To be eligible for Newstart Allowance, you have to be:
- Able and willing to work;
- Actively seeking paid work;
- 22 years old or over, but under Age Pension age (for anyone under 22 see the ‘Youth Allowance’ section below);
- Not enrolled as a full-time student;
- An Australian resident; and
- Able to provide various proofs of your identity (see the 'Proving Your Identity’ section below).
You must also:
- Agree to an ‘Employment Pathway Plan’. This outlines the things you will do while you are looking for work to give you the best chance of getting a job: for example, training, paid work experience, unpaid voluntary work or applying for a certain number of jobs in a set amount of time; and
- Not be involved in industrial action.
To apply for Newstart Allowance, you will need to register as unemployed. You will be interviewed and given forms to complete. Centrelink will make an appointment for your interview. At the interview, they will check your proofs of identity and make sure that you are still unemployed and looking for paid work.
You will receive a continuation form (a 'dole' form), that you need to return in person to your local Centrelink office every fortnight. It may take up to three weeks before your first payment processes into your bank account. This may be longer if you have to serve some waiting periods. Waiting periods and penalty periods will affect when you get your first payment, unless you can show that an exemption applies to you.
These periods include:
||Note: Different waiting periods may sometimes be served together
Ordinary waiting period
|This may be reduced or waived because of financial hardship.
Income maintenance period
(no maximum period)
|This covers payouts of annual leave, sick leave, long service leave and maternity leave. The length of the income maintenance period is based on the length of the leave paid out. If you were working part time you may be able to get a part payment during the income maintenance period.
Liquid assets waiting period
(between one and thirteen weeks)
This includes 'realisable' assets (commonly money in the bank, e.g. termination pay, but not superannuation). You will need to wait for this period if you:
- Are single with no dependent children and have equal to or above $5,5000 in realisable assets; or
- Have a partner or are single with dependent children and have over $11,000.
Newly arrived residents waiting period (two years)
||This affects most people who come to Australia, apart from refugees or people who enter under humanitarian grounds.
|Seasonal Work Preclusion Period
||This may apply if you or your partner have completed seasonal, contract or casual work in the last six months before you claim. The Centrelink website tells you what seasonal, contract and casual work is. The length of the seasonal work preclusion period depends on how much you earned from your work and how long you were working for. The duration is based on how long it would take an average wage earner to earn the same amount as a person engaged in contract, seasonal or casual work.
|Voluntary unemployment penalty period (eight weeks)
||This is where Centrelink alleges that you left work voluntarily 'without reasonable excuse'. This does not apply if you left because of harassment, health reasons such as stress, or for any reason which applies to your particular situation. It may be necessary to have the support of your union in dealings with Centrelink in this area.
|Unemployment through misconduct penalty period (eight weeks)
If you are unemployed due to your own misconduct, generally a non-payment period applies. This can end early if you are in severe financial hardship and have recognised special circumstances (i.e. you have an impairment, you are homeless, or you have a dependent child).
keeping your newstart allowance
Now that you've gone through the whole tortuous process of getting Newstart Allowance, you don't want to lose it. Here's what you have to do.
If you move out of the area or change your postal address, tell Centrelink, or you could lose your payment. If Centrelink thinks that you have lowered your particular chances of getting work by moving, they may stop your payments for up to 26 weeks. Check with them before you move.
You have to be able to prove to Centrelink that you are actively seeking work all the time. This is called the 'Activity Test'. Every time you put in your dole form, you have to list the jobs that you have applied for that fortnight. If you are a job seeker, you will be issued with a Job Seeker Diary when you first start getting Newstart Allowance. This requires up to 12 prospective employers to be listed. Generally, this will need to be completed for the first 12 weeks of payment. If job seeking efforts are satisfactory, you will not be issued with another one. In some instances, Employer Contact Certificates will be issued. They usually require the signatures of two prospective employers or Job Network Members who have assisted you with an application.
The Activity Test requirements are more flexible if you are:
- 55 years old or over; or
- The principal carer of a child under 16.
participation failures and suspension penalties
If you don't complete the Activity Test properly, Centrelink can 'suspend' you and give you a penalty. However, you should not be suspended if a requirement is unreasonable for you, or if you have a 'reasonable excuse' for not complying.
A penalty can be imposed if you don't have a 'reasonable excuse', for:
- becoming 'voluntarily unemployed' (resigning from your job) or being sacked due to misconduct;
- not signing an Employment Pathway Plan, or failing to comply with it;
- not taking reasonable steps to find work;
- not attending a job interview or a suitable course;
- rejecting a suitable job offer; or
- not declaring earnings correctly.
If you are a student, you can also be suspended if you don't attend classes or if you aren't making 'satisfactory progress'.
If you have a first or second failure in a 12 month period, Centrelink can suspend your payment until you'rectify' that 'failure'. For example, if you miss a 'Job Capacity Assessment' you will not be paid until you have undertaken that assessment. A third failure in a 12 month period can result in an eight-week (four fortnights) non-payment period.
You can appeal against an incorrect waiting or suspension period, or if you think a suspension is unreasonable. You can also ask to have waiting periods waived. Get independent advice about how waiting periods and penalty periods apply to your particular circumstances, and how to appeal against them, if necessary.