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3.2.8.60 Unsuitable Work

Unsuitable work - general - introduction

To satisfy the activity test, a job seeker must be actively seeking and willing to undertake any paid work other than paid work that is unsuitable for the person. If a job seeker leaves a job to claim payment or refuses to accept a job, they may lose payment or have to wait for a period of time until payment is payable (3.1.13). However, if the work that the job seeker refused or left is unsuitable for the job seeker they will not lose payment.

 

Assessing unsuitable work

For the purposes of NSA and YA, work may be unsuitable for a job seeker if it:

  • requires particular skills, experience or qualifications that the person does not have, and appropriate training will not be provided by the employer,
  • may aggravate a pre-existing illness, disability (1.1.D.160) or injury and medical evidence has been provided,
  • involves health or safety risks and would contravene an occupational health and safety law,
  • the job seeker is a principal carer of a child or children under SSAct section 5(1) and appropriate care and supervision of the child/ren is not available during the hours the person would be required to work,
  • the terms and conditions for the work are less generous than the applicable statutory conditions,
  • involves commuting from home to work that would be unreasonably difficult,
  • involves enlistment in the Defence Force or the Reserve Forces,
  • requires the person to change residence, or
  • in the Secretary's opinion, is unsuitable for any other reason.

 

Note: While there is a general provision that work may be unsuitable for a job seeker if it requires them to move from a home in a place to a home in another place, where a job seeker voluntarily seeks and is offered permanent full-time work that is located more than 90 minutes travelling time from their home or local area, they are subject to the seeking work out of local area provisions outlined later in this topic.

 

Act reference: SSAct section 5(1) Family relationships definitions-children

 

Applicable statutory conditions

The applicable statutory conditions are:

  • if the work would be covered by the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard, the minimum terms and conditions for the work under that Standard,
  • if the work would also be covered by a transitional award - the minimum terms and conditions for the work under the transitional award, so far as the terms and conditions relate to rates of pay and casual loadings, or
  • if the work would not be covered by the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard, the minimum terms and conditions for the work under the relevant state or territory agreement or award.

 

Other reasons work may be unsuitable

The main reason a job may be considered unsuitable for other reasons is if the job seeker considers the work to be unsuitable on moral, cultural or religious grounds. The following criteria should be considered to ensure that the job seeker's objections are genuine:

  • is there evidence of adherence to a particular set of ethical, moral or religious values?
  • is the lifestyle and practices of the job seeker, as far as can be determined, consistent in regard to the particular issue?
  • has the job seeker previously refused a number of positions based on a wide range of religious or moral grounds?
  • is there evidence to consider the job seeker is not genuine in their objection?

 

Work would also be considered unsuitable if it is not consistent with prevailing community standards. For example, a job seeker would not be expected to take up work in the sex industry, even if such work were legal in the state or territory in which it was offered.

 

Work can also be considered unsuitable if it is the subject of industrial dispute.

 

Note: While all job seekers are required to accept suitable work to the level of their capacity, job seekers who are undertaking education or training as an approved activity are only required to accept a job that fits around the timing of their training. This is to ensure that the job seeker can complete their training.

 

Legislative instrument

Before deciding whether or not work is unsuitable for a job seeker who is a principal carer or who has a partial capacity to work, the delegate must refer to the Social Security (Unsuitable Work) (DEEWR) Determination 2009.

 

Other reasons a job may be regarded as unsuitable for a person with a partial capacity to work

In addition to the reasons outlined above, a job may be regarded as unsuitable for a person with a partial capacity to work if:

  • it does not provide appropriate support or facilities to take account of the illness, disability or injury, OR
  • if the total cost of participating in employment means that the person with a partial capacity to work would be financially worse off as a result of undertaking the work.

 

In making a determination on the total cost of participating in employment, the delegate should consider the potential financial impacts of accepting that work upon a person with a partial capacity to work in the next complete fortnight. The following essential costs should be taken into consideration when assessing these financial impacts at the time the job offer is made:

  • personal care requirements incurred by the job seeker to get ready for work or while on the job,
  • disability aids required for participation in the job which are not covered by the employer, or
  • the cost of travel to and from the job by the job seeker's normal means of transport.

 

Example 1: Mike has chronic pain which makes walking long distances difficult. Mike is offered a job of 15 hours per week as a receptionist for a local accountant. Mike can drive to the job in his car but there is no accessible parking located near the office. The nearest parking is 500 metres away. Walking this distance to and from his car to work would aggravate Mike's condition. There is no other accessible transport available to Mike, therefore the job is not suitable.

 

Example 2: Sarah's aunt comes around at 10am each morning to help Sarah shower. Sarah is offered a job that requires her to start work at 8:30am, 3 times a week. In order to accept the job, Sarah would have to pay for a private carer to help her shower as her aunt is unable to come any earlier. This job would be considered unsuitable due to cost of hiring a private carer. In addition, Sarah's transport costs would leave her financially worse off.

 

Example 3: Julia has an acquired brain injury which has resulted in her having difficulties concentrating for long periods of time. She is offered a job as a telephone switch operator. The job cannot be adapted to accommodate her disability, therefore the job would be considered unsuitable.

 

Availability of child care

If a principal carer job seeker is offered employment but they are unable to obtain suitable child care during the times they would be required to work (including reasonable travel time to and from work), then they may have a reasonable excuse to not accept the position.

 

Provision of appropriate training

The legislation provides that work may be considered unsuitable if it requires particular skill, experience or qualifications that the person does not have, and appropriate training will not be provided by the employer. This means that if a person cannot do the job without appropriate training and the employer fails to provide such training, then the work may be considered unsuitable. The following issues should be taken into account:

  • the training must provide the skills required for the position and be of the appropriate industry standard. If doubts exist, DHS may liaise with the local DEEWR office or regulatory body,
  • the training should take into account of existing skills, knowledge and experience,
  • the training must be in a form appropriate to the work being undertaken,
  • the job seeker is not expected to contribute to the costs of the training,
  • if the position is a traineeship or apprenticeship, the appropriate training wage must be paid, or
  • the number of training hours required must not be excessive for a person assessed with partial capacity.

 

Reasonable travel time for job seekers who are NOT principal carers or NOT people with a partial capacity to work

A job would be regarded as within reasonable commuting distance if the journey between the place of work and the job seeker's home does not normally exceed 90 minutes by whatever means of transport is normally available to the job seeker.

 

The commuting would also be considered reasonable if a substantial number of people living in the same area as the job seeker regularly commute to their places of work.

 

Reasonable travel time for principal carers

An offer of work should generally not be deemed suitable for principal carer parents if the journey, either from the principal carer parent's home to the place of work, or from the place of work to the parent's home (including the time to travel to and from child care) would normally exceed 60 minutes in duration. In some circumstances, a journey of a lesser duration that 60 minutes may be considered excessive travel time. Travel time refers to the actual time spent in transit (i.e. the time from the person's home to the place of employment). It does not include time spent waiting for buses, taxis or other forms of transport. The cost of travel for principal carer parents by their normal means of transport should also not exceed 10% of the gross wage offered.

 

Financial suitability of a job for principal carers

No principal carer parent is required to accept a job offer or continue in a job which fails to make them financially better off compared to not doing the job. If a principal carer parent is not at least $50 per fortnight better off than if they did not accept or continue in that job, then the parent is able to decline the job offer or leave the job. A financial suitability test is available to providers and job seekers on the DHS website as part of the rate estimator.

 

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.5.1.200 Suitable Work (PP)

 

Reasonable travel time for people with a partial capacity to work

A job would be regarded as within reasonable commuting distance for job seekers assessed as having a partial capacity to work if:

  • the journey between the place of work and the job seeker's home does not normally exceed 60 minutes each way by whatever means of appropriate transport is normally available to the job seeker, AND
  • the cost of travel by their normal means of transport does not exceed 10% of the gross wage offered, AND
  • the travel does not aggravate, or is made unreasonably difficult by the job seeker's illness, injury or disability.

 

Note: Waiting times for modified taxis may be an issue for some people with a partial capacity to work. This matter should be considered and discussed with relevant job seekers, as part of the process of making a decision on reasonable travel time.

 

Example: A person with a disability, which results in incontinence, may find a lengthy journey to be unreasonably difficult.

 

Seeking work out of local area

Although a job seeker is not required to accept work that involves unreasonable commuting, a job seeker, who voluntarily seeks and is offered permanent full-time work that is located more than 90 minutes travelling time from their home or local area, is required to accept that work. Similarly, if a job seeker indicates that they are willing to consider work outside their local area, they will be required to accept permanent full-time work offers.

 

Explanation: Permanent full-time work means work, located in Australia that is for at least 35 hours per week, of more than 12 months duration.

 

Exemptions from seeking or accepting work out of local areas

A job seeker is exempt, even if they have indicated that they are willing, from accepting permanent full-time work out of the local area if:

  • the person is under the age of 18, OR
  • the person or the person's partner is pregnant, OR
  • the person or the person's partner has a severe medical condition and the condition makes it unreasonable for the job seeker to accept the offer, OR
  • the acceptance of the offer would jeopardise the current employment or the employment prospects of the person's partner, OR
  • the person or the person's partner has a child under the age of 16 years who is living with them or is living somewhere in the old area, OR
  • the person or the person's partner has significant caring responsibilities in the old area (see explanation 1), OR
  • the educational, cultural or religious background of the person makes it unreasonable for the person to accept the offer, OR
  • the person would suffer severe financial hardship if the person were to accept the offer (see explanation 2), OR
  • it is more appropriate for the person to participate in education or training than to accept the offer, OR
  • the person is assessed has having a partial capacity to work.

 

Explanation 1: Significant caring responsibilities includes caring for elderly or disabled parents or friends, or a child of the person or their partner who is 16 years of age and over who the delegate believes is substantially dependent on the person or their partner.

 

Explanation 2: A job seeker would suffer severe financial hardship (1.1.S.125) if the wage/salary would not allow them to meet either reasonable living expenses in the new area, or the reasonable cost of commuting to the new area.

 

Relocation

A job seeker is expected to accept positions that necessitate living away from home if they:

  • are accustomed to undertaking employment that involves living away from home, OR
  • have previously indicated they are prepared to move to a particular location to work.

 

However, a job seeker is not usually expected to undertake employment that involves relocation if they are:

  • under 18 years of age, or
  • residing with a partner or dependant child/ren, or
  • pregnant.

 

Act reference: SSAct section 601 Activity test, section 541 Activity test

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.2.9.30 Job Search - Setting Job Search Requirements - General

 

Unsuitable work - principal carer parents - summary

In general, principal carer parents with participation requirements are subject to the same suitable work requirements as other people in receipt of NSA and YA, with the exception that suitable work for principal carer parents is part-time work of at least 15 hours a week. Principal carer parents subject to the activity test are required to accept job offers of paid work between 15 and 25 hours per week, subject to the work being suitable.

Note: Principal carer parents are not required to accept job offers of more than 25 hours per week in duration. However, a person may choose to accept such a job offer and to work more than 25 hours per week.

 

In addition, when determining whether work is unsuitable for a principal carer parent, the following factors must also be considered but are not limited to:

  • whether the parent has access to appropriate care and supervision for their children at the times they are expected to work, AND
  • whether the location of either the workplace or the child care venue makes the total travel time to work unreasonable, OR
  • whether the cost of travel to and from work is unreasonable, OR
  • whether the principal carer parent will be financially better off as a result of undertaking the work.

 

Ultimately, the decision in each case regarding what is, or is not, suitable work for a principal carer parent lies with the delegate. Full regard must be given to all conditions outlined in this topic.

 

Appropriate care & supervision

For principal carer parents, work will be unsuitable if the person does not have access to appropriate care and supervision, for the one or more children for whom the person is the principal carer, at the times when the person would be required to undertake the work. Accordingly where a job offer would involve employment outside school hours or on school holidays, a job is generally considered suitable (subject to other considerations described in this topic) if there is appropriate care and supervision for a child during the hours of work, including the time it would take the parent to travel to and from work.

 

Appropriate care and supervision is defined as:

  • child care provided by an approved child care service (an approved child care services within the meaning of the FAAct), OR
  • any other care or supervision arrangements that the parent deems suitable, OR
  • the child could be attending school.

 

Where a principal carer parent contends that appropriate care and supervision is not available because their child/ren is/are truant (i.e. absent from school without a legitimate reason) despite being of compulsory school age, this DOES NOT mean the work is unsuitable. This is because appropriate care and supervision, in the form of school, is available for the principal carer parent to access despite the child/ren not choosing to attend.

 

If a principal carer parent advises that acceptable informal child care arrangements (for example with family and friends) are available in cases where a job offer would involve employment outside school hours or on school holidays, then they will be required to take up the job offer. However, the decision as to whether informal child care arrangements are acceptable lies solely with the principal carer parent. That is, if the principal carer parent does not want to accept informal arrangements and no places provided by an approved child care service are available they cannot be made to accept the job offer.

 

Note 1: Access to Government funded formal child care places is generally not available for children who are attending secondary school. Informal care arrangements or self-care by the child/ren will generally be the only option for principal carer parents with older children who receive offers of work outside school hours. The decision as to whether these informal arrangements are acceptable lies solely with the principal carer parent.

 

Note 2: Delegates should be aware that access to child care may be more limited over school holiday periods, particularly given the lack of availability of, outside school hours care located at the child's school during school holidays. Given the important role of child care for suitable work, it would be appropriate for the delegate to make the recipient aware of their obligation to examine possible child care arrangements as early as possible in the job search process.

 

An outside school hours care service would not be considered acceptable if the child is unable to be supervised going to the service from school (if after school care) or from the service to school (if before school care) and the parent considers supervision to be necessary.

 

Example 1: April, a principal carer parent on NSA, has 2 daughters, one aged 8 and one aged 11. She receives an offer of part-time employment of 20 hours per week working at a music shop. One day a week, April is required to work outside of normal school hours. April is able to find a formal outside school hours service with available places (i.e. child care provided by an approved child care service). In this situation, the job offer should generally be deemed suitable (subject to other considerations below), and April is required to accept the job offer.

 

Example 2: Erika, a principal carer parent on NSA, recently received an offer of employment, providing administrative support to a small business on a casual basis. The job will involve work outside normal school hours. While her daughter's primary school has an approved on-site outside school hours place available, Erika does not want to place her child in care. She believes that as a mother, she should be there to care for the child, and does not want her placed with a child care provider. Despite Erika's feelings, the job offer is deemed to be suitable (subject to other considerations below) and Erika is required to accept the job. She may organise other types of care for her daughter if she wishes.

 

Example 3: Ione's youngest child has recently turned 7, and she has been offered part-time employment with a regional State Government Agency. While no formal child care places are available in Ione's local area during the times she would be expected to work, her mother is able to provide care to the children during working hours. In this case, if Ione considers this arrangement acceptable, the job offer is considered suitable (subject to other considerations below).

 

Example 4: Marlene has a son Peter aged 14. She receives an offer of part-time employment of 21 hours per week and this includes working 3 hours outside school hours 2 days a week. There is no child care available for 14 year old children in Marlene's area and she does not have any informal care available in the form of friends and relatives. If Marlene is not happy with Peter being home alone for these periods she would not be obliged to accept the job offer as it would be unsuitable. However, Marlene is keen to enter the workforce, and after checking with state and territory guidelines, accepts that Peter will care for himself for these short periods.

 

Child care changes after accepting a suitable job offer

In the event that a principal carer parent accepts an offer of paid employment, and child care arrangements later change, or hours of work change, so that approved formal child care or acceptable informal child care is not available the work should be regarded as unsuitable, and the principal carer may leave the job and will have to seek alternative employment.

 

Example: Kim has a son Peter aged 9. She receives an offer of part-time employment of 17 hours per week working at a supermarket, and has been able to obtain a temporary child care place for Peter at the local child care centre. This arrangement works well for the temporary placement, but after 3 months, there is no available place at the childcare centre. After searching for available places at other child care centres in her local area Kim is unable to find replacement childcare for Peter and is also unable to arrange informal childcare. As such Kim is able to leave the job (and resume looking for work) because the work is no longer suitable as she no longer has appropriate care and supervision for Peter during the time she would be required to work. Kim should then be referred back to her employment services provider.

 

Reasonable travel time

An offer of work should generally not be deemed suitable for principal carer parents if the journey, either from the principal carer parent's home to the place of work or from the place of work to the person's home (including the time to travel to and from child care) would normally exceed 60 minutes in duration. Travel time refers to the actual time spent in transit (i.e. the time from the person's home to the place of employment). It does not include time spent waiting for buses, taxis or other forms of transport.

 

However a person may voluntarily choose to accept a job offer where the commuting exceeds 60 minutes. Conversely, in some circumstances, a journey of a lesser duration that 60 minutes may be considered excessive travel time. These circumstances could include:

  • where the hours of work are of quite limited duration, for example a 3 hour shift, or
  • where part-time work is spread over 5 or more days and thus the travel must be undertaken 5 or more days a week, or
  • where care arrangements can only be organised if a shorter travel time is undertaken.

 

Determinations as to whether the travel time is reasonable in these cases should give primary regard to what would be considered reasonable by the public. When assessing these cases, care should be taken to ensure that the situation has NOT been contrived for the purpose of avoiding accepting an offer of paid work. All methods and routes of transport, and care options should be considered.

 

Example 1: Fiona has a job offer for 15 hours a week located 15 kilometres away (north) from her home, and the only available child care for her son, Jack aged 8, is located 2 kilometres south from her home. Fiona does not have a car and has to rely on public transport. She would not be required to accept this offer if the time to travel to work (including the time to travel to child care, if relevant) is longer than 60 minutes each way by public transport, not including the time Fiona spends waiting for public transport.

 

Example 2: Patricia has a daughter Angela, aged 9. She receives an offer of part-time employment of 20 hours per week working at a retail clothing store, and some of the work will be outside of normal school hours. She has been able to find a formal outside school hours care service with available places, but this is a distance of 15 kilometres from Angela's school, and it would take Patricia 75 minutes each way to take Angela to care and for Patricia to then continue to work. In this situation and where informal child care arrangements are either not available or acceptable to Patricia, the job offer is not suitable, and Patricia is not required to accept the job offer.

 

Reasonable costs of travel

Where a principal carer parent recipient receives an offer of work and the cost of travel (additional and due directly to the employment) by the person's normal and most cost effective mode of transportation to and from work (after any assistance provided by their employment services provider for example through the Employment Pathway Fund) will exceed 10% of the gross wage to be gained from that work, the cost of that travel should be considered unreasonable and the offer of work is deemed unsuitable. The person will indicate to the delegate if they are receiving any assistance with travel.

 

Travel costs incurred by the principal carer parent of up to and including 10% of the gross wage are considered reasonable.

Note: Only direct additional travel costs are to be estimated or calculated by the delegate. This includes petrol, public transport fares such as buses, trains or trams. Taxi costs would only be used where there is no other alternative form of transport for the person. If the person has access to other forms of transport (such as trains) then taxis are not considered the most effective form of transport. Costs not to be included are parking costs and toll fees.

 

Example: Valerie is a principal carer parent in receipt of PPS with a child aged 7. She is offered a job 3 days a week for 15 hours each week (30 hours per fortnight) beginning at 9am and finishing at 3pm. The gross wage for Valerie's new job is $450 a fortnight. Valerie is able to organise before and after school care for her child at their school. The most effective mode of transport for Valerie is driving her child to school and then on to work. As Valerie must travel via the school on her way to work to drop off her child at approved care, this side-trip should be included in determining the expected additional costs of travel related directly to an acceptance of the job offer. Petrol costs associated with taking the job (including that part of the trip to drop her child off at approved care and to pick them up) is expected to be $30 a fortnight. As her transport costs are below 10% of her gross wage, the job is suitable for Valerie on the basis of this test.

 

Financial suitability of a job

No principal carer parent should be required to accept a job offer or continue in a job which fails to make them financially better off compared to not doing the job. The principal carer parent should be advised that they are not required to take-up, or continue in, a job which does not make them financially better off and that there is a test available for this purpose. In making a determination on the financial suitability of a job, the delegate should consider the potential financial impacts of accepting or continuing that work upon a principal carer parent in the next complete fortnight.

 

The following items should be taken into account by DHS (and employment services providers) in assessing whether a job is financially suitable:

  • gross wages from the job,
  • personal income tax liabilities,
  • the drop in income support payment as a result of the earned income,
  • out of pocket child care costs incurred in order to undertake the work (after taking into account JET child care fee assistance, CCB and/or assistance such as through the Employment Pathway Fund), and
  • travel costs to and from work (after taking into account any assistance such as through the Employment Pathway Fund and noting the reasonable costs of travel test described above), and
  • any increase in public housing rent (ONLY if the parent is living in state government subsidised or provided public housing and either on NSA, YA (job seeker) or SpB).

 

If, after taking these factors into account, the principal carer parent was not at least $50 per fortnight better off than if they did not accept or continue in that job, then the delegate must allow the parent to decline the job offer or to leave the job. The parent must then search for another job that is either closer to home or at least has cheaper travel costs, requires lower or no child care costs, is for more hours per week, or more money per hour (or some combination of those factors).

 

In many instances public housing rent will only actually increase some months after a parent begins part-time work. However, in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia increases in public housing rents may occur from the day from which the principal carer parent begins earning additional income. In these states, the delegate should factor in 25% of the difference between maximum rate of NSA/YA and the combined total of the part-rate of NSA/YA and gross fortnightly earnings. This should be used as the indicative amount by which their public housing rent will increase within the next complete fortnight. For principal carers in all other states and territories, increases in public housing rents are only to be taken into account in any particular application of this test if the principal carer can provide documentation that their rent will increase within the next complete fortnight (or if the rent has already increased on or before the date of the test due to the paid part-time work). If a rent increase is to take effect after the next complete fortnight then no increase can be taken into account within the public housing component of financial suitability as applied at that point in time.

 

In these instances the job seeker should be advised that if they are concerned about the financial suitability of the job when their public housing rent does increase they may return to DHS to have their job assessed under this test again. If the job fails the financial suitability test then the job is no longer suitable and the person may leave the job without penalty. Job seekers will need to be advised by the delegate that they will need to provide DHS with documentation from the relevant state or territory indicating:

  • the previous/current amount of rent payable,
  • the increased amount of rent payable (due to the employment income), and
  • the date from which the increased rent amount will be payable.

 

Note: It is up to the job seeker to return to DHS and ask for the test to be re-applied if their rent increases due to earnings from the job or for any other reason that might affect the financial suitability of the job.

 

Example: Adana is a single principal carer parent living in Tasmania and in receipt of NSA. She is offered a job of 20 hours a week for a gross wage of $510.00 a fortnight (i.e. 20 hours a week paid at the National Minimum Wage). Her fortnightly travel costs are $46.50 which is less than 10% of her gross fortnightly wage. As the job occurs outside of school hours and Adana meets the eligibility criteria she is able to receive JET child care fee assistance which means she only pays $8 a fortnight for outside school hours care for her 2 children (40 hours of care over the fortnight x 2 children x 10 cents). Also taking into account the impact of the offered work on her rate of NSA (a loss of $250.00 per fortnight), her increased rent in public housing rent (due to begin within the next complete fortnight from the date of applying the test and amounting to $65.00 a fortnight) and personal income tax liabilities ($47.94 a fortnight gross). Adana is assessed as being $92.56 a fortnight better off than if she did not accept the job. From a financial viability point of view, the job is suitable and Adana would be required to accept the job.

 

Note: If the increase of Adana's public housing rent will not take place in the next complete fortnight following the date of applying the financial suitability test, then this should not be included in the application of the financial suitability test, at that point in time. Adana should be informed that she could choose to return for a re-application of the financial suitability test when she receives official notification that the rent increase will occur within the next complete fortnight. However if Adana lives in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia or Western Australia, then an increase in public housing rent for the next complete fortnight should be included as follows: Rent increase = 25% of [(part rate of NSA/YA + gross fortnightly earnings) - maximum rate of NSA/YA].

 

Financial suitability test for Adana as described above:

 

Gross fortnightly wage

$510.00

less

 

Personal income tax liabilities

$47.94

Drop in NSA

$250.00

Out of pocket child care costs

$8.00

Travel costs

$46.50

Increase in public housing rent

$65.00

results in

 

Amount better off per fortnight

$92.56

 

Note: This is an example only and does not necessarily reflect current conditions. These calculations have been made using NSA, tax rates and the National Minimum Wage as at 1 July 2006.

 

Costs outside the scope of this financial suitability of the job test include:

  • the effect of tax on income (i.e. the determination is based on gross wages and not on net earnings),
  • any expected drop in FTB (Parts A and B) due to the employment income,
  • any expected drop in RA payable due to the employment income,
  • changes to any other state government subsidies or forms of financial assistance due to the employment income,
  • the eventual loss of concession cards after any relevant periods of continuation or extension if the employment income is above the amount required to take the recipient fully off income support, and
  • the child care rebate.

 

Note: Other miscellaneous costs of accepting a job offer of suitable part-time work (such as buying appropriate clothes, a uniform or other job related equipment) will not be included in this determination. Principal carer parents may be able to at least partly defray these costs by accessing funds available under the EEP and/or the assistance provided by the employment services provider, such as through the Employment Pathway Fund.

 

Exception: If a principal carer parent also has a partial capacity to work due to a disability (as assessed by an ESAt/JCA) and they have costs in moving into employment not otherwise offset by other assistance (e.g. through the Workplace Modifications Scheme) then these costs should also be factored into the calculation described above (i.e. the person must be at least $50 better off a fortnight once these additional costs are also factored in).

 

In some limited circumstances the next complete fortnight might not be the most appropriate period for assessing whether the job is financially suitable. This could include instances where a principal carer parent is taking up a job that involves work that has variable hours/shifts that are known beforehand and which would affect earned income significantly. For example, they may be working shift work and this might mean the person will have significantly higher earned income one fortnight compared to the next. In these instances the delegate is able to consider a longer period of up to 4 weeks and use this period to consider whether the person is financially better off over the month (rather than the next complete fortnight). The use of this approach should be the exception rather than the rule.

 

Any other matters that the Secretary considers relevant in the circumstances

Without being prescriptive, additional issues not directly addressed above may be considered in determining whether work is suitable (including financially suitable) where there are exceptional circumstances (i.e. beyond the range of what could be considered usual) or special hardship cases. Before making a determination, the customer service adviser should seek advice from NSO, who will consult with DEEWR.

 

Could a suitable job become unsuitable at a later date?

After a principal carer parent has accepted a job offer of suitable part-time work, circumstances may change which would mean the work becomes unsuitable. For instance, the hours of work may change or high demand for vacation child care places during a period of school holidays could mean the person may be unable to access appropriate care and supervision of their child/ren during the hours they would be expected to work. Factors such as these would render the job unsuitable and it would be inappropriate to penalise the person in these circumstances for leaving that work. In this circumstance, the person should be re-connected with their employment services provider to help them search for other suitable work if they have voluntarily ceased participating in those services while undertaking the work.

 

Inability to accept an offer of suitable work because child care has not been organised

The obligation for principal carer parents is to organise appropriate care and supervision for their child/ren in order to accept an offer of suitable work will be included as an activity in the person's activity agreement. If a principal carer parent has not organised appropriate care and supervision for their child/ren despite the availability of approved child care places during the times they would be required to work and as a result they cannot accept a job offer for work that is otherwise suitable, then their failure to accept the job offer will be treated as a participation failure. A third participation failure in a 12-month period would result in an 8-week non-payment period.

 

If, after accepting an offer of suitable work during a school term, the principal carer parent fails to organise access to available and affordable formal child care places, such as vacation care places or arrange for other forms of appropriate care and supervision during the times they would be at work and therefore are unable to continue working, then this should also be treated as a participation failure. Three participation failures in a 12-month period will result in an 8-week non-payment period.

 

Remuneration & hours of work

Where a principal carer parent is already working, but for less than 15 hours a week and therefore still has job search requirements, a job offer should be accepted if the total pay as well as the total hours from the employment is higher than the existing job. A person would not have to accept a job offer if the total earnings from the new job are less than the total earnings from the existing job. However if the rate of pay of the new job (e.g. hourly rate) is lower than the existing job's rate of pay, but the increase in hours will mean that a person has greater income overall, they are still required to accept the job.

 

Explanation: A person should not be financially disadvantaged through accepting a job offer, if it will force them to give up another, higher-paying (in terms of total pay) job. However, if the higher-paying job does not fully meet the person's participation requirements they will still be required to undertake an approved activity such as job search to ensure they are fully meeting their participation requirements.

 

Example 1: Jennifer currently has employment of 12 hours per week tutoring students at her local TAFE (where she is undertaking part-time training in horticulture). She is also offered 20 hours per week employment at a local retail variety store. In total, these 2 jobs would amount to 30 hours employment per week, beyond the suitable part-time work requirements outlined earlier in the topic. Jennifer could give up her TAFE employment to accept the retail job, and this would enable her to satisfy her job search and mutual obligation requirements. Suitable formal child care is available to support this change. However, Jennifer would earn less from the retail job than she would from the tutoring position in spite of the extra hours she would be required to work in the retail position. In this case, the retail job offer is not deemed suitable as Jennifer would be financially disadvantaged through accepting the offer. However, since she is not yet undertaking work of at least 15 hours per week, Jennifer will still be required to search for alternative or additional employment to make up the deficit.

 

Example 2: Mikki has employment of 13 hours per week at her local supermarket. She loves working with the people at the supermarket and is happy with the $16 per hour pay. She has recently received another job offer at another, for a higher rate of pay and for 15 hours a week. Mikki is very happy in her current job working at the supermarket, and does not want to accept the new job offer (despite its higher rate of pay and slightly longer hours). Mikki would be required to accept the new job offer at the other store because it is for 15 hours a week with higher total pay.

 

Example 3: Melih is working 12 hours a week as a truck driver for a gardening landscaper. He is offered another job of 16 hours a week as a storeman. Melih's current job as a truck driver pays better than stores work so even through the stores work is more hours he is still $20 a week better off in his current job. As he would be financially worse off if he accepted the storeman job it is not considered to be suitable work. However, since Melih is not yet undertaking work of at least 15 hours per week, he will still be required to search for alternative or additional employment to make up the deficit.

 

Where a principal carer parent is already working part-time and they receive a job offer of greater total pay but less hours and the parent cannot be required to undertake both jobs (either because the total combined hours exceeds 25 hours per week or the hours of work clash between the 2 jobs), then the parent can choose to either accept the second job offer and leave the former job or reject the job offer while remaining in the first job.

 

Note: If the former job satisfies the parent's participation requirements in full (i.e. is at least 15 hours a week) and the second job does not (i.e. is less than 15 hours per week), the parent may choose to leave the first job and accept the second only if the amount of income support payable concurrent with the second job will be a lesser amount than the average fortnightly payment payable while the parent is undertaking the first job. It should also be noted, however, that the parent will need to undertake, at minimum, a job search component in addition to the second job in this scenario in order to satisfy their participation requirements.

 

Offers of work that a principal carer parent may have to give-up after a short period

There may be some circumstances where a principal carer parent is offered part-time work and the person is able to commence the job now but will have to leave within a short period (e.g. 2 weeks after the job commences). This will typically be in situations where the person has care available and organised for their child/ren now but they are unable to organise or are unsure of the availability of holiday care or other child care in 2 or 3 weeks' time.

 

As a general principle, if the person has access to appropriate care and supervision, then the work is considered suitable and the parent is required to take up the job offer. A person's access to appropriate care and supervision at a future time is not a reasonable excuse for failing to take a job in the current period.

 

However, principal carer parents may disclose and inform prospective employers and their employment services provider of their particular circumstances. This includes concerns over their ability to organise appropriate care and supervision for their children and any other relevant factors. If no offer of employment is made, or if an offer of employment is made but then retracted, following this disclosure, then the person has not refused or failed to accept a suitable offer of employment. Where an employer still wishes to engage a job seeker for the fortnight or remainder of the fortnight (assuming the work is not otherwise unsuitable), there is no legal reason as to why the person should not accept an offer.

 

Example 1: Jacqueline is a single principal carer on NSA with one child aged 8 years. At an interview she is offered part-time work of 20 hours a week at a local hardware shop. Jacqueline tells her prospective employer that while she can take up the job now, in 2 weeks' time her children will be on school holidays. As holiday care is not available in her local area she indicates she will not be able to work during the school holidays as she will have to look after her children. The employer then retracts the offer of employment. In these circumstances, Jacqueline has not failed to accept a suitable job offer.

 

Example 2: Peta attends an interview for a part-time receptionist job of 18 hours a week at a local solicitor's office. At the interview Peta informs her prospective employer that while she can take up the job now she is concerned that she will not be able to get holiday care for her children in 3 weeks' time. Her prospective employer indicates that despite this they will be willing to employ Peta for the next 3 weeks, and makes a formal offer of employment to her. After this time they will review her situation. In these circumstances, the offer of employment is considered suitable and Peta is required to accept the job offer.

 

Work offers to parents in school holidays

Suitable work for a principal carer parent is in the context of the next fortnight. Availability of child care beyond the next complete fortnight should not be taken into account at the time a job offer is made. If appropriate care and supervision is not available in a subsequent period (e.g. school holidays) then the principal carer parent can leave the job on the basis that the work has become unsuitable.

Example: Ramona is a single parent and has a daughter, Janeth, age 10. Ramona is offered a job in her local supermarket for regular work from 9am to 12pm each week day (including during school holidays). This is suitable work for Ramona, and she would be required to accept the job offer and investigate the availability of suitable child care during the school holidays. If suitable child care is available at the time of school holidays then the job remains a suitable job.

 

Self-employment & suitable work

If a principal carer wishes to satisfy their mandatory participation requirements in full by undertaking self-employment then they must be earning equivalent to or greater than 15 hours of work paid at the minimum wage each week. A principal carer parent with earnings from self-employment below this amount will have to undertake other activities to meet their participation requirements. Depending on the nature of the self-employment the employment services provider may agree to take this work into account when negotiating the principal carer parent's activity agreement.

 

Suitable work conflicts with training &/or study

While principal carer parents, like all job seekers, are required to accept suitable work to the level of their capacity, those who are undertaking approved part-time education or training are not required to accept offers of employment if the hours of work conflict with the contact hours of study so long as the education or training is included in their activity agreement. Principal carers undertaking approved part-time study are required to accept suitable offers of part-time employment where the hours of work would fit around their study schedule. Principal carers who are fully meeting requirements through approved full-time study or training and who have the activity included in their activity agreement, are not required to look for or accept offers of employment however they may do so voluntarily.

Example: Liz has a daughter Grace, aged 9. Liz is undertaking a TAFE hairdressing course and is required to attend TAFE 9am to 3pm, 5 days per week. Her provider offers Liz a job working 6 hours per day from 10am to 4pm. Although this job is otherwise suitable, Liz has a reasonable excuse for not accepting it as it will impact on her capacity to complete her training and conflicts with her training commitments.

 

Act reference: SSAct section 601(2A) Subject to subsections..., section 601(2AAA) A person has, for the purposes...section 541D(1) What is unsuitable paid work, section 541D(1AA) A person has, for the purposes of paragraph (1)(ba)...

Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.U.55 Unsuitable work (NSA, YA)

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Last reviewed: 20 September 2013


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Last Edited: 16/08/2013 12:05:56 PM


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