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.

Pause of mutual obligation and participation requirements due to floods

Mutual obligation and participation requirements are paused for people in some flood affected areas of Australia. Read more about mutual obligations and participation requirements pause.

Mutual obligation requirements are tasks and activities you agree to do, to help you find a job. They include regularly reporting.

You must meet your requirements to keep getting your payment. If you don’t, demerits and financial penalties may apply.

Who the principal carer is

A principal carer 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.

How to meet your requirements

You must report the employment income you and your partner get paid every 14 days, even if it’s $0. You may be asked if you’re meeting your requirements.

You can check your reporting dates using either:

Accept any offer of suitable paid work

If your mutual obligation requirements require you to look for work, you must accept any offer of suitable paid work. This is any work you’re capable of doing.

You’ll get a penalty if you either:

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

Read about demerits and penalties.

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

  • not suitable
  • more than 15 hours per week.

Reasons why work won’t be suitable include:

  • 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.

If you’re with a ParentsNext provider you don’t need to look for work. However, you may get demerits or a penalty if you don’t meet the requirements in your participation plan.

Work that meets requirements for principal carer job seekers

You can complete 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, you can talk to either:

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.

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. If your voluntary work is approved, we’ll update 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

If you’re interested in doing other approved activities, you can either:

When holiday period provisions apply

There are special provisions for all principal carers during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Christmas Day and New Year’s Day public holiday fortnight

You don’t have to meet the requirements in your plan during the 2 weeks of the Christmas and New Year’s Day public holiday period. This applies to all principal carers regardless of your payment type. You must still report employment income you and your partner get paid on your nominated reporting day, even if it’s $0.

Allowable break provisions

This is in addition to the break over the Christmas holiday period. The allowable break provisions 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 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 plan.

Other breaks in activities

There is no change to job seeker requirements where a holiday or break is either:

  • outside of their control
  • less than 4 weeks.

This applies to principal carers who meet their requirements through paid work.

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.

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.

What exemptions may apply

For principal carers, your requirements recognise the caring responsibilities of parents and guardians. For some family situations, there are specific exemptions from requirements.

You may be eligible for an exemption from mutual obligation requirements for a period of time.

While we assess your request for an exemption, you need to keep meeting your requirements. This includes attending appointments with your provider.

You may also be exempt in other circumstances. This includes if you’re affected by COVID-19.

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 provider to see if this applies to you.

Page last updated: 12 September 2022