JobSeeker and COVID-19

This page provides information about JobSeeker Payment and the temporary social security arrangements in place because of COVID-19. It also includes some information about recent changes to other payments, and what to do if your claim for a payment is rejected.

In March 2020, the Government introduced temporary changes to some Centrelink payments. These arrangements will expire in late September 2020. A second round of temporary arrangements will operate between 25 September and 31 December 2020. Some of these continue the arrangements announced in March while others involve important changes.

You can find the Department of Social Services’ summary of COVID-19 announcements here.

Please remember that that the Government is making frequent changes to social security payments in response to COVID-19, so it is important to check for current information from time to time.

You can use the links below to jump to the information you need:

What is JobSeeker Payment?

How can I claim the new JobSeeker Payment?

When will I get my JobSeeker Payment?

How is JobSeeker Payment paid?

What is the Coronavirus Supplement?

What are Economic Support Payments?

What if my claim is rejected or I have a problem getting my payment?

How can I get help with all this?

Help spread the word!


Looking for information about other payments?

For information about other types of Centrelink payments related to COVID-19, including Crisis Payment, read this factsheet from our peak organisation, Economic Justice Australia: Factsheet: Covid-19 and Centrelink

For a step-by-step guide about how to claim a Centrelink payment during coronavirus (COVID-19), read this factsheet: Factsheet: Claiming Centrelink during Covid-19


woman with glasses and tattoos looking at papers with a calculator

 

What is JobSeeker Payment?

JobSeeker is a social security payment for people who are looking for work. It can also be paid if a person is sick or injured and can’t do their usual work or study for a short time. JobSeeker Payment was introduced in March 2020 to replace Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance and some other older payments.

In March 2020, the Government made temporary changes to JobSeeker Payment in response to COVID-19. These arrangements will expire in late September 2020. A second round of temporary arrangements will run from 25 September to 31 December 2020. Some of these continue the arrangements announced in March while others involve important changes.

Eligibility criteria

Under the temporary COVID-19 arrangements, you may be eligible for JobSeeker Payment if you are 22 years or older, meet the rules about Australian residence, and:

  • have lost employment as a permanent employee
  • have been stood down without pay as a permanent employee
  • have lost income as a sole trader, self-employed person, casual worker or contract worker, or
  • have lost income because you were required to care for someone who has been affected by COVID-19

These arrangements will be in place until 31 December 2020. It is unclear whether they will remain the same after that.

Coronavirus Supplement

Currently, if you receive JobSeeker Payment you will automatically receive the Coronavirus Supplement. The Coronavirus Supplement is $550/fortnight until 24 September 2020 but it will be reduced to $250/fortnight from 25 September until 31 December 2020. It is unclear whether the Coronavirus Supplement will continue after 31 December.

You will receive the full Coronavirus Supplement even if your JobSeeker Payment is paid at a reduced rate. For example, if you work and your income reduces your JobSeeker to $1/fortnight, you will still receive the full amount of Coronavirus Supplement.

Coronavirus Supplement is also paid to people on Youth Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

For more information see the Services Australia webpage.

Assets test

The assets test for JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment has been suspended until September 2020. That means you can currently get JobSeeker even if you or your partner have a lot of assets (the things you own, like your car and the money you have in the bank).

From 25 September 2020, the assets test will be reintroduced. Some people will have their JobSeeker cancelled because they are assessed as being over the assets limit.

When applying the assets test, Centrelink considers many different types of assets. There are different assets limits depending on whether or not you are a homeowner. Importantly, some assets are also considered 'exempt' from the assets test.

You can find specific information about the assets test for your circumstances on the Services Australia website. The assets test for JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment is listed under "Payment allowances and Parenting Payment” on the Assets page of the Services Australia website.

It is possible to have the assets tests waived under ‘hardship provisions’ but these decisions are not common. If you live in NSW and you are concerned about your situation, please contact us by phone or through our website and we can provide free legal advice. (People in other states, see here.)

Income test

Your income: JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (job seeker) have different income tests. Under current arrangements, your JobSeeker Payment will start to reduce once you earn more than $106/fortnight. There is a sliding scale, see here.  If you are on Youth Allowance (job seeker), your payment starts to reduce if you earn more than $143/fortnight. Youth Allowance also has a sliding scale, see here.

From 25 September 2020, the income test has been simplified, and will be the same for JobSeeker and Youth Allowance for people who are considered ‘job seekers’. Under the new income test, your payment will reduce by 60 cents for every dollar you earn over $300.

These new arrangements will not apply if you get Jobseeker and you are considered a principal carer or if you get Youth Allowance because you are a full-time student.

Your partner’s income: The income test used to assess your partner’s income has also temporarily changed for JobSeeker Payment (but not for Youth Allowance). For more information about the partner income test see the Services Australia website here. From 25 September 2020, the partner income test will change again for JobSeeker but there are no changes to Youth Allowance.

Waiting periods

Some of the waiting periods that normally apply to JobSeeker Allowance (and some other payments) have been temporarily waived:

  • The Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period
  • The one-week Ordinary Waiting Period
  • The Seasonal Work Preclusion Period
  • The Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period (NARWP)

These waiting periods remain suspended until 31 December except for the Liquid Assets Waiting Period. From 25 September, the Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period will be reintroduced for JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and Austudy. Importantly, it will only apply to new claims made on or after that date.

Liquid assets can include money in bank accounts, financial investments and term deposits. It can also include money your employer owes you. If you are subject to a Liquid Assets Waiting Period you will have to wait a number of weeks before you can receive your Centrelink payment because it is assumed you have enough money to live on. The more money you have, the longer the wait. You can find the assessment table on the Services Australia page here.

It is possible to have the liquid assets waiting period waived if you’re experiencing severe financial hardship because of unavoidable or reasonable expenses but the process is not always straightforward. If you live in NSW, we recommend contacting us for free advice if you don’t have enough money to live on and you can’t get Jobseeker because of the Liquid Assets Waiting Period.

There are other waiting periods that continue to apply:

Mutual obligations

Mutual obligation requirements were suspended due to COVID-19 but they are gradually being reintroduced.

'Mutual obligations' describes things you must normally do to keep JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance (job seeker) and Parenting Payment (if your youngest child is over 6). Mutual obligations include things like looking for work, undertaking specific activities, going to appointments, and Work for the Dole.

Since 9 June, people have been ‘required’ to undertake some job search activities or accept a suitable offer of work BUT there were no suspensions or financial penalties if you didn’t meet the requirements.

Since 4 August 2020, you must be willing to accept any offer of suitable paid work. If you refuse, without a reasonable excuse, your JobSeeker Payment can be stopped for 4 weeks. There are some exemptions which you can find on the Services Australia page here. Sole traders and people who are self-employed continue to be exempt from mutual obligation requirements to enable businesses to be re-established. People living in Victoria are also currently exempt.

Current mutual obligations include other requirements to undertake job search activities BUT these do not attract a penalty if you don’t do them. These include completing the Job Seeker Snapshot questionnaire, agreeing to a Job Plan, attending appointments with your employment services provider (online or over the phone), and undertaking tasks on your online employment services dashboard (if you don’t have a provider).

It is currently unclear how a person’s refusal to take up a job offer will be treated if it is based on their concern about COVID infection risk or COVID restrictions. The JobSearch Website states, “If you are affected by COVID-19 because you or someone you care for is sick or in quarantine, you can ask for a Major Personal Crisis exemption for up to 14 days”. Services Australia’s website adds that you may be exempt from mutual obligations if your child’s childcare centre has closed or you’re caring for an adult with a disability or special needs whose day service or supported workplaces premises have closed as a result of COVID. We are seeking clarification.

If you’re concerned about your particular situation, and you live in NSW, please contact us by phone or through our website and we can provide free advice. (People in other states, see here.)

 

Other requirements

Some other requirements for JobSeeker Payment have also been temporarily removed. When claiming JobSeeker Payment, you usually won't need to:

  • provide an Employment Separation Certificate, proof of rental arrangements or verification of relationship status
  • undertake the JobSeeker Classification Instrument - the questionnaire used to assess whether people who have recently left jobs are ‘job ready’ or need additional support

How can I claim the new JobSeeker Payment?

For step by step instructions about how to claim Centrelink payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, read this factsheet: Factsheet: Claiming Centrelink during Coronavirus

 

When will I get my JobSeeker Payment?

Although it may take some time for Centrelink to process your JobSeeker Payment claim, payment should date back to the date your 'intention to claim' was lodged (online, over the phone, or in person), as long as you then lodged your claim within 14 days of lodging the intention to claim.

  • If you lodged your ‘intent to claim’ between 23 and 29 March 2020, and you then lodged your full claim by 19 April 2020, your payment should be backdated to 23 March 2020
  • If you lodged your ‘intent to claim’ after 29 March 2020, and you lodged your claim less than 14 days after that, your payment should be backdated to the date you lodged your ‘intent to claim’.

If you received or are receiving leave, notice and/or redundancy entitlements from your employer, it can affect the date that JobSeeker Payment can start. Still, you should register your intent to claim JobSeeker as soon as possible so that it will start as soon as your leave entitlements finish. You can register on this page. Once you are receiving JobSeeker Payment, you will automatically get the fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement.

JobSeeker Payment is paid fortnightly into your bank account. It is paid for the fortnight that has just passed. It is not paid in advance.

 

What is the Coronavirus Supplement?

Coronavirus Supplement is paid to people on JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

The Coronavirus Supplement is $550/fortnight but from 25 September to 31 December 2020 it will be reduced to $250/fortnight.  It is unclear whether the Coronavirus Supplement will continue after the end of December 2020.

You will receive the full Coronavirus Supplement even if your main payment is paid at a reduced rate. For example, if you work and your income reduces your JobSeeker to $1/fortnight, you will still receive the full amount of Coronavirus Supplement.

 

What are Economic Support Payments?

The Government announced two Economic Support Payments of $750 each. Both have now been paid.

The First Economic Support Payment was paid to people entitled to particular social security payments between 12 March and 13 April 2020: JobSeeker Payment, ABSTUDY (Living Allowance), Age Pension, Austudy, Bereavement Allowance, Carer Allowance, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, Parenting Payment, Partner Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow B Pension, Wife Pension and Youth Allowance.

The Second Economic Support Payment was paid to people on Age Pension, Carer Allowance, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, Widow B Pension and Wife Pension. It was not paid to people on JobSeeker Payment or those on ABSTUDY (Living Allowance), Austudy, Partner Allowance, Special Benefit or Youth Allowance because people on those payments were receiving the Coronavirus Supplement ($550/fortnight).

 

What if my claim is rejected or I have a problem getting my payment?

If your claim is rejected, you have the right to appeal! Appeals are often successful.

Although it’s not necessary, it’s a good idea to get legal advice before you appeal to give you the best chance of success, so give Welfare Rights Centre a call for some free advice if you live in NSW:

Call us on: 02 9211 5300 (Sydney) or 1800 226 028 (toll-free from outside Sydney)

Beginning the process of an appeal is straightforward. The first step usually involves asking Centrelink to explain the decision, which will give you the chance to correct a misunderstanding or provide them with more information.

If you don’t agree with Centrelink’s explanation, you can tell Centrelink you want the decision reviewed. That will trigger a review of the decision by a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer.

You can appeal by:

  • Phoning or visiting Centrelink and telling them you want the decision reviewed. If you do so, you should make a note of the date for your own records

  • Completing a form called ‘Review of Decision’ here and returning it to Centrelink.

It is important to appeal within 13 weeks of receiving the original decision in writing because otherwise you may not receive back payment. If you are still unsuccessful, you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which is independent of Centrelink.

For more information read this factsheet: Factsheet: Appealing a Centrelink Decision

 

How can I get help with all this?

Welfare Rights Centre can provide free legal advice and assistance to people in NSW. To get in touch with Welfare Rights Centre, call us on:

02 9211 5300 (Sydney)

1800 226 028 (toll-free from outside Sydney)

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
  • Wednesday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm

To read about our legal services on this page, click here.

If you live in another state, your local specialist community legal centre may be able to help. To find your nearest community legal centre, click here:

Help spread the word! 

If you know someone who has had a JobSeeker Payment claim or another social security claim rejected, our community legal specialists can help. Please share this page on social media:

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