Unemployment Benefit

Getting money when you lose your job

Australia’s unemployment benefit system takes the form of ‘jobsearch’ and ‘newstart’ schemes.

If you’re unemployed, you must register with the Department of Social Security (DSS) where, provided you qualify, you’re given a form to complete and lodge within 14 days. You must provide proof of identity and your tax file number. If you’ve been ‘terminated’ (sacked, made redundant, etc.) from a previous position, you need your Employment Separation Certificate, which states the reason you left work and your wages.

For new immigrants there’s a two-year waiting period before payments start. If you remain unemployed for more than a year, you must apply for the newstart allowance. Rates of payment depend on your circumstances, including your age, income, marital status and number of children. In 2013, payments ranged from $492.60 per fortnight for a single person with no dependent children to $537.80 per fortnight for single parents with dependent children. The income and assets tests for jobsearch and newstart allowances are the same, as are the rates. Neither jobsearch nor newstart allowances are paid during an absence from Australia.

Jobsearch Allowance

To qualify you must either be under 18 or have been registered with the DSS for no more than a year, and must have permanent residence status. You must also convince the DSS that you’re looking for work or that you’re improving your job prospects by attending training or educational classes. To receive payments, you must report every two weeks in writing to the DSS on your job searching activities. This is called the ‘activity test’ and, if don’t meet the requirements and have no good reason for this, your allowance is stopped.

Newstart Allowance

To qualify you must be over 21, a permanent resident, unemployed and have been registered with the DSS for over a year. You must also be actively searching for work. In your initial interview with the DSS you must sign an undertaking agreeing to a plan of action to improve your employment prospects. Refusal to sign the agreement limits or nullifies your chance of qualifying for the allowance.

You must also report to the DSS every two weeks. The newstart allowance is usually paid from the day the jobsearch allowance stops, if applicable.

Unemployed people aged 21 to 34 who have been receiving a newstart allowance for six to 12 months can be obliged to do work experience, mainly on local projects or in community service. They receive an extra $20.80 per fortnight.

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