JOBSEEKER

This page last updated on 10/12/2020

More information

What’s changed


Since April 2020, the Government temporarily expanded eligibility for income support payments and provided additional income for eligible people on Centrelink. The current status of these are as follows:

  • From 25 September until 31 December 2020, the fortnightly coronavirus supplement will be paid at the rate of $250 a fortnight for eligible people on Centrelink payments. The supplement will be paid at a reduced rate of $150 a fortnight between 1 January and 31 March 2021.

  • There will be 2 more Economic Support Payments of $250. If a person is eligible for these, they will get a payment of $250 in December 2020 and another $250 in March 2021.

  • The income free area for JobSeeker will be $300 per fortnight for JobSeeker recipients until 31 March 2021, This means people can earn more, but still receive the maximum payment rates. If a person earns more than $300 per fortnight, their payment will be reduced by 60c for each dollar over this amount.

  • From 25 September 2020, the Assets Test was reinstated for both existing and new recipients

  • From 25 September 2020, the Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period was reinstated

  • the Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Work Preclusion Period and the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will continue to be waived until 31 March 2021

  • Mutual Obligation gradually being reintroduced from 4 August 2020 and from 23 November 2020 became mandatory except in special circumstances.

  • Partner Income test increased to $3,086.11 per fortnight. Or $80,238.89 per annum, if you have no personal income. This increase will continue until 31 March 2021.

  • Access to JobSeeker if you’re a sole trader or self-employed and your business has been suspended, or suffered a reduction in turnover, due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus.

  • Employment income Nil Payment Period has been extended until 16 April 2021.




What do the changes mean?


Since April 2020, the Government temporarily expanded eligibility for income support payments and provided additional income for eligible people on Centrelink. The current status of these are as follows:

  • From 25 September until 31 December 2020, the fortnightly coronavirus supplement will be paid at the rate of $250 a fortnight for eligible people on Centrelink payments. The supplement will be paid at a reduced rate of $150 a fortnight between 1 January and 31 March 2021.
  • There will be 2 more Economic Support Payments of $250. If a person is eligible for these, they will get a payment of $250 in December 2020 and another $250 in March 2021.
  • The income free area for JobSeeker will be $300 per fortnight for JobSeeker recipients until 31 March 2021, This means people can earn more, but still receive the maximum payment rates. If a person earns more than $300 per fortnight, their payment will be reduced by 60c for each dollar over this amount.
  • From 25 September 2020, the Assets Test was reinstated for both existing and new recipients
  • From 25 September 2020, the Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period was reinstated
  • the Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Work Preclusion Period and the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will continue to be waived until 31 March 2021
  • Mutual Obligation gradually being reintroduced from 4 August 2020 and from 23 November 2020 became mandatory except in special circumstances.
  • Partner Income test increased to $3,086.11 per fortnight. Or $80,238.89 per annum, if you have no personal income. This increase will continue until 31 March 2021.
  • Access to JobSeeker if you’re a sole trader or self-employed and your business has been suspended, or suffered a reduction in turnover, due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus.
  • Employment income Nil Payment Period has been extended until 16 April 2021.




What do you do differently?


  • Clients should be encouraged to check eligibility and apply for a payment. Even if they are eligible but will only receive a nil or $1 payment now because they may receive a higher payment later if their income / work hours change. They may also be eligible to get the coronavirus supplement if they get at least $1 from JobSeeker.
  • You will need information about the new processes to apply for the JobSeeker Payment and the new accessibility requirements.
  • Client may need emergency assistance and support for food, rent and utilities while waiting for Centrelink payments to commence
  • There may be an opportunity to settle debts for a reduced lump sum with the first economic support payment and/or while receiving the coronavirus supplement.
  • There may also be an opportunity for some clients to build a saving buffer and make plans for regular savings.
  • Entering into a long term repayment arrangement with affordability based on the client receiving the coronavirus supplement will be problematic when it is reduced or ceases to be paid by the government.
  • Many clients will need to prioritise payments and debts and make repayment arrangements that are affordable and can be reviewed as the client’s circumstances change




Eligibility for JobSeeker


The main eligibility rules to meet are:

  • Aged between 22 and the Age Pension Age. If under 21 apply for JobSeeker for Youth. If over the Age Pension Age and now unemployed consider applying for the Age Pension.
  • Income and assets are under the test limits
    • income test: If single earn less than $1086.50 gross per fortnight. If partnered, earn less than $993.50 gross per fortnight and their partner earns less than $3086.80 gross per fortnight.
    • Assets test: the assets test waiver ended 24 September 2020. If single and a non-homeowner $268,000 limit or $482,000 for non-homeowner.
  • Meet residence rules and be an Australian resident, newly arrived resident or a Special Category Visa
  • Meet the rules for one of the following situations:
    • Meet Centrelink’s definition of unemployed or looking for work.
    • Sick or injured and are unable to do usual work or study for a short time.
  • Meet temporary eligibility rules during coronavirus e.g. a sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contract worker and regular income has reduced.




Applying for JobSeeker


The usual process to apply for JobSeeker (for the first time) involves:

  • Visiting a Centrelink office with the necessary identification
  • At that time the person’s identity is verified, they are given a Centrelink Reference Number and a code to link Centrelink to MyGov.
  • If the person has not set up MyGov then they get instructions on how to do so (go to MyGov and select create an account).
  • People who need extra assistance get an appointment

For new applicants (never applied for Centrelink before) there is an accelerated process in the pandemic. People are encouraged to not visit a Centrelink office and instead go online. The process is:

Step 1: Login to MyGov and click register an intention to claim. Confirm personal details can be shared with Centrelink, their financial circumstances are affected by the coronavirus and an intention to claim.

Step 2: Call Centrelink to verify identity, obtain a Centrelink Reference Number and a linking code (to link MyGov to Centrelink).

Step 3: Complete an online application for JobSeeker on Centrelink.

Note 1: There is no need for an employment separation certificate.

Note 2: The online process involves a declaration for all applicants on identity, residency status, income and that:

  1. They have been made redundant, stood down or their hours reduced (including to zero) as a result of the coronavirus
  2. For sole traders and the self employed that business has been suspended or had turnover reduced significantly

Step 4: Check MyGov for any additional evidence or actions required. Notifications by email or SMS (as the applicant elected in the application) should accompany any changes.

Step 5: If your client is rejected or on hold get advice about the appeal process which starts with an authorised review officer (see resources below).




Ongoing reporting and obligations


Mutual obligations were suspended in March due to Covid-19. They were gradually reintroduced from 4 August 2020 and from 23 November 2020, mutual obligation requirements became mandatory again for all job seekers nationwide.

Recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance for job seekers, Parenting Payment (under certain conditions), and Special Benefit will have mutual obligation requirements. A person receiving JobKeeper and one of these payments may also have mutual obligation requirements.

To meet their mutual obligation requirements, job seekers must:

  • complete the Job Seeker Snapshot questionnaire

  • agree to a Job Plan

  • go to appointments, either online or over the phone, with their employment services provider

  • the tasks on their online employment services dashboard, if they don’t have a provider

  • the activities in their Job Plan if it is safe to do so, including job searches

  • accept any offer of suitable paid work.

They will also still need to:

  • tell Services Australia about changes to their circumstances

  • report their income.

They may have different mutual obligation requirements if they are either:

  • a principal carer

  • aged 55 or over.

When penalties apply:

From 4 August, the payment may be cancelled if they refuse suitable work without a reasonable excuse. This includes:

  • accepting a suitable job offer

  • starting a job they have accepted.

If the payment is cancelled for refusing suitable work, the client won’t be able to claim again for at least 4 weeks.

This doesn’t apply if they are in the Community Development Program or ParentsNext.

If their payment is cancelled, it won’t affect their family payments.

Customers should maintain contact with their employment service providers as they are there to support and explain what they need to do to make sure they keep getting their payment. They can also give customers advice about training, upskilling and employment opportunities.

Customers can also log onto their jobactive dashboard regularly to ensure they are aware of the opportunities available to them.

If a customer can’t meet their requirements for other reasons, they should talk to their employment service provider as a first point of contact as they are offering support via telephone. If, however, a customer has an online or digital employment services, or they can’t contact their provider, customers can call the National Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260.

Further information can be on the Services Australia website.





Disclaimer: The information on this website is for financial counsellors only. It is general information only. Financial counsellors must still tailor advice to their client’s individual circumstances. 

Copyright © 2020 Financial Counselling Australia. All rights reserved.​

FCA sincerely thanks Kat Lane. Liz Minter and Melinda Rene for their outstanding work in putting this site together.