship breakdown

We allow you to be exempt if you’re experiencing or have experienced:

  • domestic violence, or
  • extreme stress resulting from a relationship breakdown

You can get an exemption of up to 16 weeks at a time. It will apply if you are, or have experienced domestic violence within the past 26 weeks. Even if you haven’t separated or moved out, you may still be able to get this exemption.

You can also get an exemption of up to 16 weeks at a time if you:

  • have gone through a relationship breakdown, and
  • are experiencing unusually high stress, health problems or family difficulty as a result

A social worker can let you know about additional assistance and support. They can also discuss whether you’re eligible for either of these exemptions.

Other special or family circumstances

We may allow you to get a temporary exemption if you’re having difficulty meeting your requirements. These could include if you're:

  • caring for an adult family member who is frail, aged or ill
  • caring for a child who is 6 years or older, but hasn’t started school
  • having a temporary illness, disability or medical condition
  • experiencing a major personal crisis or disruption to your home such as a fire, flood or car accident
  • feeling grief or undertaking more duties after the death of an immediate family member
  • undertaking approved cultural commitments, such as Sorry Business for Indigenous Australians

Contact us on the job seekers line if you’re experiencing any of these circumstances.

Page last updated: 19 December 2018

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