Transition to a COVID-19 National Plan approach to mutual obligation requirements

The Morrison Government today announced changes to mutual obligation requirements and COVID-19 restrictions to align with the National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID-19 response (the National Plan).

Since the start of the pandemic, the Federal Government has reacted swiftly to changing circumstances where state-health imposed lockdowns and restrictions on people’s movement impacted the ability for Australians to look for work or do training as part of mutual obligation requirements.

The contingency arrangements saw mutual obligation requirements fully suspended on a temporary basis when a state or territory announced a lockdown, with the suspension lifting usually two business days after the lockdown ended.

The contingency arrangements applied to job seekers and participants in jobactive, Online Employment Services, Disability Employment Services and participants in ParentsNext.

Job seekers and participants covered by the contingency arrangements did not face payment suspensions or financial penalties for failing to meet their mutual obligation requirements that were due, or are arranged to occur, during the contingency arrangement period.

Job seekers and participants were still encouraged to remain connected to employment services to ensure they were supported to access the full range of assistance including mental health services if required.

These contingency arrangements that fully suspend mutual obligation requirements will now cease as states and territories begin to lift lockdown restrictions in line with the National Plan.

In New South Wales, contingency arrangements will end as planned tonight, Tuesday 12 October at 11:59pm local time. Mutual obligations requirements will then move to a National Plan Phase B approach (aligning with the COVID-19 vaccination target of 70 per cent double dose of the eligible population).

This Phase B approach will see compulsory job search activities suspended, however, some mutual obligation activities will recommence, including:

  • provider appointments can be made compulsory;
  • the requirement to agree to a new job plan or any adjustments to a job plan—within two days—will be compulsory; and
  • activities will be voluntary, recognising that initially there are likely to be limited options available.

Providers will be required to work with jobseekers and participants during this Phase B approach period to update and assist with tailoring job plans to individual circumstances and local health advice. Furthermore, providers will be asked to encourage jobseekers and participants to actively seek employment opportunities safely as the economy re-opens.

Full mutual obligation requirements will recommence when NSW reaches Phase C of the COVID-19 National Plan vaccination target of 80 per cent double dose for the eligible population.

Other states and territories currently under mutual obligation contingency arrangements will follow the same approach as they reach each stage of the COVID-19 National Plan vaccination targets.

Australian Capital Territory mutual obligation contingency arrangements will cease as planned at 11:59pm local time on Tuesday, 19 October 2021 and will move to Phase B of the National Plan approach until such time as National Plan Phase C targets are met.

Victoria mutual obligation contingency arrangements are scheduled to cease at 11:59pm local time on Thursday, 28 October 2021, subject to further announcements by the Victoria Government. Should the contingency arrangements cease as scheduled, Victoria will move to the Phase B of National Plan approach until such time as the Phase C of National Plan targets are met.

All other states and territories remain on full mutual obligations requirements, reflecting the current unrestricted movement in those jurisdictions.

More information about mutual obligation requirements can be found at:
http://www.dese.gov.au/covid-19/job-seekers