Welfare Rights Review

Job seeker compliance: tough, tougher and toughest

It would not be a Federal Budget if it did not include some tightening of the rules around job seeker compliance, so that job seekers “do the right thing”. But this year getting tough on the unemployed is costing more than it’s saving.   

“Compliance” refers to the system of sanctions and financial penalties for people who fail to meet their ‘mutual obligations’ – which includes attending appointments and taking part in activities, such as looking for jobs and  participating in Work or the Dole schemes.

From 1 July 2016, the existing compliance arrangements for job seekers will be further ”strengthened”, at a cost of nearly $25 million. This will be achieved by “introducing stronger and more immediate consequences for job seekers who do not meet their mutual obligation requirements”. Currently, if a No Show No Pay penalty is applied, it cannot come  out of the very next fortnightly payment; it is deducted from the one after that. From July 2016, if the legislation is changed, the penalty amount will be deducted from the very next payment (where Centrelink is satisfied that the person does not have a ‘reasonable excuse’ for missing the appointment.

The changes will mean:

  • stronger rules for job seekers who fail to attend certain appointments or do not enter a Job Plan;
  • more immediate penalties for failing to attend activities (such as Work for the Dole); and
  • tighter rules and stronger penalties to ensure job seekers are looking for and accept work.

It is expected that over three years $6.9 million will be saved by tightening up the system and removing the ability to have an eight week penalty waived through work off provisions where a person has ‘refused a suitable job offer’. In 2013-14, there were 1,626 “serious” eight week penalties applied for failing to accept or commence  a suitable job. Of those, 1,265, or 78 per cent accessed the waiver provisions.

As there are 800,000 unemployed people currently in the jobactive caseload, the percentage of people who are penalised for refusing a suitable job offer is 0.2 per cent of jobseekers. Overall, the job seeker compliance “strengthening” will cost taxpayers $24.9 million over four years.

Can’t make your appointment with your employment provider?

Check out this Q&A from jobactive, which lets you know what you need to do to make sure that you get all your Centrelink payments:

http://jobsearch.gov.au/InformationforjobseekersonchangesthatcouldaffectyourincomesupportpaymentFAQs.aspx

Department of Employment has released this factsheet on what to do to avoid missing out on payment: http://jobsearch.gov.au/documents/cant%20make%20your%20appointment%20fact%20sheet.pdf