Exemptions for principal carers

We can grant principal carers temporary exemptions from their mutual obligation requirements in some family situations.

We allow job seekers who are principal carers some additional ways to meet their mutual obligation requirements. This is because of either:

  • parental responsibilities
  • guardianship responsibilities.

In special circumstances, we may exempt you from your requirements.

Exemptions allow job seekers to deal with certain events and special circumstances. For example, if you’re facing difficult, unusual or unforeseen circumstances.

If you’re sick or injured, you need to give us a medical certificate.

Exemptions are temporary. You won’t need to meet the requirements but you may still need to go to appointments.

Until we assess whether you’re exempt from these requirements, you need to keep meeting your requirements. This includes attending appointments with your employment services provider.

If your Centrelink online account is linked to myGov, sign in now to tell us if you temporarily can’t meet your requirements.

Sign in to myGov

You can also use the Express Plus Centrelink app.

If you can’t tell us using our self-service facilities, you can call the Employment services line if you need help with payments for job seekers and Assurance of Support. You can also ask to talk with a social worker.

We can help you find other ways to meet your requirements or give you an exemption if appropriate. We can also refer you to other services that may help.

You must tell us as soon as possible if either:

  • your circumstances change
  • 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 requirements. This exemption may last for up to 12 months at a time.

Even if you’re not a principal carer, you may be exempt for a period if both of these apply:

  • you’re a registered and active foster carer
  • you’re providing emergency or respite foster care.

This exemption period may last either:

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

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

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

  • state or territory authority
  • foster care organisation.

Home schooling and distance education

You may be exempt from requirements for up to 12 months at a time. This may apply if you oversee your dependent child’s home schooling and it’s primary school 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.

To get an exemption you need to provide proof of either:

  • registering for home schooling
  • enrolling your child in distance education.

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

  • you don’t need to register for home schooling
  • you’re exempt due to your state or territory rules.

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

We don’t consider keeping your child home due to coronavirus (COVID-19) to be home schooling.

However, you’ll get a temporary reduction in your requirements if both of these apply to your school aged children:

  • they can’t go to school because of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • there’s an order from federal, state or territory authorities to keep them at home.

If this applies to you and you don’t have an exemption, call us on your regular payment line.

School holidays

There are no exemptions from requirements in 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, you don’t have to accept an offer of work that isn’t suitable.

This 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.

This takes into account factors like:

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

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

Please talk to your provider if either of these make it hard for you to meet your requirements:

  • availability of child care
  • 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

You may be exempt from requirements during periods of kinship care. This exemption may last up to 12 months at a time.

This exemption may apply if both of the following apply:

  • you’re caring for a child as a family or community member
  • you’re not their parent.

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

  • family law parenting order
  • 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 parenting order or plan
  • evidence of your relationship to the child.

Caring for a child with disability or medical condition

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

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

We may grant an exemption 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 both:

  • the impact your child’s disability or condition has on your availability
  • 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 get a temporary exemption from meeting your requirements if your child has either a:

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

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

We’ll give you exemption from requirements if you’re experiencing or have experienced one of the following:

  • domestic violence
  • extreme stress 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 either of the following apply:

  • you have gone through a relationship breakdown
  • you’re 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 have a temporary exemption if you’re having difficulty meeting your requirements for other reasons. These reasons could include any of the following if you:

  • are caring for an adult family member who is frail, aged or ill
  • are caring for a child who is 6 years or older, but hasn’t started school
  • have a temporary illness, disability or medical condition
  • are experiencing a major personal crisis or disruption to your home such as a fire, flood or car accident
  • are 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.

Call the Employment services line if you’re experiencing any of these circumstances.

Page last updated: 20 February 2024.
QC 45231