Mutual obligation requirements for principal carers

These are approved tasks and activities you agree to do to keep getting your payment. They give you a better chance of finding work.

You must meet your mutual obligation requirements.

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 one 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.

What mutual obligation requirements are

Mutual obligation requirements are tasks and activities you agree to do to keep getting your payment. They also help you find a job. Your Job Plan lists these approved tasks and activities.

Job Plan

Your Job Plan may include one 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 study, training, paid or voluntary work.

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:

From 1 April 2021, you’ll need to meet mutual obligation requirements if you’re both:

What the requirements are

If you live in the Western Australian (WA) areas affected by Tropical Cyclone Seroja

We’re temporarily pausing mutual obligation requirements from 12 April to 20 April 2021 due to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Seroja. If you live in one of the following Local Government Areas (LGAs), you won’t need to meet your requirements during this period. No payment suspensions or financial penalties will apply.

Mutual obligation requirements are also paused for customers in the Community Development Program (CDP) regions of Kambalda/Norseman and Mid-West/West Western Australia.

You can find more information about:

If you live in other parts of WA or in other Australian states and territories

Mutual obligation requirements are compulsory.

This means you must:

  • do all the tasks and activities listed in your Job Plan
  • go to appointments with your employment services provider
  • complete and report job searches
  • accept any offer of suitable paid work.

If you don’t meet your mutual obligation requirements, suspensions, demerits or financial penalties may apply.

If you haven’t already, you need to do both of the following:

  • complete the Job Seeker Snapshot questionnaire
  • agree to a Job Plan.

You’ll do these either:

  • with your employment services provider, if you have one
  • through the online employment service on the jobactive website.

You also need to:

If you’re a compulsory participant in ParentsNext, you’ll need to do all of these:

  • go to appointments
  • take part in set activities
  • sign a participation plan.

From early March 2021, job seekers may need to attend face-to-face appointments with their provider. This depends on local health advice and state and territory COVID-19 requirements.

This applies if you’re with any of the following providers:

  • jobactive
  • Disability Employment Services
  • ParentsNext.

When penalties apply

There are demerits and financial penalties for not meeting your mutual obligation requirements.

This applies to you if you’re in one of these:

The penalties for not meeting your mutual obligation requirements are different if you’re in the Community Development Program.

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 if you got 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 one of the following ways:

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

Temporary requirements for 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 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 and you’re partnered, you don’t have mutual obligation requirements. You can still choose to get help from an employment services provider.

Accept any offer of suitable paid work

We recognise your duties as a principal carer, but you must accept an offer of suitable paid work. This is any work you’re capable of doing.

You’ll get a work refusal failure if you either:

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

This doesn’t apply if you’re with a ParentsNext provider.

Read about what other penalties apply.

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. But, because 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 in your Job Plan.

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 or part time paid work

If you don’t meet the 30 hours part time work 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 if your casual or part time work is 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 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 one 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 requirements 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 requirements, 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 one 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 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.

If you’re in online employment services, call the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s Digital Services Contact Centre.

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 COVID-19.

Page last updated: 15 April 2021