With a grand title like ‘Workforce Australia’ you could be forgiven for thinking the government is taking on a major new approach to jobs, pay, and training. Sadly, that is not the case.
Workforce Australia is the new version of JobActive and started 4 July 2022.
The government says this new system (Workforce Australia Services and Workforce Australia Online) are there to help “all Australians, not just people on income support, to find, keep, and change jobs or create their own job”. In reality, it’s a key part of the “mutual obligation” system and obliges people on JobSeeker to participate.
There are three key things to know about this new system:
1. How the points system works
This points-based system has been introduced to create flexibility to suit peoples’ circumstances. The basic expectation is that a person has to achieve 100 points per month, unless the person is:
- A single parent or other principal carer = maximum 60 points per month. (This also applies to people aged 55 or older and people with a partial capacity to work)
- Living with difficult labour market conditions in their employment region (basically if it’s impossible to get a job where you live) = maximum 80 points per month
- Experiencing personal circumstances, including other barriers to employment, caring responsibilities beyond your children, illness or disability will mean points are reduced from 100. If these issues or anything else is affecting your ability to meet the points, ask for a reduction. If you’re over 55, you will be able to do voluntary work.
The big thing to know is that you must ask for a variation in points. No-one will offer it to you, even if they know you may be eligible. Studying full time? Ask for a reduction and be prepared to argue. The Department tells us full-time study will be enough to meet the points requirement.
One single mother who contact us told us, “I am solo parent to a seven-year-old with no support and live in regional Victoria where there is nothing available (childcare or after school care and no public transport).” Her points were reduced to 20, which is the minimum allowed. It came down from 60 to 20 because of lack of care options, no transport, and poor labour market.
Please let us know if you have difficulties accessing reduced points. You can call our telephone Support Line 03 9654 0622 or 1300 552 511 (outside metro Melbourne), or email us at email@example.com
This is a new system and a work in progress and we are constantly agitating to get improvement, including exemptions for things like family violence recovery, and to have the system made simpler. If you cannot afford fuel to travel to an appointment, your provider must give you a fuel voucher or meet you online.
2. Accessing the person-in-office version (Workforce Australia Services).
This version of the service is designed to provide face to face help for clients to get job ready and find employment. It might be particularly helpful for people who are not comfortable accessing resources online, who do not have internet access, may not speak or read English easily, are ex-offenders, or refugees.
Those who are referred to this service will have an appointment with staff at Services Australia. Any person who is eligible for online services, but prefers to deal with a person, can opt out of online services. This can be done by themselves online or by contacting the department’s contact centre.
For a newbie, such as someone lodging an income support claim for the first time, this is the deal:
- Complete a Job Seeker Snapshot, either online or at a ‘Participation Interview’ with Services Australia;
- You will be asked to either attend an initial appointment with a provider or be connected to online services.
3. Using the self-managed system (Workforce Australia Online)
This bit of the system gives any person access to online tools, information and training to help them move into employment.
It is accessible it through a MyGov account.
There is support available from the Department’s contact centre although this seems to be mostly for people who have done the JobSeeker Snapshot, been assessed as job-ready and then referred to Workforce Australia Online Services. This probably means it is still mostly for people who are receiving a payment such as JobSeeker.
The support is provided toll-free, and covers:
- information and technical support
- negotiating lower points targets and managing their mutual obligation requirements
- access to education and training and other supports
- access to financial assistance through the Digital Employment Fund.
As noted above, people using the online servicing can choose to move to a provider for additional support at any time and for any reason.
Our thoughts on this system
We are disappointed the new government has chosen to go ahead with this system. They point out though, that the previous federal government locked in the points system – and signed more than $7 billion worth of contracts with providers – shortly before the election.
Some key things this government has done to improve things are to:
- Provide a clean slate for everyone transferring to the system. This means anyone who had penalties or demerit points under Job Active, has now had them wiped.
- Increase the points attached to activities that help people get job ready.
- Ensure that someone participating in full-time study or training that improves their long-term job prospects is able to complete their study. This includes making sure that people have no job search requirements if they are undertaking approved short full-time courses.
- Reduce the new minimum job search requirement from 5 to 4 per month.
What we are still working on
Workforce Australia is by no means a perfect system and there are a lot of aspects of this and the general ‘Mutual Obligation system’ that we want changed. This includes:
- Automatic and longer exemptions provided by Services Australia for people who have escaped family violence and are still in recovery.
- Mutual obligation exemptions for single parents who have school holiday responsibilities and cannot afford vacation care or do not have family support. We particularly note that family and caring responsibilities are specifically listed in social security law as factors that must be taken into account in determining requirements (in section 40F(e).
- Clearer and better information about the system and how it works.
More information is available on the Workforce Australia website.