Exemptions from mutual obligation requirements 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 they can meet their requirements. This is due to either:

  • parental responsibilities
  • guardianship responsibilities.

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

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

This exemption will be temporary. You won’t need to do the regular activities in your Job Plan, like looking for work during this time. But you may still need to go to appointments.

You can tell us online if you temporarily can’t meet your mutual obligation requirements. You can do this using your Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink app.

If you can't tell us using our self service facilities, you can use 1 of these:

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.

If you’re experiencing difficulties meeting your mutual obligation requirements, you can either:

  • talk to your employment services provider
  • call the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s Digital Services Contact Centre, if you’re in online employment services.

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.

If you get JobKeeper Payment

If you get JobKeeper Payment and certain income support payments like JobSeeker Payment, you’ll need to meet mutual obligation requirements.

You may be exempt in certain circumstances. Talk to your employment services provider, if you have one, or phone us on your regular payment line. If you’re in online employment services call the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s Digital Services Contact Centre.

If you’re a sole trader or self employed you don’t have to meet mutual obligation requirements. We’ll let you know if this changes.

Foster carer

If you’re a registered and active foster carer, you may be exempt from mutual obligation 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 additional 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 mutual obligation 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, let us know in 1 of these ways:

  • call us on your regular payment line
  • talk to your employment services provider
  • call the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s Digital Services Contact Centre, if you’re in online employment services.

School holidays

There are no exemptions from mutual obligation 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 1 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 mutual obligation 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 allow be exempt from mutual obligation 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 1 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 mutual obligation 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 mutual obligation requirements if you’re experiencing or have experienced 1 of the following:

  • domestic violence
  • 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 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.

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

Page last updated: 1 October 2020