Mutual obligation requirements for principal carers

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

From 4 August 2020, you need to meet your mutual obligation requirements. Suspensions and penalties apply only if you refuse an offer of suitable work. We’ll let you know when this changes. These requirements don’t apply, if you live in Victoria.

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 you get any of these payments:

What the current requirements are

In March 2020, mutual obligation requirements were temporarily paused due to coronavirus (COVID-19). We’re now slowly reintroducing them.

From 4 August 2020, you need to do all of these:

  • complete the Job Seeker Snapshot questionnaire
  • agree to a Job Plan
  • go to appointments, either online or over the phone, with your employment services provider
  • the tasks on your online employment services dashboard, if you don’t have a provider
  • the activities in your Job Plan if it is safe to do so, including job searches
  • accept any offer of suitable paid work.

You may get a suspension or financial penalty if you refuse work without a reasonable excuse. Read more about when penalties apply.

How it works

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

Job Plan

Your Job Plan may include 1 or more of the following:

  • attending appointments with an employment services provider or us
  • job searches, including looking for work and applying for jobs
  • other approved activities such as training, paid or voluntary work.

Reporting your income and any changes to circumstances

You need to report your income every 2 weeks and tell us about any changes to your circumstances. This includes when you get JobKeeper Payment from your employer.

You’ll need to tell us what you and your partner earned in the last 14 days. Even if it’s $0.

You can report in any 1 of the following ways:

If you can't use our self service facilities or attend a service centre, can call us on your regular payment line.

Temporary requirements for coronavirus (COVID-19)

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.

You’ll need to talk to us or your employment services provider to see if this applies to you.

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.

Accept any offer of 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.

From 4 August, refusing suitable work without a reasonable excuse may mean your payment is cancelled for at least 4 weeks. This doesn’t apply if you’re in the Community Development Program or ParentsNext.
Read more about when penalties apply.

This is called a work refusal failure. You’ll get one if you either:

  • don’t accept a suitable job offer
  • don’t start a job you’ve accepted.

However, you don’t have to accept an offer of work that is either:

  • not suitable
  • more than 25 hours per week.

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.

What approved tasks and activities are

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

  • looking for suitable work of at least 30 hours per fortnight
  • paid work
  • other approved activities like studying.

Paid work

This is when 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.

Work Types

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

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

Allowable break provisions

This may apply to principal carers during Christmas and New Year where their normal employment either:

  • closes down temporarily
  • has reduced work hours or shifts.

You won’t have to do other activities.

You must resume your 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 paid work

If you don’t meet the 30 hours part time work requirement requirement in a fortnight, you'll need to do other approved activities. This could include job searches. You’ll need to do them during breaks or holidays in casual part time work that are beyond your control.

Principal carers who do permanent part time paid work

You don’t have to do other activities during a break or holiday if you get the same amount of employment income during the break.

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 can only use study to meet your requirements during your course.

During study breaks longer than 3 weeks, you may need to look for suitable work that's 1 of these:

  • temporary
  • part time
  • casual.

Alternatively, you may need to do another approved activity to meet your requirements. Your employment services provider will tell you.

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 older you may be able to meet your requirement in other ways. This can be through voluntary work, suitable paid work, self-employment or a mix of these activities.

Doing voluntary work

If you want to do voluntary work to meet your mutual obligations, you need to talk to us about it. We must agree the work is suitable and make sure 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 aged 55 to 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 a combination of paid and 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 either:

  • voluntary work
  • a mix of paid work and approved voluntary work.

Principal carers aged 60 or older

If you’re 60 or older, you can do voluntary work for 30 hours per fortnight to meet your mutual obligation requirements. You can do this 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 Business Assistance with NEIS.

Read about these on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.

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:

  • tell 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 may be eligible for an exemption from mutual obligation requirements for a period.

Principal carers may also be exempt in other circumstances. This includes if they’re impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Read about what other exemptions may apply.

Page last updated: 3 August 2020